May 15, 2023
We know the Left is trying their darndest in states all over America to ban “assault weapons” – a weak, broad term that essentially describes firearms with features that scare them the most. This definition usually includes semi-automatic rifles. They use this term for propaganda purposes. Lucky for patriotic American gun owners, ultimately the gun grabbers do not have the moral authority, Constitutional right, or the practical arguments necessary to justify their efforts. Where they have been successful in enacting legislation that bans such firearms, they have been in violation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. It is frustrating that justice and restoration of rights via legal challenges sometimes move slowly in America, but the Supreme Court will eventually put the gun banners in their place when the right case finally comes their way pertaining to bans on semi-automatic rifles and many other popular firearms.
After the senseless shooting in Highland Park, Illinois last year, Illinois lawmakers passed the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). The law placed wide restrictions and bans on the sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, importation, and possession of many firearms, magazines, attachments, stocks, and grips. Included in the bans are the most popular semi-automatic rifles such as those modeled on the AR platform. PICA was immediately challenged as unconstitutional by plaintiffs in Illinois that would be directly harmed by the law. Recently, US District Judge Stephen P. McGlynn granted the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of PICA until there can be a final determination of the merits as to the law’s constitutionality. This law contains a definition of “assault weapon” that is similar to that contained in the laws of other jurisdictions;
(1) “Assault weapon” means any of the following, except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection:“Assault Weapon” definition excerpt, Protect Illinois Communities Act
(A) A semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine or that may be readily modified to accept a detachable magazine, if the firearm has one or more of the following:
(i) a pistol grip or thumbhole stock;
(ii) any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;
(iii) a folding, telescoping, thumbhole, or detachable stock, or a stock that is otherwise foldable or adjustable in a manner that operates to reduce the length, size, or any other dimension, or otherwise enhances the concealability of, the weapon;
(iv) a flash suppressor;
(v) a grenade launcher;
(vi) a shroud attached to the barrel or that partially or completely encircles the barrel, allowing the bearer to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned, but excluding a slide that encloses the barrel.
(B) A semiautomatic rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, except for an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.
(C) A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine or that may be readily modified to accept a detachable magazine, if the firearm has one or more of the following:
(i) a threaded barrel;
(ii) a second pistol grip or another feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;
(iii) a shroud attached to the barrel or that partially or completely encircles the barrel, allowing the bearer to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned, but excluding a slide that encloses the barrel;
(iv) a flash suppressor;
(v) the capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip; or
(vi) a buffer tube, arm brace, or other part that protrudes horizontally behind the pistol grip and is designed or redesigned to allow or facilitate a firearm to be fired from the shoulder.
(D) A semiautomatic pistol that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 15 rounds.
(E) Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
(F) A semiautomatic shotgun that has one or more of the following:
(i) a pistol grip or thumbhole stock;
(ii) any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;
(iii) a folding or thumbhole stock;
(iv) a grenade launcher;
(v) a fixed magazine with the capacity of more than 5 rounds; or
(vi) the capacity to accept a detachable magazine.
(G) Any semiautomatic firearm that has the capacity to accept a belt ammunition feeding device.
(H) Any firearm that has been modified to be operable as an assault weapon as defined in this Section.
(I) Any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert a firearm into an assault weapon, including any combination of parts from which an assault weapon may be readily assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person.
The law then goes on to specifically list numerous firearms that meet this qualification. In the court challenge, the plaintiffs asked if PICA can be harmonized with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and with recent Supreme Court precedent including DC v. Heller, McDonald v. Chicago, and N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen. Judge McGlynn responded the answer to that question is “likely no.” “The Supreme Court in Bruen and Heller held that citizens have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms and may use them for self-defense. PICA seems to be written in spite of the clear directives in Bruen and Heller, not in conformity with them.” Furthermore, Judge McGlynn pointed out there are plenty of other avenues available for the State of Illinois and its citizens to address the problem of gun violence, “There is a wide array of civil and criminal laws that permit the commitment and prosecution of those who use or may use firearms to commit crimes. Law enforcement and prosecutors should take their obligations to enforce these laws seriously. Families and the public at large should report concerning behavior. Judges should exercise their prudent judgment in committing individuals that pose a threat to the public and imposing sentences that punish, not just lightly inconvenience, those guilty of firearm-related crimes,” he concludes.
This decision seems indicative of the eventual vindication of the true spirit of the Second Amendment. Do not let the attacks of the gun grabbers deter you from exercising your rights and duties. If you are a Second Amendment supporter and are legally able to do so, you ought to buy a semi-automatic rifle. It is the quintessential Second Amendment weapon of our time. Despite the Left’s attempts to demonize the Second Amendment and call it antiquated, it is still as valid as ever because the logical fundamental principles upon which it is based never change. While individual self defense has become a central focus of Second Amendment activism in many ways (and semi-automatic rifles can certainly help you do that), We the People playing a role in the defense of the nation as part of a militia is also a fundamental purpose of the Second Amendment. The Founders intended Americans to be armed as a deterrent and a check against tyranny, insurrection, and invasion. The Heller decision touched on this quite a bit and it has been reiterated in many cases since. The Left in America still tries hard to obfuscate this by spreading misinformation about the meaning of the Second Amendment and its terms, such as what the Founders meant by “militia,” “well-regulated,” “the People,” and “arms.” Make no mistake however, the Court will not be fooled by such revisionist history.
According to the Supreme Court in Heller, the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment (A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State) announces the purpose of the Amendment but does not limit it. There is a link between the purpose and the command of the operative clause (the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed) which has been determined to be an individual right. That link is “to prevent elimination of the militia.” The Founders, including the authors of the Second Amendment understood it “might be necessary to oppose an oppressive military force if the constitutional order broke down.” The Court has determined “the people” to whom the Constitution refers as “all members of the political community” or “persons who are of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connections with this country to be considered part of the community.” The militia, which is the people, were always intended to be armed. “Arms,” at the time of the Second Amendment’s drafting, was taken by the Founders to mean any weapon or thing that could be used for either offense or defense and the the Court recognizes this extends to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that did not exist when the Second Amendment was created. Reducing these arms to the demonized term “Assault Weapons” does not do them justice. “Keep” and “bear” in the operative clause have been determined to mean to “have” and to “carry.”
The Court notes the adjective “well-regulated” implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training. Definitions for “Regulate” from the era define it as “To adjust by rule or method.” Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #29 suggested it would be impractical for all Americans to be continuously training as a fighting force but that the People at large ought to at least be “properly armed and equipped” so as to be ready in any case where they may be expected to defend themselves, their communities, and their nation. He, like the Founders in general, trusted the People to be responsible and competent enough to fulfill this duty if necessary. How to be “properly armed and equipped” for this purpose today is debatable, but a good starting point for an individual would be the possession of at least a semi-automatic rifle and enough ammunition to match the load required of an infantry soldier in today’s military. Individuals form units and units form larger fighting forces. Semi-automatic rifles can be very versatile and effective, turning an individual into a useful member of a team capable of a wide range of applications. Individuals ought to at least be ready to serve their purpose, leaving the larger provisions and arrangments to higher authorities and/or organizations which already exist and are ever-changing, and those that may be created in the future based on need. Perhaps you have a different perspective on what “properly armed and equipped” would mean (more firepower or less, for example), but the wording of the Second Amendment and an analysis of the intent of the Founders allows for individuals to hold a wide variety of opinions in this regard. Contemporary attitudes for or against certain popular arms – especially semi-automatic rifles – matter not to the recognition of the duty to uphold the natural and Constitutional rights related to self defense. For all intents and purposes, the more options, the better.
Joe Biden has remarked on several occasions that the idea of citizens organizing with small arms to repel a tyrannical version of the US government is foolish; “You would need fighter jets and nuclear weapons…” to paraphrase his quips. He may actually believe that, or it may just be rhetoric, but in either case he certainly intends to convey the image of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters as nothing more than illogical paranoid backwoods militant types that frequent army surplus stores and pretend to be in a Red Dawn scenario on weekends. That may get a chuckle from his fellow Democrats, but it hardly counters the intent of the Founders with the Second Amendment or holds up as a rational argument for gun bans. If anything, his bluster proves the point that there is a danger to be found in allowing the growth of massive standing armies controlled by bloated bureaucracy and central control.
Again referencing Hamilton in Federalist #29, there may be some distinction between the professionally trained and more disciplined members of a well-regulated militia and the people at large, but this does not contradict the fact that the militia is comprised of all the People, each with a natural duty to defend the self and others, as well as a corollary right to organize a larger defense against more powerful enemies in more complicated scenarios. Such possible scenarios vary considerably, and perhaps it is unproductive to speculate about the likelihood of any given one. But ignoring the possibility of future unrest/societal breakdown is about as foolish as always expecting it to happen tomorrow. Those that assume we are at the end of history and past all possibility for such unrest, attack, or societal breakdown in America ever occurring again are exhibiting a terrible bit of normalcy bias – our relatively stable recent existence is an exception to the rule in human affairs that sees disorder frequently returning and political unions ending and changing almost inevitably. To come to such conclusions about our guaranteed security today and into the future is even more absurd when one realizes our recent peace and hegemonic dominance has not even been enjoyed that long and has never really been that stable – we were born of revolution, have already had a major civil war within our relatively short existence, we are less than one hundred years out since the end of the last “World War,” we’ve had several smaller conflicts occurring frequently all that had potential for escalation, and there is also the not-so-small matter of cold war rivalry in the nuclear age where worldwide system ending decisions can be made in an instant. If anything, it is a miracle we are able to maintain any sort of stability at all. Keeping personal firearms in the event of such unrest is not only logical and prudent, it is a moral duty.
Many of those that are of the opinion that individuals do not need firearms in society are not necessarily ignoring the reality of the dangerous world we live in, they simply believe security can be effectively outsourced to professional forces like police and military. While these professionals can do a good job in their roles and provide needed services, they cannot be everywhere all at once. Their existence also does not cancel out the natural right and duty we all have to defend ourselves and others. These professional forces are also subject to the same breakdowns as society in general – often ending up being misused by oppressors against the rights of the People. Those that advocate for gun bans also believe the presence of firearms in society itself presents a danger and if we simply remove the firearms, or certain classes of firearms, the society will be safer. There are a lot of practical problems with this argumentation but at its heart it is anti-freedom, a violation of rights, and an abuse of government power. Technically, when the gun banners ask, “Why do you want or need a semi-automatic rifle?” a sufficient answer is as simple as “because I want one” or “because it is my right” or “none of your damn business.” No reason is required for a free citizen to exercise free choice, and so long as there is no willful act to infringe upon the rights of others or direct inherent danger to others (such as unintended explosion, pollution, etc.), there is no justification for prohibiting one’s free choice or demanding explanation. In America we prohibit and punish acts that infringe upon the rights of others, we do not prohibit the free choice and logical behavior of all merely because of some hypothetical danger or misuse of free choice somewhere by someone down the road. That is in itself a violation. America is a unique place, we do not seek to conform to standards elsewhere, we set them based on objective Right.
The Supreme Court has shot down much of the “public health and safety” argumentation as a defense by the gun grabbers of their rights-infringing bans. Their seemingly arbitrary prohibitions based on the features of certain guns is also on shaky ground. In his decision, Judge McGlynn notes, “Whether well-intentioned, brilliant, or arrogant, no state may enact a law that denies its citizens rights that the Constitution guarantees them. Even legislation that may enjoy the support of a majority of its citizens must fail if it violates the constitutional rights of fellow citizens.” The Supreme Court has already upheld the Constitutionality of handgun possession, including semi-automatic handguns (most handguns sold today). Rifle ownership has never really been challenged. So if semi-automatic handguns are constitutional, and rifles are constitutional, why would a semi-automatic rifle like the AR-15 or an M4 be unconstitutional? Handguns can be quite powerful and effective killing instruments at short range. Most homicides, crime, suicides, and accidents involving guns in the United States are committed with handguns too (large majority). Long rifles are more powerful than many popular semi-automatic rifles, so it isn’t power in itself that is the issue. Is the combination of a semi-automatic action, longer range, features that improve performance, and the possibility of a higher magazine capacity really “dangerous and unusual” – one of the standards the Court has used to determine whether or not jurisdictions may regulate or prohibit arms that ought to be covered by the Second Amendment? It does not seem like that could be the case, as all these features are useful and even necessary for the proper functioning of the firearm. They also expand useage to individuals that may not otherwise be able to bear firearms. It stands to reason that if firearms as a class of arms are constitutional, the best of them would be as well, not just subpar and/or obsolete versions. The semi-automatic rifles themselves and the magazines necessary for their functionality are also clearly “in common use,” another standard that the Court has used to determine whether an arm or class of arms is protected by the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has noted that the Second Amendment is not a “second-class right.” The Bruen case added that in order for the government to justify a regulation of Second Amendment activity, the government must “affirmatively prove that its firearm regulation is part of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.” When the plain text of the Second Amendment is consistent with an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. The government must justify a regulation by showing consistency with historical tradition of firearm regulation in the nation. Bans on semi-automatic rifles simply do not pass this test, nor do they make much practical sense given the plethora of options that criminals have to commit violence with or without such arbitrary laws.
So if the gun banners intend to argue that semi-automatic rifles are superior firearms too powerful for the People to own, it seems illogical the Founders would agree they ought to be banned, leaving the People with inferior arms for fulfillment of Second Amendment duties. If they intend to argue that other firearms are sufficient and that semi-automatic rifles are not necessary for citizens to own, then what is the point of banning them in the first place? If other firearms can do the same things, what is the benefit of using government power to infringe upon the freedom of the People to choose? Of course, both extremes are ridiculous and the reality is somewhere in the middle. Semi-automatic rifles are useful and well-balanced; some are more powerful than others, some are better for close-quarters while others are better for mid-long range applications. Many of the horrific crimes we have seen committed with semi-automatic rifles in recent years could have in fact been carried out in a similar fashion with handguns or shotguns, while in some cases the possession of a semi-automatic rifle may have aided in the carnage because of the higher capacity. This is all beside the point. We cannot, as a free society based on the preservation of rights and the upholding of logical/virtuous action, look back and rationalize away the rights of the vast majority of law-abiding citizens due to the law-breaking of a few. We instead prosecute the lawbreakers and try our best to reduce the instances of such horrific violence by addressing the root causes of their rights-infringing behaviors. Are we to believe that these disturbed individuals would have not committed the violence they did if they were not able to obtain a semi-automatic rifle? That seems naive and unimaginative; an evil Will will always find a way.
Legislation was introduced in Congress to declare AR-15 style rifles “the national gun of the United States.” This is of course just a symbolic gesture, but a fitting one. Tens of millions of these rifles are in the hands of the good citizens of this country. These rifles are as unique, versatile, and powerful as the People themselves. They embody the spirit of the Second Amendment and help secure fundamental rights for ourselves and our posterity. Perhaps one day a new weapons platform will replace these rifles as the standard. Maybe one day we will all keep and bear Star Trek-like phasers, or perhaps (if things go badly) we will be forced to return to bows & arrows and swords. The concept will remain the same; as moral individuals and as collectives we arm ourselves not to do violence against others, but to defend against and deter such violence against ourselves, promote justice and Right, and to protect the weak. This is a necessity so long as viciousness rests in the nature of Man. A virtuous people need not fear being a part of an armed society so long as virtue is the norm. We ought to fear a norm where we are defenseless against a rising tide of wickedness. Finally, it must be noted that the Second Amendment was intended to be a part of the Founder’s plan for ordered liberty, not just a big “F you” to all authority. The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, remarked in Federalist #46 about the advantage Americans have over the people of Europe, not just in their ability to have arms, but also in our government structure. All these pieces are meant to come together to form a solid foundation for liberty. Just as we embrace our Federalist structure and the democratic vote, we ought to embrace arms like the semi-automatic rifle, the keepers of peace and security for us all.