But even for those who may have been primarily fiscal conservatives and who otherwise believed social policy should lean toward a “mind your own business” approach, several of the gun-control proposals coming from President Obama likely came as a shock.
I don’t even want to get into what qualifies as a military assault weapon or any of the hardcore issues Obama addressed in his unveiling of new executive orders and proposed legislation related to the regulation of firearms. The two issues of universal background checks and some heightened degree of physician involvement in helping deal with guns in America are enough to cause many to gasp for air.
It has been an ongoing debate as to why the Second Amendment guarantees a right to keep and bear arms. We’ve all heard the strict interpretation of that right, holding closely to the amendment’s language stating “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ...” and suggesting that there was never an intent for citizens to simply carry all manner of firearms for whatever purpose they so choose.
And then there are interpretations, as upheld by the Supreme Court, stating that the Second Amendment creates new rights that go beyond simply that of protecting against the taking of arms by a tyrannical government but instead allowing Americans to keep and preserve armed weapons for peaceful purposes and protection.
That’s very simplistic history, but here is the nuance that cannot even be reduced to a “Cliffs Notes” explanation. Background checks for every sale of every gun in America is intrusion into our privacy and a concept that would likely have a chilling effect on the lawful transfer of weapons to a level beyond imagination. And, of course, sales between those who disregard laws like, oh, say, burglary, likely would tend to ignore background requirements.
Those in support of the White House’s proposal will likely argue that there are few instances, other than gun shows, in which true casual sales take the place of commercial sales. But that argument skirts the real issue and the president’s assertion that 40 percent of sales now require no background check. A blanket requirement related to personal transactions could be far-reaching. And since every transaction, even a gift, is regulated now by the IRS, would it take very long for the transfer of guns between family members or as an inheritance to qualify for the same background checks?
What we are really talking about here is the addition of more Americans into an ever-growing system of data, which whether by design or not seems destined to not only restrict our freedoms but shatter what little privacy we have remaining. The proposal has little chance of passage in the Congress, but it gives those who never considered the alleged “slippery slope” being created by the Obama administration strong reason to consider just how slippery it might be and where any slide might end up.
As for the second aspect of Obama’s proposals, that of encouraging physicians to communicate with authorities about individuals who might exhibit mental illness in combination with gun ownership or making clear through Obamacare that doctors are given authority to question about gun ownership and advise on safety matters related to such ownership, well, that certainly sounds reasonable. But when one considers the massive electronic database being assembled under modern health care as we know it, the inability to preserve privacy with regard to health information and government’s continuing effort to intrude into the private lives of citizens, the concept once again places a chill in the air — or down the spine.
The medical establishment appears thrilled with the proposals related to physicians. And the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary moves a lot of people toward wanting “assault weapons” banned or controlled. But in the Sandy Hook case, the only way Obama’s proposals with regard to background or physicians would have played a role would have been to institutionalize Adam Lanza for general mental illness before he committed his depraved crime or deny his mother, a victim of her son’s attack, the right to bear arms because of her son’s pre-existing mental problems. He apparently did not buy his weapons, instead taking them from her.
That would take a great deal of investigating, some very far-reaching action by medical professionals and the use of a crystal ball. If we get that far down the slope, we are in real trouble.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.