A group of of South Dakota state lawmakers is trying to make a point about the federal government's individual mandate that everyone must have health insurance. Their method of choice? Introduce a bill that everyone in the state own a gun.
The five politicians recently introduced legislation that would require any adult 21 or older to buy a firearm “sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense.” The bill would take effect January 1, 2012 and would give people six months to acquire a firearm after turning 21. It would not, however, apply to people who are barred from owning a firearm.
While ownership would be mandated, the type of firearm would not. Instead, citizens could choose any gun “suitable to their temperament, physical capacity, and preference.”
According to the local paper the Argus Leader, the bill's sponsors admit the legislation is a stunt:
Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, is sponsoring the bill and knows it will be killed. But he said he is introducing it to prove a point that the federal health care reform mandate passed last year is unconstitutional.
“Do I or the other cosponsors believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not. But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance,” he said.
The mandates aren't completely synonymous, as Gawker points out, since state and federal powers differ. Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air recognizes that (so too does Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit), but also wonders if the bill is so cheeky that it could end up backfiring:
While I see what he’s doing here, and it’s a valid argument to make, I’m still not thrilled with the path he has chosen to make his point. We’ve seen other proposals in the past – in Georgia and Texas just to name two – which were far less tongue in cheek and they seem to uniformly hurt the effort to maintain our 2nd amendment rights. It plays to the popular, media driven theme of “gun nuts” versus responsible gun owners.
Further, it clouds the basic argument. The constitution takes great pains to assure the rights of Americans as to what they may do, not what they must do. We all have freedom of speech, but that includes the right to remain silent. (A lesson sadly lost on many modern politicians.)