The Unfettered Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Mike Wells Jr. isn’t just uninformed; he’s uninformed and determined to let the world know it. There are so many errors in his piece at PoliticusUSA I had to stop partway through out of sheer sympathetic embarrassment. To start with, there’s the title. The Second Amendment is Not an Unfettered Right. Actually, it’s supposed to be, hence the whole “shall not be infringed” language. But things just go downhill from there . . .

For the sake of readability I’ll mark all the errors in his first paragraph rather than breaking it up into it’s laughable component parts:

The slayings of twenty children and seven adults in Newton, Connecticut proves something is wrong with gun control in America1. Congress passed the Brady Law in 19942. The law banned the sale or possession of assault weapons3,4, but Congress let the ban expire ten years later. Likewise, criminal background checks are not always required at gun shows5 because the Brady Law does not apply to unlicensed gun dealers6. Many of the dealers at gun shows are unlicensed7. Meanwhile gun owners clamor that their 2nd Amendment rights are infringed upon if there are any restrictions imposed upon gun ownership8. The result is a dangerous combination of no meaningful restrictions on the purchase of assault weapons9, inadequate background checks10 and the elevation of the 2nd Amendment to where it trumps all other rights11, including the rights to live and to be safe12.

  1. Nothing wrong with gun control, lots wrong with the level of care available for people with mental health problems.
  2. Nope, the Brady Bill was signed into law by Bill Clinton November 30, 1993.
  3. Nope, the Brady Bill instituted a 5 day waiting period on handgun purchases (which was later replaced by NICS). The 1994 law regarding so-called assault weapons was (unsurprisingly) called the Assault Weapons Ban.
  4. Nope, the AWB did not ban sale or possession of such weapons if they we produced before the bill took effect, or had been cosmetically modified to conform to the law.
  5. Nope, every law that applies outside a gun show applies inside.
  6. Nope, no such thing as an “unlicensed gun dealer”; if someone is “engaged in the business” of selling guns then he has to be licensed.
  7. Yes, the people who are selling reloading equipment, optics, holsters and optics, ammo, books, clothes, non-gun militaria, food and beverage are not required to have a FFL even if they are at a gun show. I know, it’s just horrifying isn’t it!
  8. Yes, because, well, they are! Look up “infringed” some time Junior.
  9. Nope, every (non-NFA) firearm purchase from a dealer has the same restrictions and goes through the same folderol whether it is a pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle or Evil Black Rifle.
  10. Whaddaya mean “inadequate”?!? You guys are the ones who wrote the damned bill and you guys are the ones who worked so hard to shut down small “kitchen-table” FFLs (see figure below). You can’t start bitching now that not enough people do background checks when you drove 65% of the people who could do them out of business in just 4 years.
  11. Nope, we don’t want it to trump all the others we just want politicians, bureaucrats and judges to quit treating it like the bastard red-headed step-child at the family picnic and start treating it like, oh I dunno, how about start treating it like the highest law of the land! I can’t remember who, but back in the ‘70s some retired muckety-muck federal judge said that if the Second Amendment were treated like the First, gun ownership would be mandatory.
  12. Sorry to bust yer bubble there Junior, but you have no right to either life or safety. A true right a right gives you the freedom to perform (or refrain from performing) an action; it most assuredly does not include the requirement that someone else perform (or refrain from performing) an action. You have the right to worship as you choose, but you do not have a right to be provided with a church. You have the right to ‘feel safe’ insofar as you may take whatever precautions you deem needful, but you may not require me to do (or not do) anything.

Whew! So much for the first paragraph, on to the second:

The belief in the unfettered right to bear arms ignores all rights are relational and not absolute1. For example, the 1st Amendment does not allow for the ritual sacrifice of human beings under the guise of the free exercise of religion2. The 1st Amendment is not an unfettered right, nor is the 2nd Amendment. An individual’s rights extend only so far as the life and liberty of another are not threatened3.

Okay, so Junior isn’t quite as screwy in this paragraph, but three errors in three sentences is still a pretty good batting average.

  1. It took me about 4 times through to figure out what he was saying here, but I think I finally got it; what he’s trying to convey is that you can’t use the rights protected by one amendment to violate another. I think.
  2. Sure it does; as long as there is no coercion and the sacrificial child/virgin/crone/mother/whatever is participating completely voluntarily. See the definition of rights above.
  3. Nope, that is just way too much of a slippery slope/moving target there Junior because you would probably claim that my carrying concealed threatens your life and liberty. It doesn’t, unless you do something to make me reasonably believe that you are threatening me with death or great bodily harm. Then, yes, I will act to remove the threat. Sorry, but you Nervous Nellies don’t get to limit my rights like that.

Shall we go onto paragraph three? Let’s.

Laws that make citizens safer do not infringe upon the rights of others. Even if restrictions on the right to bear arms are imposed, those restrictions are valid if they make citizens safer. An assault weapons ban and more background checks make citizens safer.

Okay we’ll skip the numbering this time around because I can sum this up with one word:


A law which requires me to undergo a full body cavity search before I can board a bus, train or plane most assuredly does infringe upon my rights regardless of how much safer it may make my fellow passengers (although it might be worth it if Miri Bohadana were on the same flight. Sorry, distracted for a moment there. Anyway, the same is true of a law which would allow police to come and search my house, or tap my phones or take my DNA on a whim. Nor (regardless of what the PATRIOT Act says) can I be arrested and bundled off to Gitmo without a hearing, knowing the charges against me or the ability to face my accuser.

As for an AWB making citizens “safer,” see above for the big word in the center of the page. Catch a clue, Junior; more people were beaten to death with fists in 2010 than were murdered with any sort of long gun. And here’s another clue for you; if you go to this report on gun use by offenders (a report, by the way, which was prepared by the Clinton Justice Department, not “gun nuts”) and look at Table 8 you will see that almost 80% of criminals got their guns from friends, family or an illegal or street source. Less than 2% got them from a gun show or flea market.

Now, raise your hand if you think requiring background checks for every firearms transfer would have the slightest effect on those transactions.

Next paragraph and most of these rebuttals will be short, swift and sure:

In order to help prevent tragedies such as Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Connecticut, the Brady Law assault weapons ban must be reinstated or another law similar to it must be passed1. In addition, background checks must be required whenever and wherever a gun is sold2, be in a store, at a gun show or over the internet.  These are small concessions to make3, and they are not infringements on the right to bear arms4. Even if these restrictions were infringements5, they would be necessary infringements6, as the right to bear arms is not absolute7.

  1. Really? How? It takes less than 2 seconds to swap mags. I know, I know: “But the Tucson shooter[1] was nabbed because he had to reload!” No, he got nabbed because he was a moron who had failed to practice with his weapon and failed to keep track of how many rounds he had fired. Now I submit to you, if the shooter knew he was only going to have 10 rounds per mag, do you think he would have practiced reloading? Do you think that, if he only had 10+1 shots, he would have been able to maintain a shot-tally and reloaded before he went into slide-lock? Do think the result would have been even more bloodshed before Joe Zamudio[2] arrived on-scene and dropped the shooter?
  2. Sold but not transferred? So criminals would have to undergo checks on the 1.7% of purchases they don’t already? And if you actually mean transferred, see above about the friends and family gun plan.
  3. No, they aren’t, and even if they were the freedom to purchase, own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility[3]
  4. Yeah, they are. The Bradys like to boast that background checks have stopped 1.9 million gun purchases, allowing readers to believe that all of those were dastardly criminals who were foiled in their plan to get a gun. In fact, according to some research done by Dr. John Lott almost 95% of those are false positives, meaning that 1.8 million people have their rights infringed when they have to wait for the system to clear them. In fact wasn’t it Martin Luther King who said “a right delayed is a right denied”?
  5. Which they are.
  6. A) Sez who and 2} So what?!? See above for my comment on Junior’s paragraph 3.
  7. Yes it is; this is what “shall not be infringed” means Junior.

Gun advocates argue we have meaningful restrictions already1.  This is inaccurate2 because assault rifles are legal3, and background checks are not always required4 or always performed5.

  1. Nope, I argue that we have unconstitutional infringements already; big difference.
  2. No, no it isn’t.
  3. Yes they are; but so what? You think someone couldn’t go on a rampage with a revolver? Or, for that matter the clubs and knives with which three or four (accounts vary) Lenape warriors killed 10 students and their schoolmaster, Enoch Brown, during Pontiac’s Rebellion?
  4. Again, your side wrote the damned law and left private transfers out of it.
  5. Not performing checks when they are required is a good way to lose your business and home while earning a stay at Club Fed. Not performing checks when they’re not required is, well, not a problem.

Junior does go on for a while more, but he’s just repeating himself: AWB = good, NRA = bad, restrictions on rights ≠ restrictions on rights. Nowhere does he address the signature fact that 94.4% of mass casualty shootings occurred in “Gun Free Zones.” Restrictions on the right to carry are the real fetters. And they are murderous.

[1] I refuse to use the POS’s name as a matter of principle.

[2] I will use his name; anyone who runs towards the sound of gunfire is a bona fide hero in my book.

[3] L. Neil Smith: Letter to a Liberal Colleague