Sunday, June 26, 2022|
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This week, President Joe Biden announced new measures to track the sale of “ghost guns,” untraceable firearms made from do-it-yourself kits. The new Justice Department rule will require such kits to be produced by licensed manufacturers, and will require purchasers to pass a background check. This is a reasonable gun control step that will undoubtedly face unreasonable responses.
We strongly support Second Amendment rights, and we expect that this won’t make a dramatic difference in gun violence, despite Biden’s most earnest wishes. Violent people will still commit crimes with legal firearms. And criminals bent on breaking laws won’t be dissuaded by yet more laws around certain kinds of guns.
But the law is more than symbolic. It matters what kind of behavior we condemn and what kind of barriers we erect. If this rule makes it more of a hassle to order “buy build shoot” kits, it’s reasonable to think that fewer people will take that step. More importantly, fewer untraceable guns will make it easier for police to investigate offenders.
There is no good reason to have easy access to untraceable weapons or to make it harder on law enforcement to do its job. That undermines an important defense of gun ownership, that law-abiding people have a right to self-defense.
The ghost gun market appears to be growing. According to statistics released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, law enforcement agencies recovered about 20,000 suspected ghost guns last year, a tenfold increase from just six years ago.
“These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals,” Biden said during an event in the White House Rose Garden.
“We’re going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice.”
The Second Amendment establishes a clear right for individuals to own firearms. But it does not establish an absolute right.
For the safety and good order of society, there must be reasonable restrictions on every right, including the right to vote (thus voting laws), the right of free speech (thus restrictions on pornography), and, yes, the right to bear arms (thus gun control).
It is entirely legitimate for a government to prohibit abuses of certain rights.
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia applied that logic to this very issue in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. Scalia stated plainly: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.
It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Requiring transparency in the industry that supports ghost guns is not a panacea for gun crime, and it’s not a slippery slope to government oppression.
It’s a common sense step that could do some good and will do little harm.
— The Dallas Morning News
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