A Lesson Learned As Chicago’s Gun Laws Fall

Bob Barr

1/8/2014 9:49:00 AM - Bob Barr

In his ruling this week that struck down one of the last relics of Chicago’s long-standing gun ban, U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang made a startling observation. Chang noted that while one of the fundamental duties of government is to protect its citizens, “certain fundamental rights” are protected by the Constitution, and thus should be “outside government's reach.” To put it more bluntly, government cannot – and should not -- be trusted with those rights.

This was bad news for Hizzoner Rahm Emanuel, who along with President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, have been trying to rewrite America’s gun laws during their tenure in power (in the case of Holder, I have called publicly for his resignation, and for Obama, the “I” word should no longer be off-limits).

Yet, Chang’s ruling was just one of many since 2010 that have struck down, blow by blow, key parts of Chicago’s gun ban that made it one of the most unfriendly cities in America for gun rights – and, by no coincidence, among the most dangerous for its citizens.

In 2008, the Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, established once and for all, that the Second Amendment codified an “individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” Two years later, in a follow-up decision, the high Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago, that the right guaranteed in the Second Amendment applied to local governments as well as the federal government. These two foundational rulings set the stage for a comprehensive and long-term campaign, waged by pro-Constitution organizations, against the city of Chicago’s gun laws, and those of the state as well.

Around this time last year, I wrote about the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit striking down Illinois’ unconstitutional ban on private carry of firearms, in an opinion authored by well-known jurist Richard Posner. Since then, Illinois has been flooded by citizen applications for concealed carry permits -- in numbers that dwarf the inflated enrollment figures for ObamaCare in the state.

It appears citizens know which program will really keep them safe and healthy.

However, the lesson here is not entirely about guns. In fact, the real lesson we can learn from Chicago is just how dangerous conditions for liberty can become when we allow government to ignore the Constitution. Years ago Democrats in Illinois decided, for themselves, that the Rule of Law vested in the Constitution was no longer applicable in modern society. They believed, like most of today's Democrats (and some Republicans) in Congress, that unique, modern challenges warranted extra-legal solutions.

The result was years of public policy designed specifically to crush individual freedom.

And, the scariest part? The people of Illinois were brainwashed into believing that “modern times called for modern answers,” and this was the way “freedom” had to be presented in the “post 9/11 world.” Only now, after pro-Constitution groups have spent millions in legal fees, are we seeing the true cost to undo years of wrong-headed laws; not to mention the rights violated, and the lives lost, because liberty was made illegal by Chicago politicians and their enablers in Springfield.

If we are to learn one thing from this week’s ruling in Chicago, it is not that liberals’ attempts at gun control are bad and unconstitutional. Americans already know this from watching countless gun crimes committed in “gun free zones,” or while waiting for the police to arrive as an intruder prowls through their homes. Rather, the lesson is about how constitutional rights are nearly impossible to reclaim fully after being abandoned in favor of society’s understanding of “contemporary” freedom.

So, as we debate the future of gun rights in America, as well as key policy decisions involving our other civil liberties, Americans must reject the claim that our Founding Fathers did not and could not envision the NSA, TSA, local police with armed drones, international terrorism, FISA courts, or no-knock warrants when they drafted the Constitution. They did understand, because they truly understood the inherent nature of government and its drive to control the citizenry with whatever tools are available to it, whether those be muskets or drones. We ignore their lessons at our own peril.