I bought my first gun earlier this week.
It’s a shotgun, a Remington 870 Express. I haven’t shot it yet, but it feels pretty sweet in my hands.
Buying a gun is pretty much one of the most Idahoan things I’ve ever done, right up there with shoveling four inches of snow off my driveway while wearing flip flops.
The two most common questions I’ve been asked about my recent purchase are 1) Is it a 12 or 20 gauge and 2) Why’d you buy a gun?
It’s a 12 gauge and I bought one for no other reason than the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution permits me to own one, or more.
Gun rights are coming under attack every day in this country and like all other rights, if we choose not to exercise them, we will lose them. I’m aware of the number of violent crimes that occur daily in this country while the offender is holing a fire arm, but I do not believe stricter gun regulation alone is the solution to that serious and complicated issue.
If we were serious about ending gun violence, perhaps we’d look at the way our society treats the mentally ill and challenged, the prescriptions that doctors prescribe their patients or the many social injustices that occur in this country before we look to take guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens, but that’s a different topic all together.
What concerns me the most about restrictions to the Second Amendment is my study of the Fourth Amendment. I’ve studied this amendment in depth as a law student and licensed attorney.
I would consider it the most important, and my favorite, amendment. Perhaps most people would prefer the First Amendment and there’s a solid argument for the amendment that protects our right to the freedoms of speech, religion, press and assembling peacefully in protest. But the Fourth Amendment protects our homes and our person. It prevents the government from knocking on our doors and entering into our homes to search for evidence of contraband or our personal beliefs. It also prevents police from eyeballing us on the street and walking up and searching us or our bags just because they have a “hunch” we might have something illegal on us. Or just because they have nothing else to do at that moment.
Being able to walk down the street without being stopped unnecessarily by the police is pretty powerful. So is the right to keep our homes how we want them and to do what we choose to do in our homes. So I’d rather live under a reign that prevents me from freely expressing my thoughts about my religion or political views than one that can enter into my home unannounced at any moment because if I had to, I know I could worship how I wanted to and say what I wanted to within the privacy of my own home and that’s why it’s my favorite amendment included in the Bill of Rights. Fortunately, I’m an American and I do not have to choose between the two.
If you’ve never attended law school, please give me a minute to briefly explain how the majority of law is taught there.
The law is learned through reading the opinions of cases. In the context of Constitutional cases, those cases are often written by the Supreme Court because the Constitution specifically tasks that court with the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution. Each case in a topic builds off of the case before it and the cases generally appear in the order the court decided the case.
When I studied the Fourth Amendment, my casebook presented me with a number of important cases that dealt with the Supreme Court interpreting the Fourth Amendment. After a week into covering the topic and having read the majority of the cases, I started to realize something as we proceeding through each case: the rights of the American people were being stripped away little by little with each new case that was decided.
Imagine the Fourth Amendment is your wing span and extend your arms as much as possible. Now with each case the Supreme Court hears, your arms move closer and closer to each other. This would represent what the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect you from and what it now protects you from. (Though to be fair, there have been a couple of recent cases that have gone against the government and offered additional protection to the public, or that have stopped the government from taking additional rights from the people, depending on how you want to look at it.)
It’s with this background that I view any discussion of limiting gun owner’s rights with additional legislation. Having studied an amendment (and others) and understanding how the rights protected under that amendment get smaller and smaller over time, I fully understand why people would oppose any and all restrictions that deal with the ownership of guns.
Once those rights start falling, the government and others, such as lobbyist, will just keep chipping away at the Second Amendment’s protections until there is very little left. I fully support those who wish to stand directly in front of the Amendment and protect it to its full extent, because once they lose an inch of ground, it won’t be long until they lose a mile of ground, once foot at a time.
And so I bought a shotgun because the Second Amendment permits me to have one and I believe in exercising my civil rights in the name of protecting them.
For example, I don’t keep an extra guess room in my house in case the government wants to house soldiers in my house because the Third Amendment prevents it from doing so. The last time I was pulled over, I superficially stated to the police officer that I would not consent to him searching my car for meth, which he wanted to do because I would not inform him where I was coming from and where I was headed because the Fourth and Fifth Amendments do not require me to do either one of these. I was coming from my office and going to my house with nothing illegal in my car. But if every time a police officer asks to search someone’s car and they just say yes, the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment would become useless, so I tell everyone I know to never consent to a search by a police officer because if they have legal justification to perform a search, they don’t need your consent.
The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Textually, this protects my right to keep and bear arms in order to join my state’s militia in order to help ensure it remains a free state. What if there was a group of people forming a militia in Idaho and I wanted to join them? I would show up and be like, “I’d like to join your militia. Where do I sign up at?” And they’d be like, “We’d be happy to have you. Do you own your own gun?” And I’d say no and then I wouldn’t be much use to them, unless they wanted me to become a cook or something.
But now that I own a gun, I can say “Yes, how can I help?” It’s a lot like being a football player standing on the sidelines of a game with a helmet and pads verse not having a helmet or pads on. Now I have the option of getting in the game, or joining a well-regulated militia to secure a free state.
To be clear, I have absolutely no intent or desire to join a militia, now or ever. I know how much fire capability the United States Armed Forces poses, to say nothing of its air power. Joining a militia to oppose that force is not something I’d ever be interested in doing. But I do like knowing I have the option to do so, should I someday choose to do so for some reason.
But you know what I am interested in? The right to keep and bear arms as an individual and to carry those arms on my person. The right to defend myself and my family. The right to exercise my civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.
These are all rights that the Supreme Court has held are protected by the Second Amendment. These are all rights I do not want to lose and have decided to exercise them while I still can, if for no other reason than in hopes that others who follow me may choose to do the same as well. So, I bought my first gun this week.