Congress Not Standing Ground on 2nd Amendment

Brian Darling

5/21/2012 12:01:00 AM - Brian Darling

Are gun voters being taken for granted? Republicans control the House and self-styled pro-gun Democrats abound in the Senate. So why has neither chamber addressed any of the major gun rights issues awaiting resolution?

Numerous bills to restore and preserve Second Amendment rights to Americans have been filed, yet not one has been slated for a vote this year. John Velleco of Gun Owners of America (GOA) tells Townhall, “Every election year, the members of Congress come to pro-gun voters asking to be re-elected, yet we don’t have any pro-gun votes scheduled to come to the House and Senate floor.”

Among the bills ready for action is S. 2205, the Second Amendment Sovereignty Act, introduced last week by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). This bill would bar the Administration from signing onto the Arms Trade Treaty. Moran worries that this treaty allowing international bodies to regulate civilian firearms could wind up letting those institutions “restrict the lawful private ownership of firearms in our country.” The Senate should consider this important idea as part of its broader look at the risks the Treaty poses.

Then there’s H.Res. 490, an expression of no confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder, introduced last December by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). Though not technically a gun bill, this resolution has important Second Amendment implications. It states that one reason for no confidence is the fact that Holder has thwarted efforts to investigate gunrunning by the Department of Justice.

“Operation Fast and Furious allowed thousands of weapons of various types to be illegally sold and or transferred from the United States to violent drug cartels and known criminals in Mexico and elsewhere,” H.Res. 490 notes. Many conservatives (the resolution has 111 cosponsors) worry that the Justice Department was running guns to help advance anti-gun initiatives in the U.S.

GOA’s Velleco, for example, is concerned that Operation Fast and Furious was part of a larger Justice Department effort to impose gun control through government action other than legislation. He cites a Justice Department demand letter to the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that “requires gun dealers to report multiple sales of long guns to an individual within a five day period.” There is no legislative requirement to this effect.

Although some have expressed federalism concerns, Rep. Paul Braun (R-Ga.) has introduced H.R. 2900, the Secure Access to Firearms Enhancement (SAFE) Act, to provide reciprocity in regard to the manner in which nonresidents of a State may carry certain concealed firearms. In the Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has introduced S. 2213, the Respecting States' Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. Activity on these measures thus far? Zilch.

Gun rights advocates did get a little something to cheer about late last week. The House approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that exempts military personnel from Washington, D.C.’s gun ban. But that is just a small step. Both chambers have yet to bring up legislation repealing our capitol city’s unconstitutional gun ban.

Meanwhile, gun issues that got some legislative action last year remain in legislative limbo this session. H.R. 822, legislation to allow state-issued conceal carry gun permits in most states, passed the House 272-154 last November. It crossed to the Senate, where it has lain ignored by the Senate Judiciary Committee ever since.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the natural right of people to protect themselves. After all, they had to take up arms to win their own freedom. So they made darn sure that the bill of rights guaranteed that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have provided clarity on the nature and extent of this right. In D.C. v Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court affirmed that the Second Amendment is an individual right. In McDonald v Chicago, 51 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court applied the Second Amendment to the states. These two rulings should have empowered and inspired lawmakers to push for more freedom—not to pretend as though they don’t deserve the time of day.