A while ago, I introduced you to my friend Ken Vaughn, who is running for Congress in Virginia’s 11th District. While initially we thought he’d be running in the 10th, a bit of irritating redistricting has made him a candidate in the 11th.
The district may have changed, but the man hasn’t. Let’s put aside the fact that Ken’s a friend, and focus on my pet issue – gun control.
A while ago, I sent Ken a survey I created to gauge his views on gun control and ultimately publish them here. It’s time to do so. While there are a few replies on which I would challenge him, Ken accurately reflects the views of a true gun rights supporter. I’ll address my disagreements at the end of this article, but for now, here are Ken’s survey replies in their entirety – unchanged in any way.
Generally, what’s your view of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution? What was its intent? Is it applicable today?
Ultimately, the Second Amendment was designed to protect and preserve the individual right of self-defense in all forms. However, the lead-in clause, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” emphasizes the most critical reason for the Amendment.
The Founders recognized that the biggest threat to the individual was not from wild animals or the common criminal; it was from an organized army coming to take away the rights of the people and with the people being prevented from defending themselves. And the Founders were keenly aware that the army might be acting on the orders of the domestic government. Thus, in order to maintain a free state, the Founders knew there had to be a mechanism by which individuals could band together to defend themselves with short notice. This is the intent of a “militia.”
Whereas the body of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to control and fund the Army and Navy, Congress has no such authority over militia. The militia is intended to be a self-armed fighting force that answers to its individual members and thus is able to counter a government that tries to violate the will of the people. The Founders realized that this right would always be necessary to protect their Constitutional Republic, even 235 years later.
Is the right to keep and bear arms protected from infringement by all levels of government?
As initially written, it is debatable; however, the Fourteenth Amendment removes any debate on this subject. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Thus, the modern Constitution is clear. No state has the right to “abridge the privilege” of an individual to “keep and bear arms.”
Are there any gun control laws you consider constitutional?
An individual may be deprived of rights after following due process. As a result, I believe it is reasonable to require a background check when selling a firearm to determine if someone has been deprived of the right to keep and bear arms. This would address issues related to mental instability as well as criminal behavior.
Further, many rights are granted with age, on the assumption that individuals reaching a certain age have the maturity to understand the responsibilities that accompany those rights. Thus, it may be reasonable for states to define minimum ages for gun ownership.
How do you feel about licensing whether to carry concealed or own a firearm, in general?
I believe that this is a violation of the intent of the Second Amendment. While it may be a seemingly minor infringement, giving the government the ability to grant a license implicitly gives the government the right to deny a license. The Constitution is clear; the right to keep (concealed) and bear (visible) arms shall not be infringed (without due process).
How do you feel about attempts to close “the gun show loophole?”
This is largely an overblown issue. Any registered dealer performs a background check anyway for liability reasons; thus, the only sales that get through this “loophole” are sales between private citizens. Further, I believe it is foolhardy to try to regulate firearm sales between private parties. Any such law is likely to imprison well-meaning individuals while criminals will easily ignore the law. It would be better to focus on efforts to make it easy for individuals to check the background of a potential purchaser. Responsible people will be glad to use such a service, but requiring a lot of extra paperwork is not likely to solve any problems.
What gun control laws would you like to see repealed?
First and foremost would be the laws that prevent keeping and bearing arms when traveling by car throughout the country. This would include bans on guns within the nation’s capital, the national parks, and within the proximity of schools and other facilities, which unnecessarily result in criminal charges for non-violent and law-abiding Americans.
How do you feel about civilians owning military-style weapons? How about machine guns?
I believe the intent of the Second Amendment was to guarantee the right of the individual to provide for his own self-defense against an aggressor. Under normal scenarios, the individual only needs to be able to protect himself from another individual; this can be achieved without a machine gun.
Under the worst-case scenario, the aggressor might be an organized army. However, I believe that this is one of the reasons why the founders included the statement “a well regulated militia.” The assumption is that a community would band together to fend off an invading army.
In fact, it would be inappropriate to allow an individual to own sufficient weaponry to single-handedly defend himself against an army. Allowing such a situation would encourage every criminal to have such protection against the police at which point, there would be anarchy rather than a constitutional republic.
The correct balance is not for an individual or small group to have a huge amount of firepower in a single weapon, but rather to have every individual equipped with sufficient firepower to provide for his or her own self-defense. Thus, an invading army would arguably have to kill every last person to declare victory. This would certainly be a hollow victory if the army were domestic to the country.
While I can respect other opinions, I am inclined to say that fully automatic weapons should be restricted to the military.
How do you feel about the Gun Free School Zones Act?
School shootings were virtually unheard of before the law was passed, averaging fewer than one per year nationwide. We are now averaging more than 10 incidents per year. While I believe this is largely attributable to other factors, it does demonstrate that:
1. The law has not worked.
2. When you ban guns, only the criminals will have them.
I do not claim that violence would decrease if guns were allowed, nor do I think it would increase; I think there are other reasons for the increase in violence. However, I do believe that the law violates our rights. Given the poor track record of this law, it seems clear that it should be repealed.
How do you feel about peaceable, law-abiding citizens being unable to carry their firearms on federal property?
In general, I believe average citizens should be allowed to have firearms wherever they go. The only exceptions would be in environments where an accidental discharge could result in a massive disaster affecting a large group of people, for example, on an airplane. In these environments, I could see restricting the possession of guns to authorized personnel.
How do you feel about American citizens who are placed on watchlists (without judicial oversight or reasonable proof of guilt of any type) being denied their right to keep and bear arms?
The Constitution is clear; the government does not have the right to deny anyone their rights without due process.
Tell me your views on the following:
• Attempts to raise the legal age for owning a handgun from 18 to 21 years?
I believe 18 year-olds should have all of the rights and responsibilities of every other adult.
• Attempts to limit handgun purchases to one per month?
I believe this is unnecessary and arbitrary.
• Attempts to ban .50 caliber firearms?
I believe this is unnecessary, but within the right of a state to impose in claiming that this is military-grade ammunition (i.e., I don’t agree with the argument, but I will concede it is within a gray zone).
• Ammunition bans?
The Second Amendment protects the right to self-defense, which necessitates both the base weapon and the ammunition. I believe any outright ban would be unconstitutional.
How do you feel about background checks? Constitutional? Effective at preventing crime?
As discussed above, I believe that background checks are constitutional to the extent that they merely ensure that the individual has not had his or her rights removed through due process. I believe that there are at least some cases where they can be effective when adequately applied, in particular with the mentally ill. However, I believe this decision should be left to the states.
Ensuring second amendment rights for all Americans is an important issue, but I believe the two biggest issues facing our country are the national debt and improving private sector job creation by growing our economy. I agree with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, that our national debt is our biggest national security threat and that we cannot solve our debt problem unless we repair our national economy. Nonetheless, I am concerned about how gun rights have been eroded over the years, and the above answers reflect my beliefs on this topic and should provide an idea of how I will vote when various Second Amendment issues arise.
For the most part, Ken and I are in complete agreement. Our skyrocketing debt is one of the biggest national threats we face today. But as you can imagine, our views couldn’t be more different on military-style weapons. So in the interest of ensuring you hear both sides of the issue, here’s mine.
The Second Amendment doesn’t just guarantee an individual the right of self-defense against an aggressor. It also guarantees that an individual has the tools necessary to stand up to a tyrannical government should it become necessary. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 28…
In a single State, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense.
The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo.
Realistically, of course, one person has no chance against an army, even if said person has an automatic weapon. But the purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that the people have the means and the right to stand up to a tyranny, and automatic weapons provide just such a means.
Secondly, automatic weapons are legal now. I’ve shot them, and so has my son. Crimes committed with them are few and far between. According to GunCite (the information is a bit dated, but overall I imagine this hasn’t changed a whole lot):
In 1995 there were over 240,000 machine guns registered with the ATF. About half are owned by civilians and the other half by police departments and other governmental agencies.
Since 1934, there appear to have been at least two homicides committed with legally owned automatic weapons. One was a murder committed by a law enforcement officer (as opposed to a civilian). On September 15th, 1988, a 13-year veteran of the Dayton, Ohio police department, Patrolman Roger Waller, then 32, used his fully automatic MAC-11 .380 caliber submachine gun to kill a police informant, 52-year-old Lawrence Hileman. Patrolman Waller pleaded guilty in 1990, and he and an accomplice were sentenced to 18 years in prison. The 1986 ‘ban’ on sales of new machine guns does not apply to purchases by law enforcement or government agencies.
The other homicide, possibly involving a legally owned machine gun, occurred on September 14, 1992, also in Ohio.
In Targeting Guns, [Gary] Kleck cites the director of ATF testifying before Congress that he knew of less than ten crimes that were committed with legally owned machine guns (no time period was specified). Kleck says these crimes could have been nothing more than violations of gun regulations such as failure to notify ATF after moving a registered gun between states.
Crime Involving Illegally Owned Machine Guns
Again in Targeting Guns, Kleck writes, four police officers were killed in the line of duty by machine guns from 1983 to 1992. (713 law enforcement officers were killed during that period, 651 with guns.)
In 1980, when Miami’s homicide rate was at an all-time high, less than 1% of all homicides involved machine guns. (Miami was supposedly a “machine gun Mecca” and drug trafficking capital of the U.S.) Although there are no national figures to compare to, machine gun deaths were probably lower elsewhere. Kleck cites several examples:
Of 2,200 guns recovered by Minneapolis police (1987-1989), not one was fully automatic.
A total of 420 weapons, including 375 guns, were seized during drug warrant executions and arrests by the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad (Will and Grundie counties in the Chicago metropolitan area, 1980-1989). None of the guns was a machine gun.
16 of 2,359 (0.7%) of the guns seized in the Detroit area (1991-1992) in connection with “the investigation of narcotics trafficking operations” were machine guns.
The point is that many people own machine guns. There are organized machine gun shoots that take place every year, and there are few issues that occur when automatic weapons are in civilian hands.
My point is that it is not only wholly appropriate for regular citizens to own automatic weapons, it’s also fun, and making them pay fees and jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to own one is abuse of government authority.
My other slight point of contention is the background check. I just have an issue with submitting to a background check in order to exercise a fundamental right. Additionally, a person’s mental health is a private matter. I realize we want to keep guns out of the hands of crazies, but requiring a background check to include psychiatric information is a violation of doctor/patient privilege. Additionally, a prohibited person is far less likely to come into a gun shop and submit him or herself to a background check. It’s much easier to purchase the firearm on the street – cheaper and more convenient. I don’t see background checks as being an effective deterrent against a prohibited person purchasing a firearm. The only thing they would do is prevent a prohibited person from purchasing a firearm LEGALLY. And overall, I don’t think forcing a law-abiding citizen to undergo an intrusion such as this is worth it.
I know there are very few politicians with whom I will agree 100 percent. Ken states his views clearly and logically, and regardless of whether we agree on these issues, I still believe in him and in his potential as a future Congressman.