The Republican Party platform strongly supports the right to keep and bear arms, including evolving enhancements to the civil right of self-defense like Stand Your Ground laws. The party’s Second Amendment plank begins:
We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment. We acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense.
This language is constitutionally accurate: the Second Amendment acknowledges a sacrosanct personal right. In contrast, Obama’s White House believes: “The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.” [emphasis added]
- Opposes “federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners.”
- Believes Americans have “the right to obtain and store ammunition without registration.”
- Opposes “legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill-considered Clinton gun ban.”
- Opposes “the improper collection of firearms sales information in the four southern border states, which was imposed without congressional authority.”
The platform continues:
We support the fundamental right to self-defense wherever a law-abiding citizen has a legal right to be, and we support federal legislation that would expand the exercise of that right by allowing those with state-issued carry permits to carry firearms in any state that issues such permits to its own residents.
But the party also referenced District of Columbia v. Heller, which conflicts with this support of Stand Your Ground laws. While stating the Second Amendment includes “traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home,” Heller also concluded:
It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.
Stand Your Ground laws are toothless without concealed carry.
The GOP’s concealed carry rhetoric is similar to the NRA-backed National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 (H.R. 822). But could such federal legislation damage states’ rights, or create a precedent for a future infringement of Second Amendment rights?
John Frazer, NRA-ILA’s director of research and information, explains this isn’t possible. When asked if a future Congress could amend this law to include federal licensing and registration, Frazer replied:
The issues are different. If anti-gun activists had enough votes in Congress to pass federal licensing and registration — which might require them to repeal several existing laws that prohibit gun registration — they wouldn’t need to depend on a reciprocity law, and would probably even have enough votes to repeal any reciprocity law that already existed.
Could a federal mandate eventually empower Congress to meddle with state concealed-carry laws? For example, could Congress declare that only may-issue laws are acceptable? Frazer replied:
The proposed reciprocity provision would be part of the Gun Control Act, which limits the attorney general to prescribing regulations that are “necessary” to carrying out the requirements of the law. Imposing requirements on carry permits not only wouldn’t be “necessary,” it would be contrary to the plain language of the reciprocity statute.
Frazer added that under the proposed law:
A Texas concealed handgun licensee could carry in California because California has a permit law on the books. H.R. 822 doesn’t require the “host” state to be shall-issue and doesn’t give the federal government any say-so on that.
In his congressional testimony last year, law professor and Second Amendment scholar David Kopel noted:
H.R. 822 is consistent with the letter and the spirit of the 10th Amendment, and of principles of federalism. The very reason that the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution by the People was to adjust the state/federal balance, granting Congress the direct power to act against state infringements of important federal rights, such as the right to bear arms and the right to travel.
In an interview, Kopel noted how politicians have tried restricting the Second Amendment without amending pro-rights bills like H.R. 822. He cited Senator Lautenberg’s attempt to outlaw shall-issue carry laws, and others’ attempts to impose federal licensing and registration.
Kopel’s one caveat:
It’s not impossible that federal licensing and registration could be layered on top of interstate reciprocity, but that would only apply to people who wished to use their permits interstate, and only between states without reciprocity agreements.
To avoid such traps, NRA-ILA’s Frazer said:
The way to prevent any of that is for gun owners to be politically active and prevent the election of anti-gun majorities that could take those actions.
While the GOP’s Second Amendment language sounds promising, history should serve to remind that promises are not facts. The GOP platform also states:
The massive federal government is structurally and financially broken. For decades it has been pushed beyond its core functions, increasing spending to unsustainable levels.
During his first six years, George W. Bush had a GOP Congress. The federal budget grew 48% and produced a $1.4 trillion deficit. According to GOP rhetoric, government should have shrunk after 2001. Instead, spending grew from 6% to 8% annually.
This information doesn’t excuse President Obama’s average deficit of over $1.3 trillion annually for the last four years. It’s also possible that the writers of the 2012 GOP platform already learned recent history’s lesson.
Nor does anything downplay the Democrats’ Second Amendment platform, which parrots the anti-rights “reasonable regulation” agenda:
- Strengthening our background check system.
- Reinstating the assault weapons ban (Clinton gun ban).
- Closing the “gun show loophole” (ban private sales between individuals).
Mitt Romney appears to be supportive of the Second Amendment, despite having been governor of one of America’s most anti-rights states. Massachusetts’ Gun Owners’ Action League reported:
GOAL had more access to this administration than any other since the days of Governor Ed King in 1979.
Under Romney, positive change happened. For example, a new regulation allowed a “free replacement of firearm licenses to those who had them stolen or lost.” Previously, this would have required repeating the entire application process and paying $100.
GOAL notes that Massachusetts passed its own “assault weapons” ban in 1998, before Romney’s tenure. James Wallace, GOAL’s executive director, explained what happened when Massachusetts updated this law in 2004:
The Massachusetts AW ban already existed and we didn’t have the votes to get rid of it. With that in mind, we wanted to permanently attach the federal definitions to MA law to retain the existing listing of hundreds of guns that could not be considered AWs. Also, we wanted to have a clear definition of what an AW is.
This protected against what Wallace called the legislature’s desire “to play the vagueness of any law in their favor.”
GOAL worked with the Romney administration and the heavily Democratic legislature to remove gun control language buried in a 2006 anti-gang bill. Said Wallace:
The original language of this bill was very loose, so bad that had you put your shotgun in a rack at the trap range and stepped away, you could have been convicted for illegal distribution of a firearm.
Overall, GOAL concluded:
- “During the Romney Administration no anti-Second Amendment or anti-sportsmen legislation made its way to the Governor’s desk.”
- “Governor Romney did sign five pro-Second Amendment/pro-sportsmen bills into law.”
Education and participation remain the best way to protect your rights. To avoid diminishment of rights or a negative repeat of history, voters must take a more active role in supervising their representatives. Your involvement can make the upcoming election a significant first step in restoring America.