We spent the past four years hearing large portions of the Left yelling “resist,” but since Democrats took control of both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, resistance is suddenly passé. The new watchword is “obey,” and the editors of the Chicago Sun-Times are angry that red states across the nation are showing signs of resistance to Joe Biden’s anti-gun agenda by advancing Second Amendment Sanctuary legislation and Second Amendment Preservation Acts in state legislatures.
Organizations working to reduce gun violence are optimistic about getting a bill requiring universal background checks on gun sales through Congress this session. The bill, reintroduced on March 2, would expand background checks to cover private sales at gun shows and over the internet.
Among the leading backers of the bill, which is hardly controversial among the vast majority of Americans, are U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill.
“People support background checks for gun sales by an overwhelming margin — more than 90% in some surveys,” said Durbin, who co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill, titled the Background Check Expansion Act, as well as a related bill, titled the Background Check Completion Act. “We’ve seen where lax laws in other states contribute to the flood of guns on the streets of Chicago, with police officers recovering nearly 900 guns in January alone.”
Two things. First, while 90% of Americans may say they support universal background checks, most of them have no idea about the details of the legislation in the House. If you were to ask those same Americans if they thought it should be a federal crime to loan a gun to your cousin for a couple of weeks for a hunting trip without having to conduct a background check on each end of the transfer, I’m guessing far fewer than 90% of respondents would be in support. In fact, in states like Maine and Nevada, which have had the opportunity to vote on the issue, the electorate was deeply divided. Maine rejected universal background checks by a vote of 52-48 in 2016, while Nevada voters approved a similar measure 51-49.
So yes, these measures are controversial, and not just for gun owners. As for Durbin’s assertion that “lax laws in other states” contribute to guns used in crimes in Chicago, does he really believe that criminals are suddenly going to pay attention to a background check law when they’re ignoring the statutes that forbid robbing, carjacking, and home invasions (not to mention, you know, homicide)?
In fact, do the editors of the Sun-Times believe that? I’d love to hear them explain how H.R. 8 would prevent any illicit gun transfer or violent crime, but I don’t think they could actually do it. They certainly don’t make an attempt in their editorial. Instead, they excoriate the dozen or so states that are considering language that rejects state or local enforcement of any new gun control laws.
Attempts by states to overturn federal gun laws probably would fail in court because of the Supremacy Clause, which holds that the U.S. Constitution, and federal laws in general, take precedence over state laws and even state constitutions. But what is particularly egregious about the bills now under consideration in state legislatures is the penalties they would impose on police officers and others who comply with the federal laws.
Gun shop owners who run a background check as they ring up a gun sale, for example, could be held civilly or even criminally liable by their states. Police officers who enforce the federal ban on felons carrying guns also could face civil penalties or criminal charges. The laws would have a chilling effect on the enforcement of federal gun laws.
As we’ve previously discussed, not all Second Amendment Sanctuary bills or Preservation Acts are the same, and the language that the Sun-Times highlights would likely not survive a court challenge. However, the editors of the Sun-Times should be aware of the Supreme Court decision in Printz vs. United States, in which the Court ruled that under the Tenth Amendment, state and local governments have no obligation to help enforce federal law. The Left has used that decision to enact sanctuary city and state ordinances that forbid police from cooperating with ICE on many (but not all) illegal immigration policies, for instance. The Right can most certainly use that existing Tenth Amendment precedent as their legal justification for Second Amendment Sanctuaries that won’t cooperate with federal law enforcement on any new federal gun control laws.
The Sun-Times complains that, if these states do so, they’ll be contributing to the violence in Chicago and other places with restrictive gun control laws. Of course the editors ignore the fact that those laws never seem to actually do much to prevent crime, but do play hell on the ability of citizens to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. There are plenty of armed robbers and carjackers carrying without a license in Chicago right now, but there are also many legal gun owners who’ve been waiting for months on end for the state police to get around to processing their concealed carry application.
The reality that gun control advocates simply refuse to acknowledge is this: we live in a nation that respects and protects the right own and carry firearms. More than 100-million Americans are currently exercising that right. There are more than 400-million privately owned firearms in this country, and last year more than 21-million more were sold at retail.
There are a lot of guns in this country and not many people willing to give them up, particularly since it’s their right to keep them. There is no way that efforts to restrict the potential supply of firearms to criminals is ever going to be an effective crime fighting strategy, especially now that 3D printing has made it possible for anyone to anyone with a few hundred bucks and a little spare time to make a gun of their own. It doesn’t work. That debate is over. A gun-free United States isn’t a realistic possibility.
Strategies that focus on reducing demand for firearms by those engaged in criminal activity, on the other hand, are have proven to be remarkably successful, and frankly, there’s a lot of common ground to be found between the Left and the Right in these tactics. Targeted deterrence generally leads to far fewer arrests overall, while reducing violent crime by placing an emphasis on the most prolific and likely offenders; and it does so without the need for any new gun control laws whatsoever. That’s the path forward for those of us who truly want less violence, not just fewer gun owners and a diminished Bill of Rights.