California is considering a bill to take the right to bear arms away from those convicted of “serious alcohol-related crimes.”
California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has an idea to help keep the good citizens of the Golden State safe: Disarm the drunks. If her recently submitted bill becomes law, those convicted of “serious alcohol-related” crimes would lose their right to keep and bear arms for ten years. While it’s true that firearms and intoxicants don’t mix well, this proposal – much like other “common sense” reforms in the state that we’ve covered – ignore the basic principle behind the Second Amendment. It’s a simple point, really. So why is it that so many politicians – and voters – seem to miss it?
What Passes For Freedom
At the federal level, convicted felons nationwide officially lost the right to keep and bear arms with the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 – though the background check designed to enforce that rule wasn’t established in law until the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, and wasn’t implemented until 1998. In addition to felonies, the Lautenberg Amendment of 1996 added domestic violence misdemeanors to the prohibited persons list.
Beyond the federal regulations, Californians are subject to a whole host of other state restrictions. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, no one is allowed to purchase a firearm who:
Is convicted of a felony or is addicted to narcotics.
Is convicted of crimes – misdemeanor or felony – involving violence, hate, or the unlawful use of firearms. (This prohibition lasts ten years after conviction.)
Is subject to an outstanding arrest warrant for some other prohibiting offense.
Is prohibited by their conditions of probation.
Is adjudged a ward of the juvenile court over violent, drug, or firearms offenses. (This prohibition lasts until the subject is 30.)
Knowingly is subject to a protective order, restraining order, or injunction issued by a court pursuant to state law.
Has a history of severe mental illness or chronic alcoholism.
The Golden State also prohibits the sale of any semi-automatic firearms they consider “assault weapons” – read: scary black guns – .50 BMG rifles, and magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds. As previously reported at Liberty Nation, the minimum purchase age for all guns will be 21 effective January 1, 2019. And, believe it or not, that’s not the complete list of gun regulations in California.
If passed, SB 55, simply titled: “Firearms: prohibited persons,” would grow the list of folks barred from owning a gun. Here are the misdemeanors it adds, along with the explanation of what each is (notably missing from the bill text):
“Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in violation of Section 11357.5 of the Health and Safety Code.” – This deals with synthetic cannabinoid compounds.
“Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in violation of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 11375 of the Health and Safety Code.” – This deals with cannabis.
“Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in violation of Section 11379.2 of the Health and Safety Code.” – That’s Ketamine and any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing ketamine.
“Section 191.5.” – That’s vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated: an accident, but still due to the general misconduct of the offender.
“Subdivision (f) of Section 647.” – Anyone caught drunk or high in public.
“Section 23152 of the Vehicle Code.” – These last two involve driving under the influence in general.
“Section 23153 of the Vehicle Code.”
To be added to the prohibited list, someone would need to be convicted of two of these crimes or two instances of the same one in three years, or get caught with a firearm or ammo during a ten-year prohibition already in place. And of course, in that last scenario, the ten-year period starts over.
The Missing Point
Those who have paid attention to history – or the third paragraph of this article – will note that criminals weren’t disbarred the use of firearms for the vast majority of this nation’s existence. Why is that? The idea of disenfranchising certain criminals and labeling them felons was not unknown to our Founders; it came to us from the same place many of them did: England. Yet they chose not to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms as punishment for crimes – with the exception, of course, of the fact that anyone who is executed loses all capacity to exercise any rights upon death.
But why? To answer that question – and to shine some light on the point missed by so many on both sides of the gun control debate today – we must go to the Declaration of Independence. In the second paragraph, we see that they believed three rights were self-evident, God-given, and inalienable: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
There is no shortage of letters, speeches, and other writings to clearly show what our Founders believed regarding the right to keep and bear arms, but the logic itself is easy to follow. If we have the right to live and to do so free from interference by others, even governments, then we must have the right to defend both life and liberty. Simply put, having and using whatever arms are required to match or exceed the firepower of those who would kill or enslave us is a fundamental human right.
Would we take from felons – and a growing list of select misdemeanors – the freedom to speak or exercise religion, if they so choose? Would we stop them from settling down, finding a job, a home, a family, and moving on with their lives? Ah, that would be inhumane, you might say. But what’s the difference? When we tell anyone that they no longer have a fundamental human right, what we’re saying is that they’re less than human – that they’re not people.
And there’s the problem. Even those who have made bad decisions in the past are still people. They have the right to defend their own and their loved ones’ lives and liberty. This issue exists at every level of gun control – you’ve probably noticed that there’s no “except” clauses to the Second Amendment, after all.
Bills like SB 55, however, merely bring it into focus for a broader range of folks. It’s easy for someone who has never made one of the “big mistakes” that results in felony convictions to say “yes, but that’s a big mistake, and should have lasting consequences.” But what about these misdemeanors? How many adults in the nation have been drunk in public? What about driving under the influence? Is that the sort of behavior we think people can’t mature out of, or that simply cannot be forgiven?
Does that not narrow the field enough to encompass you, dear reader, or someone you care about? Then consider where this is going. As we add more misdemeanor offenses to the list, we leave fewer people excluded. How many have never committed any crime, been drunk or high, or had any sort of emotional issue? And at what point do we declare someone’s behavior so reprehensible that we can alienate the inalienable right to life and liberty?
Those who have committed dangerous crimes in the past may or may not do so again – just as someone without a criminal history might or might not undertake their first. We all have the right to be safe from those who would gladly hurt us to satisfy their whims, whether they have a criminal record or not. But the irony of prohibiting certain people from owning guns is that it only disarms those who have already reformed and don’t plan to continue to break the law and violate the rights of others.
Therefore, the answer isn’t to disarm those who are convicted of some arbitrarily selected list of crimes, but for everyone else to arm themselves. When someone attacks or robs you, defend yourself, your loved ones, and your property. Let would-be criminals suffer the natural consequences of their actions, be that a bullet in the gut or a term in prison, and let that be the end of it.