Illinois congressman says gun control laws must target firearms already in legal hands

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

I lost track of how many times House Democrats pointed out last Friday afternoon that their bill to ban so-called assault weapons wouldn’t take away any of the more than 24 million banned firearms already in the hands of legal gun owners, but it was a constant refrain during the debate over HR 1808. As I pointed out at the time, that argument doesn’t soothe gun owners in the slightest because these same politicians were saying in the same breath that these guns were “weapons of war” that needed to be “taken off the streets”; a position that simply can’t be squared with a promise to leave existing guns alone.

We know that the gun control lobby isn’t satisfied with simply making it illegal to manufacture, sell, or buy a particular firearm, but it’s still somewhat rare to hear one of them acknowledge that fact on their own. Over the weekend, however, Illinois Democratic congressman Sean Kasten did exactly that during a virtual townhall meeting he held with gun control activist Fred Guttenberg.

“Ultimately, we have to judge ourselves as members of Congress … as Americans by when our time is done here, is the world safer or more dangerous than when we got here?” Casten said after the town hall meeting. “As long as we’re unhappy with that answer, we’ve got more work to do.”

Casten did not express much hope that a ban on some semi-automatic guns would pass the Senate, where it could be held up by filibuster.

… Casten said that while weapons bans, expanded background checks and other restrictions can help prevent gun violence, eventually the number of guns already in circulation, which he estimated was about 20 million, must be addressed.

“We have done the things that are popular,” he said alluding to various restrictions. “We have to have a really hard conversation … that says, what do you do about the fact that we already live in a country with 400 million guns? We have more guns than people in the United States.”

Additionally, Casten said how the courts have interpreted the Second Amendment also must be addressed.

“We have to have a much more honest conversation about what our founders intended with the Second Amendment,” he said. “The court system is the primary agent of a lot of death in this country.”

Well, what does he propose to do about the fact that we have some 400 million privately owned guns in this country? Round ’em up? Go door-to-door? Demand they be turned in? Make it illegal to possess and confiscate them when law enforcement runs across them?

I’m perfectly willing to have that “really hard conversation” about what Sean Casten wants to do with our right to keep and bear arms. It seems like it’s Casten and his fellow Democrats who are shying away from talking about what they really want and how they plan to get there.

As for what the founders intended with the Second Amendment, it’s clear to me that they didn’t envision the type of widespread gun confiscation that Casten is hinting at. Even after Shays Rebellion in western Massachusetts and the Whisky Rebellion in western Pennsylvania while Washington was president, there were no widespread calls to limit civilian possession of arms. Arguably the opposite was true, with Congress adopting the Militia Act that required all free adults to bear arms if necessary as part of a militia to ensure domestic tranquility. The founders believed in the right of the people to both keep and bear arms for both self-defense and the “security of a free state,” and it’s Casten who doesn’t seem to understand how fundamentally important that right was to the founding generation or to tens of millions of Americans today.

While Casten blames gun owners, the courts, and the Second Amendment itself for “a lot of death in this country,” he ignores the individuals who make the conscious decision to pull the trigger of a gun and take an innocent human life. In fact, the congressman doesn’t even list “crime” as an issue on his congressional website, though there’s an entire page dedicated to “gun reform.” For Casten, public safety appears to be just a convenient excuse for his efforts to curtail the exercise of a civil right, though he might argue it’s a means to an end; the idea being that criminals won’t stop getting access to guns unless the civilian market is shut down and most of the 400-million guns in private hands are taken out of circulation.

I happen to think that even in that unlikely scenario criminals would both still keep ahold of their guns and continue to acquire them on the illicit market or simply make them on their own, but before that could even happen Casten and his anti-gun allies would need to “do something” about all those guns that are already out there. The congressman keeps saying we need to have these hard and honest conversations, so it seems to me that he should be willing to go on the record about what he thinks it will take, and what he’s prepared to do to see his vision brought to life. Democrats told us last Friday that no one’s coming for our guns, but it sure sounds to me like Sean Casten believes that must happen if the gun control movement is to ever fulfill its full potential.