Of Guns and Laws

Friday, March 22, 2013

Of Guns and Laws

Issues involving the regulation of gun ownership and gun use are some of the most fascinating matters that legislators face – but not for the reasons you may think. For to me, the base subject is really not that difficult. Our constitutions, both national and state, squarely address these matters, and all legislators take an oath to uphold these constitutions.

Our 2nd Amendment, dating back to the 1789 ratification of the United States Constitution provides: “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 Indiana Constitution, adopted in 1851, states in Article I, Section 32 that, “The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.”

Both of these provisions are clear and speak for themselves. Moreover, the federal limit has been recently vetted as high as the United Supreme Court which opined that even with “militia” references, the 2nd Amendment indeed secures an individual right.

Debates are occurring all over the nation regarding gun control and gun safety. Some of the discussions even involve magazines that hold more than ten rounds, semi-automatic actions, etc., which in my opinion are not the kind of matters that speak to the limits of our right to bear arms. Indeed, I am hard pressed to understand how someone can seriously argue that in this day and age that “the defense of themselves” does not include ownership of semi-automatics or magazines exceeding ten rounds.

So, the question arises, “why is this so controversial?” For many, at the root of the issue of gun violence is the gun itself. The reasoning goes, without a gun, you can’t have gun violence. Of course this is logically true. But, does this analysis go deep enough?

I have pondered this fascinating question and have come to my own conclusion. I think that the real issue with gun violence is not the gun, but rather the human heart . Put another way, no law will keep a criminal from using a gun; and if a gun is not available, the depraved heart will find some other instrument to carry out a wicked deed, be it by knife, hammer, rope or bomb.

We must be very cautious to restrict the right of self-defense, for the need for self-defense will not end with new gun restrictions. And, we all know that capable firearms are a great defense which is why we arm our police and military with them. We also know that no law keeps a criminal from being a criminal.

The founders of our country were brilliant when they penned the U.S. Bill of Rights. They lived under and contemplated governments good and bad. They knew first-hand the value of a free people at liberty to own firearms to defend themselves and their government. We have limited experience in this regard. As such, we must be very cautious to substitute our modern thought for the wisdom of our founding fathers. Isn’t it great to be an American?


State Rep. Tom Washburne serves as Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Financial Institutions Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Washburne represents the entirety of Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey counties.