The Supreme Court gave a convicted felon back his guns, at least long enough to sell them. To be perfectly technical, they voted 9-0 to vacate a lower court ruling that the sale of firearms was equivalent to the possession of firearms, something a convicted felon is not allowed to do.
Tony Henderson was a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2006 when he was busted at work for distributing marijuana. He pleaded guilty, joined the convicted felons club, and promptly surrendered—was required to surrender—his $3,500 worth of firearms to the federal government.
Gun control meet private property rights.
In this Jan. 4, 2013 photo, handguns are displayed in the sales area of Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range, in Sandy Springs, Ga. Credit: AP
The Supreme Court opted unanimously for private property rights and gun control. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the opinion wherein she upheld Mr. Henderson’s right to sell his guns “so long as the recipient will not allow the felon to exert any influence over their use.”
A convicted felon is prevented from access to firearms that could hurt someone else. An American citizen is allowed to receive proceeds from the sale of his private property. And the Supreme Court is unanimously on board with both.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Jump back 200 years or so to the point in our history when the Articles of Confederation were proving untenable. Sovereign and independent states protected us against tyranny but also rendered us disorganized, inefficient, and leaderless.
Enter the proposed 1787 Constitution, a fix that for the Anti-Federalists wasn’t a fix at all but a cutting off of our nose to spite our face. In their view, to give the federal government so much power would put individual liberties at too much risk.
Their proposed Bill of Rights balanced the power between the states and Congress; without it the Constitution may never have been ratified.
Along with the new powers allocated to the federal government by the Constitution came 10 specific limitations to that power; 10 amendments to safeguard individual liberty. One of them pertains to our convicted felon.
“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.”
Jump forward 150 years or so to the end of Prohibition when so-called gangster weapons—machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, silencers, and hand grenades—were proving ineradicable.
Enter the first federal regulation of the Second Amendment: The National Firearms Act of 1934. A tax and registration enacted by Congress, the act was intended to curb crimes, like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, that frequently made use of these weapons. It did so by curbing (AKA infringing) firearms transactions (AKA keeping and bearing).
From that moment on, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
From the moment we started to regulate the Second Amendment, we have steady-stepped, more or less, through after-the-fact regulation on interstate commerce, background checks, semiautomatic bans, concealed carry provisions, and gun free zones.
The Supreme Court has stepped right along with us, divided on whether an individual has the right to bear arms outside of militia service but consistently upholding restrictions on gun possession by convicted felons.
The case is made that these after-the-fact regulations are necessary, that the Founders in no way foresaw Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or a Colorado movie theater showing "Batman" at midnight. I doubt they did.
What I think they did foresee is that regulation—any regulation—introduces disadvantage to the law-abiding citizen. Nazi Germany is the classic example where everyone but the Communists and the Nazis complied with gun registration. When registration progressed to confiscation, only the law-abiding citizens were left unprotected.
The Colorado movie theater where James Logan opened fire was one of several theaters within 20 minutes of his apartment. Unlike all the others, the one he chose didn’t allow guns. Whatever else was going through his deranged mind at the time, he picked the theater where the law-abiding citizens were unprotected.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He wants us to think that the 9-0 Supreme Court decision to let a convicted felon sell his guns is a victory for constitutional rights. It’s a neat side step.
Constitutional rights as hammered out by the Founders held that our right to keep and bear arms could not be infringed. There is no asterisk saying unless someone is a convicted felon.
We have the best of intentions for limiting the Second Amendment; the road to hell is also paved with them.
If the Founders had been caught by the British, they would have been convicted felons, too.
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