Do our rights exist as unconditional things we should enjoy by virtue of being free men and women, or should they be subject to government restriction?
It’s a question that’s at the heart of not just the gun debate, but several other political debates as well. While the Founding Fathers were pretty clear as to what they meant, people are more than willing to concoct restrictions anytime it’s convenient.
Enter the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News.
Their recent editorial takes aim at gun rights, with the subtitle: “Gun rights are constitutional, but they shouldn’t be unconditional.”
It doesn’t get any better.
One of the hallmarks of maturity, a virtue that seems in short supply these days, is moderation — the avoidance of extremes, the practice of self-restraint, temperance. It’s a virtue often overlooked because we live in a culture of excess. Whether we’re binging on drink, power, luxury, politics or entertainment, we’ve come to believe that if some is good, more is better.
Such heedlessness also describes America’s treatment of guns.
This newspaper supports the Second Amendment. But what is happening in conservative politics now — including the passage of what has been mislabeled “constitutional carry” in Texas — is not a defense of the Constitution. The lax and ahistorical interpretation of gun rights lacks maturity and moderation.
The Second Amendment protects “the right to keep and bear arms.” [Emphasis mine, obviously.] The word “bear” may not be particularly common today, but it’s not so archaic that no one understands that bearing something means carrying it.
As such, claims that constitutional carry is somehow not really constitutional is bizarre to an extreme, especially from a paper that claims to support the Second Amendment.
But it gets better.
Last week, a federal judge in Fort Worth struck down a Texas prohibition that kept 18-to-20-year-olds from carrying handguns. The prohibition arises from common sense and is entirely constitutional. Nothing about the Second Amendment promises that a teenager can carry a pistol wherever he goes.
Again, “keep and bear arms.” Yeah, it does.
While the editorial board may be uncomfortable with people in that age category carrying handguns, they’re lawful adults who get to enjoy all of their other rights. Why should they be prohibited from carrying a handgun?
Further, and arguably more important, the Constitution doesn’t need to spell out to whom rights apply. Unless it expressly prohibits it to certain parties, it’s safe to say that our Founding Fathers saw no issue with people in that particular age category carrying guns.
In fact, it was pretty common.
But at the heart of all of this is that the Dallas Morning News editorial board thinks of the Second Amendment as a second-class right. They see ample reason to restrict it in ways they would never tolerate restrictions on, say, Freedom of the Press.
They’d be up in arms over such a proclamation, particularly if it would impact them in any way. Yet their arguments here could easily be twisted and turned around to do just that.
Additionally, it seems as though no one at the Dallas Morning News bothered to actually read the Second Amendment prior to them writing this editorial. How would they feel, though, if we passed a law saying they had to before writing an opinion? I mean, nothing in the First Amendment expressly says you can’t, at least by their metrics.
Bet they wouldn’t like that at all.