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2016 Texas Republican Platform - Part 10, Guns

Republican ElephantThis entry is part of a series taking a look at the latest Texas Republican Party Platform. For a list of all entries in this series, go to the Introduction. This entry covers gun control.

I've already written about my thoughts on gun control quite a few times on this site. In short, I think there should be more gun control than there is right now, but it shouldn't become so onerous that responsible, law abiding citizens can't acquire firearms. There are also a lot of myths and misconceptions about how effective guns can be for the purposes some people like to claim. So, to start off, here are those previous entries I've written on the topic:

I'm only going to look at one gun plank from this platform, but it's enough to provide plenty to discuss.

Right to Keep and Bear Arms- We strongly oppose all laws that infringe on the right to bear arms. We oppose the monitoring of gun ownership, the taxation and regulation of guns, ammunition, and gun magazines. We collectively urge the legislature to pass "constitutional carry" legislation, whereby law-abiding citizens that possess firearms can legally exercise their God-given right to carry that firearm as well. We call for the elimination of all gun free zones. All federal acts, laws, executive orders, and court orders which restrict or infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms shall be invalid in Texas, not be recognized by Texas, shall be specifically rejected by Texas, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in Texas. Firearms and ammunition manufactured and sold in the state of Texas are not covered under the Commerce Clause (Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution) and therefore are not subject to federal regulation.

First of all, I disagree with their interpretation of the Second Amendment. From the preface about a militia, and using the military language of 'to keep and bear arms', it really seems that this amendment was originally about states' rights to form militias, not an individual right for self-defense. There are others with far more expertise than me who have already written about this. For one, here's an article by former Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment. Here's another article on Politico, How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment, going into detail on the history of how the interpretation of this amendment has changed, largely due to NRA lobbying and propaganda. One of the most interesting things I learned from that latter article is that there was an earlier draft of what is now the Second Amendment, that was the version passed by the House, that made the military nature even more explicit, "A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person." And if you go read the House Debate from 1789 over the wording of the amendment, it's all about serving in the militia and concerns over a standing army vs. citizen militias (many of the Founders were none too keen on a standing army, but you can see how much we as a nation value original intent on that issue).

All that being said, the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, changed the interpretation of the Second Amendment. So, as long as that new precedent stands, it is the law of the land, even if it is counter to the Founders' original intent.

Next, they talk about wanting to do away with all "taxation and regulation of guns, ammunition, and gun magazines." That's asinine. To use an obvious example, I'll occasionally go out to the gun range with friends, and I'll swing by the sporting goods store to buy the ammunition as a courtesy for them letting me use their guns. And I trust that I can buy any box of the appropriate ammo from the store and that it will be safe to use in my friends' guns. And I can do that because of the regulations on safety and standards for ammunition. Why would anyone want to do away with regulation of ammunition?

When it comes to 'Gun Free Zones', there absolutely are scenarios where people shouldn't be allowed to carry guns. Perhaps the most obvious is in bars. A bunch of people under the influence of alcohol shouldn't have deadly weapons in their possession at the same time. But in the wake of the Orlando night club shooting, you saw gun extremists* arguing that people should have been allowed to carry guns in bars. And yes, 50 people being killed is absolutely a tragedy. But if you allowed guns in bars, a lot more than 50 people would be killed - just in isolated shootings across the country, instead of the shocking mass shooting that occurred in Orlando. (related: Mother Jones - The NRA Myth of Gun-Free Zones)

Then, there's more of the Constitutional illiteracy. You can't just go and invent your own interpretation of the Constitution and expect it to be valid. And states can't ignore federal laws that they don't like. If the State of Texas thinks certain federal laws are invalid or overstep the federal government's Constitutional authority, then the State can go to the Supreme Court to have the laws overturned. But if the Supreme Court sides with the federal government and not the State of Texas, then the laws stand and Texas has to follow them.


*I'm not going to call such people gun rights activists. I have friends who own guns and shoot regularly who I would call gun rights activists, but they don't support anarchy on this issue. They support reasonable levels of regulation to ensure public safety while allowing responsible people to continue to be able to buy and use guns.

Continue to Part 11 - Crime & Drugs


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