...the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. -- Amendment II
Those 14 words, perhaps more than any others in the U.S. Constitution, have inspired discussions, arguments and legal debates for years and years.
Now, legislation introduced in January by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and lingering in the House Judiciary Committee has stirred up emotions on both sides of the gun control issue and once again brought these words into the spotlight.
Rush's bill, the Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act (H.R. 45), establishes a federal licensing and registration regime under the direction of the U.S. Attorney General and would make it a criminal act not to register as an owner of a firearm.
The bill will also:
ˇ Establish a federal licensing requirement for ownership of handguns and semiautomatic weapons, not including antiques, with application requirements which include a photograph of the gun owner, fingerprinting of the gun owner, a current address, a completed, written firearms safety test, and private mental health records. These licenses must be renewed every five years;
ˇ Create a federal registration database for handguns and semiautomatics to which every new sale or transfer -- including transfers among private individuals -- in America must be reported within 14 days;
ˇ Require a background check to be performed in any transfer of guns and provides penalties of up to two years in jail for failure to comply with any licensing or background check requirements.
ˇ Establish penalties of up to 10 years for parents whose children gain access to their firearms unless they meet certain federally-established requirements.
It should be noted there are already federally required background checks for purchasing weapons. A government database of all gun owners or longer waiting periods will not keep criminals from getting their hands on a gun.
Furthermore, this bill does nothing to curb the criminals who would use handguns to commit a crime. Just the opposite -- it would turn law-abiding citizens into lawbreakers for overlooking one of many forms or address verification.
Any bill which would require photographing and fingerprinting for simply possessing a firearm flies in the face of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees -- and as the U.S. Supreme Court definitively ruled in District of Columbia v Heller -- the American people have the right to keep and bear arms.
As a member of the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, I will work with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to promote legislation protecting our constitutional rights and oppose legislation, such as H.R. 45, which restricts such rights.
We need to work harder to ensure the safety of our citizens, but we must do so in a way which protects our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
Our country's founding fathers understood how important the principle of the Second Amendment is in ensuring our basic freedoms. They had faith in the citizens of America. We should have the same faith in our fellow countrymen today.