By: David S. Petolicchio
During the Democratic debate in September of 2019, Beto O’Rourke made a uniquely transparent and inflammatory statement with regards to firearms confiscations (if he were to be elected President): “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, we’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.(1)” While this overtly tyrannical rhetoric seems unprecedented, the Second Amendment has a long history of being trampled upon by both major political parties.
The Second Amendment is easily one of the most iconic aspects of our Bill of Rights and has been touted as a stronghold for liberty by a multitude of activist organizations. Unfortunately, the Second Amendment has also been gutted and reduced to a shell of its former potency. While gun rights activists battle to slow or eliminate the growing flood of proposed gun control legislation, the right to bear arms continues to move further and further away from its intended purpose.
Sadly, sweeping gun control that is flagrantly unconstitutional is nothing new. In fact, one of the most notorious gun control moves occurred in 1934 with the National Firearms Act. The National Firearms Act (NFA) was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a reaction to organized crime. The NFA of 1934 which regulated automatic weapons and short barreled shotguns, among many other taxes and regulations (2). This was followed by the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which targeted the shipment and exchange of firearms across state lines. Three decades later, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Gun Control act of 1968 became “Title I”, repealed the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, and reduced the National Firearms Act of 1934 to “Title II”(2). The Gun Control Act of 1968 provided for the following gun control measures to be put into place:
“Mandated licensing for all importers, manufacturers and dealers of firearms and ammunition involved in interstate or foreign arms commerce, and set license fees for “destructive devices” at $1,000 a year. Prohibited using falsified information to acquire a firearm. Set the general purchase age for handguns and handgun ammunition at 21. Prohibited dealers and manufacturers from selling firearms to indicted or convicted individuals, fugitives from justice, drug addicts and mentally incompetent individuals. Required registration of all firearms with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Prohibited the possession of firearms on which the serial number has been altered, obliterated or removed. Controlled containers, markings and chains of custody for shipped firearms, eliminating mail order delivery to unlicensed individuals.(2)”
It doesn’t require a great deal of knowledge to recognize that these laws are overtly unconstitutional and cause substantial changes in the ability of America citizens to exercise their fundamental right to bear arms. These laws are as old as 80 years, yet many Americans fail to understand that the Second Amendment has been eroded to completely unrecognizable levels when compared to its original intent. Banning “machine guns” was, and is, entirely unconstitutional yet it’s still illegal to possess such a weapon without exorbitant fees and extensive background checks. Essentially, the true spirit of the second amendment has been eroded to the point of being a mockery of its former purpose: to allow the American people to defend themselves from all enemies including a tyrannical government.
Despite the vast sea of rhetoric and political manipulation, this issue has been promoted by not one, but BOTH major political parties. Even the noted hero of conservatism, President Ronald Reagan, signed the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 which included, “prohibiting all firearms that are not detectable by walk-through metal detectors – that are less than 3.7-percent steel. It also banned firearms with major components that fail to “generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component” on standard airport imaging technology. (2)” President Reagan isn’t alone in participating in gun control measures, George H. W. Bush also signed the Gun Free Zones School Act of 1990 which prohibited the carrying of firearms in or within a certain distance of “public, private, and parochial elementary and high schools.(2)” It is unfortunately the case that both major political parties are to blame for this disregard for liberty. For nearly a century, unconstitutional gun control measures have been passed by both political parties with little regard for the true intent of the Second Amendment.
To be clear, the United States has lost the majority of the culture war for gun rights. The degree of liberty that’s been stripped away from the second amendment is astounding, only surpassed in magnitude by the degree of ignorance and misinformation surrounding the natural right to arms. This has occurred through cultural ignorance and the disregard for the Constitution over the course of multiple generations. To go one step further, a great deal of the freedom that the United States was supposed to enjoy has been eliminated due to nothing more than the irrational and emotional whims of an uninformed and vapid populace. Such societal inclinations have a historic track record of removing the notion of freedom from the public square entirely.
While Beto O’Rourke made headlines with his statement at the most recent democrat debate, his position is in no way new. The freedom to defend one’s life, liberty, and property is a unique trait that the United States continues to benefit from even its current watered-down form. However, if this culture war for individual liberty continues to chip away at this fundamental right, the Second Amendment will disappear and the rest of the Bill of Rights along with it.
Despite these great and seemingly endless threats to the right to bear arms, there is yet hope for the United States. The principles of liberty are indestructible and timeless, immune to the greatest of tyrannical regimes and the most rampant of popular ignorance. As long as the principles of individual self-government continue to exist in the minds of a small number, there will always be hope to reclaim liberty.
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – The Second Amendment
- Cillizza, Chris. “Beto O’Rourke Just Did Republicans a Massive Favor on Guns.” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 Sept. 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/13/politics/beto-orourke-guns-debate/index.html.
- “Federal Gun Control Laws in America: A Federal Gun Law Guide.” Ammo.com, Ammo.com, https://ammo.com/articles/gun-control-guide-major-federal-acts.