By Corey Friedman
President Barack Obama brought four children to the stage Wednesday as he unveiled his gun control initiative at the White House. He should have invited Kendra St. Clair.
St. Clair, who is 12, shot an intruder through the bathroom closet in her Calera, Okla. home last October. She called 911 when she saw the man trying to break in and hid in the closet as the intruder searched her home.
“I heard the bathroom light turn on that was leading to the closet,” St. Clair told emergency dispatchers. “And when I saw the door handle turn, I shot him.”
St. Clair’s story is one of hundreds that show the inestimable value of handguns for home defense, but those stories don’t fit into Obama’s shortsighted narrative. The children he used as cherubic political props had written letters decrying the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut and asking the president to put a stop to gun violence.
Obama seems intent on using the tragic loss of 20 lives at the hands of a mentally ill gunman as a springboard to restrict gun rights for responsible, law-abiding American citizens. He rolled out a laundry list of gun control goals during his Wednesday press conference.
Among those goals is a ban on assault weapons and a prohibition on high-capacity magazines which would set a maximum of 10 rounds of ammunition. The president also wants to expand the federal background check requirement so that every American purchasing a firearm — whether a handgun or a hunting rifle — would need preclearance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Most troubling to us is the prospect of a blanket ban on certain types of guns, the high-powered semiautomatic rifles used by the military and police tactical teams. Obama argues that average citizens don’t need AR-15-style weapons for any legitimate purpose. They’re not for hunting deer, and they aren’t the most practical or portable guns for home defense.
Maybe not, but that’s beside the point. Government needn’t decide for us whether we need guns or which kinds we should choose to purchase. That’s a decision for American families and individuals, not for the president.
The Second Amendment protects “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The Founding Fathers understood “arms” to encompass all variety of weapons, including the cannons Continental soldiers used to rebuff the British during the Revolutionary War.
We think the Constitution’s framers would take a dim view of limiting the size and type of firearms free Americans can own. After all, they didn’t write that citizens cam own “small arms” or “arms suitable for hunting.” They declared that the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”
Of course, opponents of personal freedom interpret the Second Amendment quite differently. They conjectured that the original intent was only to allow citizen soldiers the right to own guns, since the amendment opens with the clause “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.”
Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected this narrow interpretation in 2008, ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that the amendment protects an individual American’s right to own a firearm.
The school shooting in Newtown, Conn., was nothing short of a tragedy. But we shouldn’t allow cynical opportunists to exploit that tragedy to justify tyranny. Limiting Americans’ gun rights increases the government’s authority and influence. And that’s the first slide down a slippery slope that could lead to an omnipotent central government and an oppressed populace.
Congress should reject Obama’s gun control package and send a clear signal that the Second Amendment is not subject to the chief executive’s whims.
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