With the conservative media focused solely on running against the mainstream media and accusing it of fomenting violence, wouldn’t it make sense to at least notch a policy victory and actually preserve our chances of winning in 2018? Let’s start winning instead of whining.
Thus far, the GOP trifecta of control has accomplished absolutely nothing. Democrats are fully engaged and electrified, sometimes in violent ways, yet our side is focused on reacting to the other side’s energy while acting like we are out of power. Republicans have betrayed conservatives on policy issue after policy issue: Obamacare, Obama’s amnesty, border wall, Iran deal, religious liberty, Saudi deal, moving embassy, budget betrayal, debt ceiling, etc.
This is where gun legislation could come to the rescue.
If there is one issue that unites the GOP base, energizes the non-traditional GOP voters who supported Trump, and places Democrats on defense, it is guns. That is probably the best issue for Republicans and the only issue in which they are legitimately all on the same side. With a number of Democrats from pro-gun states up for reelection in 2018, Republicans can actually go on offense for once.
Even before the attack on the GOP baseball team this week, there has been a lot of angst and disquiet over the growing Islamic insurgency in the world. People are feeling unsafe, and gun sales have been soaring. Now is the time for the GOP to finally put its pro-gun rhetoric into action and seize the moment to create a de facto national right to carry.
Whether it’s an Islamic terror attack, a political assassination, or a crazy domestic shooter, the hallmark of all these attacks is mass casualties … when good people are not carrying weapons. This is why we see so many people killed in European terror attacks. Only the bad guys have weapons. In the case of the Alexandria shooting, however, Scalise’s security detail had guns and immediately returned fire to keep the attacker at bay, thereby mitigating what could have been a massacre. Nevertheless, had a member of leadership — the only members of Congress routinely afforded security details — not been on the baseball team, as many as 20 congressmen might now be dead. So many of these congressmen have concealed carry permits at home, yet they are unable to carry a weapon in the D.C. area, where they work so much of the time. This is fundamentally unfair and dangerous, and it needs to change.
Legislation for all, not special privilege for some
The answer is not to grant special privileges to members of Congress, as some have suggested. The answer is to allow all Americans to carry guns across state lines the same way everyone can drive across state lines and have their driver’s licenses recognized by all 50 states. Such legislation is already on the table, with nearly 200 co-sponsors (including 3 Democrats), yet nearly a half a year into this Congress, Republicans have taken no action on it, despite accomplishing nothing in any other major sphere of policy. The Bush tax cuts were fully enacted by June 7 of his first year in office, and that is a lot more complex than gun policy, which hasn’t even moved in one chamber yet.
While there are several bills to address the patchwork of state gun laws, Republican Rep. Richard Hudson’s Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (H.R. 38) is the best. His bill would require all states to recognize the gun permits of every other state, including those “constitutional carry” states that don’t require a permit. The bill would also allow the right to carry on all federal lands, even within states that have prohibitive laws. The Hudson bill would not preempt local laws governing the specifics of carry (type of guns, magazine capacity, restrictions on certain locations, etc.), but would at least guarantee a universal right to carry some firearm across state lines without getting ensnared in a myriad of legal troubles.
While Cornyn has a similar bill in the Senate (S. 446), the Hudson bill should be the opening bid for conservatives because it contains a bombshell provision that would grant relief even to those who live in the dark blue states. While most traditional reciprocity bills, the Cornyn bill included, only force states to recognize permits held by out-of-state residents, the Hudson bill would force even blue states to allow their own residents to carry if they obtained a license from another state.
For example, the Cornyn bill would ensure that all Texas residents could carry firearms in New York, but New York residents would still have no recourse to carry in their own state. Under the Hudson bill, however, if New Yorkers obtain a non-resident license from one of the states that offer them fairly freely (Florida and Utah, for example), they could use that out-of-state permit as if they were a resident of that other state and carry in their home state.
States have no power to infringe upon inalienable right
The pseudo-federalists will cry, “States rights!” “How can you override state laws?” they will ask. Well, if the Commerce Clause can be used to force states into Obamacare – if states can be forced by the unelected federal courts to redefine marriage and their election laws, then most certainly the elected body of the federal government has the power to enforce an inalienable right. The feds can step in when a federal power is at stake or to enforce a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution doesn’t mention a word about gay marriage (or marriage at all), yet liberals believe it does. At the same time, the right to keep and bear arms is enshrined into our Bill of Rights in the most unambiguous language (“… shall not be infringed …”), yet they believe it can and should be infringed upon. Put another way, while states are now precluded from denying a positive privilege to gay couples — a privilege over which they had plenary power since the founding of our country — they have the power to take negative action against someone who peacefully bears arms, a right mentioned in the federal Constitution.
The right to self-defense predates the Constitution and is inherent in the right to life, liberty, and property. As Sam Adams, the founding father of the American Revolution, said, “[A]mong the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.” Judge Timothy Farrar, who wrote the first and most respected post-14th Amendment constitutional treatise, seamlessly listed the right to bear arms among the unalienable rights that states cannot violate:
The States are recognized as governments, and, when their own constitutions permit, may do as they please; provided they do not interfere with the Constitution and laws of the United States, or with the civil or natural rights of the people recognized thereby, and held in conformity to them. The right of every person to “life, liberty, and property,” to “keep and bear arms,” to the “writ of habeas corpus” to “trial by jury,” and divers others, are recognized by, and held under, the Constitution of the United States, and cannot be infringed by individuals or even by the government itself” (“Manual of the Constitution of the United States of America,” Boston, 1867, p. 145 § 118).
The self-evident nature of the complete right to bear arms was such a given that there was virtually no debate on this part of the Bill of Rights when Madison introduced it in the House of Representatives.
As we celebrate the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, it’s time to right the ship on self-defense. It’s time for Republicans to actually accomplish something in a smart way that will give their base a victory on a winning issue.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.