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Illinois Republican trots out the "I'm a Second Amendment supporter, but..." argument to back a gun ban

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

I would argue that there’s no way someone can honestly support the right to keep and bear arms while criminalizing the possession and sale of the most commonly-sold rifle in the country, but former Illinois state representative Jim Durkin disagrees. Durkin, who chose to retire earlier this year even after winning re-election to his suburban Chicago district last November because he was unhappy with the direction of the GOP, is now claiming that it’s perfectly reasonable to call yourself a Second Amendment supporter while trying to put people in prison for owning an AR-15.

In a new op-ed at the Chicago Sun-Times, Durkin argues that it’s not just the person pulling the trigger who’s to blame for violent crimes, but the gun itself.

I am a suburban Republican, and I support one’s right to possess a firearm, as evidenced in my support of conceal and carry. But are we at a place in time where parents will begin suiting up their kids in kevlar before going to play in the park or on their front stoop?
The horrific tragedies of mass shootings, like the one in Highland Park last summer, are not the result of a musket loaded with shot and powder, but in many cases, a legally accessible military-grade weapon, such as a Smith & Wesson MP (military and police) semi-automatic rifle (AR15) with a 30-round magazine. Enthusiasts have coined this weapon as “America’s Gun” and most recently, the “Barbie for guys.” I kid you not.
Do we still believe our founding fathers envisioned an AR15 or the likes as the natural evolution of the “right to bear arms?” Opinions are strong and personal. I presume my comments will be ridiculed by the opponents.
Well, I don’t know about ridicule, at least not in this column. I’ll take Durkin’s argument seriously, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not seriously off-base.
First off, if Durkin’s okay with banning AR-15s and other semi-automatic long guns because they have been used in mass shootings, why wouldn’t he be okay with banning handguns that are the primary weapon of choice for both mass shooters, gang members, and law-abiding citizens? After all, rifles of any kind are used in a small fraction of crimes, but are lawfully possessed by tens of millions of Americans. Yet Durkin claims to support concealed carry, which would be an odd thing to back if he’s also in favor of prohibiting handgun ownership.
So, I’ll assume that Durkin would find a handgun ban to be a violation of the right to keep and bear arms. But why does he think it’s okay to ban one commonly-owned arm and not another? He doesn’t say. Instead, he just makes a vague call for “common sense” and “conscience” to advocate for a ban on so-called assault weapons.
I previously mentioned conscience, common sense and the human experience, traits the “middle” and independent voters are seeking. “Reasonable firearm restriction” is not a radical concept coming from the far left, it comes from Henry Hyde and Eugene Stoner. It comes from the middle, the rapidly growing middle. This voting bloc is becoming more important and influential by the day.
Our local elected state’s attorneys must treat gun offenses as real crimes, specifically in Cook County. We must do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands — felons, mentally disturbed individuals, street gang members. But the slaughter must stop.
As we were told growing up, the only way to solve a problem is to first identify the problem. The problem cannot be more clear — it is the person pulling the trigger, and it is also the weapon.
And again, if the weapon is the problem, then why is Durkin not calling for a ban on handguns? Because that would involve overturning the Heller decision? So what? Wouldn’t that be a small price to pay if he believed it would actually stop the slaughter on the streets of Chicago?
I think Durkin’s trying so hard to sound “reasonable” that he’s lacking any sort of guiding principle despite his insistence that he’s a true-blue Second Amendment supporter. And just like every other politician or activist who trots out the “I’m a Second Amendment supporter, but…” argument, Durkin never bothers to explain why he supports the Second Amendment or provide any example of a gun law that he’d find objectionable or a violation of the right he supposedly holds so dear.
“Bad people do bad things with it” isn’t an argument in favor of banning any item that is commonly used for lawful purposes. If it were, he could use the same argument to try to ban everything from social media to alcohol to motorized vehicles; all of which can and will be abused for nefarious purposes causing harm to others.
Again, if it’s not just the trigger puller but the inanimate object with a trigger that Durkin believes is to blame for violent crimes, then why does he support the Second Amendment in the first place, and why does he believe a ban on so-called “assault weapons” would be more effective or constitutional than a ban on all handguns? Durkin’s rationale is completely lacking in common sense, consistency, and respect for the Constitution, and I fail to see how he can honestly support the right to keep and bear arms if he also believes that owning or selling an AR-15 should be a felony offense. I’d say that Durkin needs to pick one or the other, but I think he already has… he just can’t be honest with the public (and perhaps even himself) about what his decision really says about his view of the Second Amendment.