When religious freedom and gun laws tangle

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

Last week, there was an interesting case. An Amish man was arrested for being an illegal firearm dealer. The Amish aren’t generally known for such things, which is what made it interesting.


The reason he sold guns to people was that the Amish don’t believe in having their photographs taken. As a result, they don’t have picture IDs, which makes it difficult for them to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

However, some in Lancaster County are unsympathetic:

As Nephin reported, “Federal laws require photo identification when purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. The Amish contend their religious beliefs prevent them from being photographed, so they cannot buy a firearm from a licensed dealer. However, private sellers don’t have to require the buyer to present photo identification.”

We mean no disrespect to the Amish faith and its beliefs and practices regarding photography. But we’ve long maintained that all firearms sales — including sales of long guns — ought to be handled by licensed dealers and be subject to background checks. (Pennsylvania law requires background checks on handgun sales, but not on private sales of long guns by unlicensed sellers.)

Now, the editorial goes on to advocate for universal background checks and all that, but I want to note something else.

In particular, how little the editorial board of this publication values religious freedom.

Oh, they make some platitudes about respecting the Amish’s beliefs, but then immediately take a big, steaming dump on them by essentially saying they believe the Amish shouldn’t get to exercise both their religious freedom and their right to keep and bear arms.

Now, understand that it wasn’t that long ago when everyone was up in arms about a woman who the state of Florida wouldn’t let get a driver’s license with a veil. Others have lashed out over laws preventing women from wearing a hijab in their license photos.


In those cases, religious freedom was paramount, even though the courts have routinely classified driving as a privilege, not a right.

Yet keeping and bearing arms is a right, one explicitly protected by the United States Constitution. How can demanding a photo ID from people who don’t believe in having their pictures taken not run afoul?

Of course, we must remember that to people like this, the Second Amendment is a second-class right. Apparently, religious freedom is as well.

As it stands, the Amish have to buy guns from third parties and hope they can find something they can use. So it’s not surprising that an Amish man may have sold a number of firearms to others. Someone had to as it’s hard enough for them.

But the truth is that religious freedom and gun control are tangled nine ways to Sunday and there’s absolutely no political will to try and straighten that out. That’s because, as I said, they don’t view gun rights as a real right.

That’s unfortunate because each American has a right to practice their religion and to keep and bear arms. They don’t give up one for the other.

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