In response to the Community Voices piece on Jan 20 titled “Minnesota Legislature needs to take action to strengthen gun laws” by Bob Mokos, I would argue that the Minnesota Legislature needs to instead take action to protect the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans by rejecting so-called “common sense” gun control measures.
None of the mainstream gun control proposals offer solutions that would keep Minnesotans safer. For example, Mr. Mokos mentions the background check loophole, commonly referred to as the “gun show loophole.” Under federal law, licensed gun dealers have long been required to conduct background checks on all buyers and store those records for two decades (so that each gun can be traced to its original buyer via its serial number). What Mokos is wrongly misrepresenting as “background checks” is the proposal for universal background checks. A universal background check program would require a statewide gun registry. A gun registry would be a direct infringement on our Second Amendment rights. A registry would make total confiscation of all guns a much easier endeavor and a likely next step. While gun control advocates may paint this perspective as a “gun nut” conspiracy, we have seen this become a reality in developed nations like Australia, the United Kingdom, and even here in the U.S. through New York City’s gun registry.
Other proposals that DFLers have pushed include red flag laws, magazine capacity bans, silencers, ghost guns, and allowing victims of crime to legally sue gun manufacturers. None of these proposals improve public safety by getting guns out of illegal hands. The only thing that these proposals do is make more paperwork for law-abiding citizens and potentially even make us into criminals. Policy making cannot be done without understanding the interaction effects of those policies. Red flag laws, for example, on the surface sound like a solution to curb mass shootings by confiscating guns from those with criminal intent. The major issue is that these laws strip individuals of several of their civil rights without due process: 1. Who is in charge of determining what is free speech protected by the First Amendment and what is criminal intent? 2. Every citizen has a right to privacy and to be secure in their person, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. If someone has not committed a crime, it is unconstitutional to seize their property. 3. Firearm seizures should have a much higher standard given our right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Red flag laws can and will be challenged on the basis of violations of the first, second, fourth, and fifth amendments of the Constitution.
Additionally, I live with the duality of not only being a gun owner and advocate but being a Black, liberal gun owner. Many are surprised by the intersections of my identity as Black, a Democrat, and Second Amendment advocate. When I am asked why I support gun ownership, I am reminded of the important role that guns have played in the fight for civil rights, equality, and social justice. In 1870, when black men were granted the right to vote, the first votes took place at churches in South Carolina. Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members from across the country bore down on those churches to stop Black men from exercising their newly granted right to vote. The only reason those votes went forward was because Black women armed themselves with rifles and made a perimeter around those churches. Ida B. Wells, a civil rights leader and one of the founders of the NAACP is famously quoted as advocating for “every black family to own a (repeating) rifle.” In a time of increasing racially motivated attacks from right-wing extremists, it is unwise for responsible gun owners to disarm themselves. Ultimately, gun rights are Black rights and need to be protected.
None of the aforementioned gun control policies make us safer nor do they stop those with criminal intent. People who are looking to cause harm to others will never be impeded by more bureaucracy. The vast majority of gun crimes are committed by those that possess guns illegally. We need to enforce the current gun laws on the books and get the guns out of the hands of criminals rather than adding more paperwork and administrative hurdles for legal, responsible gun owners. Mokos ended his opinion piece by quoting the Second Amendment but forgot the most important part: “shall not be infringed.”
Robert Harris is a Minnesota resident and advocate for the Second Amendment. He believes that all Americans, but especially Black Americans, should practice their second amendment rights.