The free exercise of rights

In the wake of the McDonald decision the law of the land is clear: the right to keep and bear arms is a right possessed by all Americans regardless of where they live. Any locale in America that purports to support the Constitution or to revere the rule of law should move immediately to remove any ban on the ownership of firearms. Yes, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, I’m talking to you.

Like DC before them, Chicago has rushed to enact laws that technically allow a citizen to own a firearm but has placed so many restrictions on how and where in their home they may possess them and also made it as difficult as possible to even acquire one. These statutes have already come under challenge in DC (forcing some changes already) and have drawn a lawsuit, again. Some of the restrictions Chicago is enacting are clearly in violation of what SCOTUS actually said in their decision which begs the question why a mayor and council would willingly invite a costly legal battle they won’t win. Not what you’d call good stewardship of the public’s trust and resources.

A right possessed by the citizens of America is a right, to be exercised or not by the citizens at their discretion and, under the Constitution, without interference by the government. It’s not a matter of why you need to exercise the right or whether you can justify why you want to. It’s a right. It’s your right to do whatever we’re talking about and it’s no one else’s decision to tell you you can’t. The fact that another citizen might not trust you to exercise that right in accordance with whatever level of proficiency they think you should have is irrelevant – it’s your right.

The actions by Chicago’s Mayor Daley are not attempts to make reasonable limitation on the exercise of a right (just as there a limits that keep you from the classic example of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater), they are attempts to keep anyone from owning a gun. His previous method of simply passing a law banning the guns was ruled out of line by the SCOTUS so he’s looking for what he can get away with under the law and yet still get the result he’s looking for: halting the exercise of an explicitly-protected right by the citizens of Chicago.

Something that came up this weekend, however, had me a bit shocked and angry. I was speaking to someone who is… well, let’s just say he’s not as strong a proponent of the 2nd Amendment, as written, as I am. Classifying us as in 2 separate camps, he asked a question I had never heard before: what are the people on “my” side of this debate saying about the people on “his?” I had to think about it because, honestly, the 2nd Amendment supporters I tend to hang with discuss the matters, not the people. I asked him to clarify the question because I got the impression he was looking for something particular. Basically, he was asking if “we” were generally speaking ill of “them.” Personally.

I want to be on record about this: I told him “no.” Simply put, the supporters of the 2nd Amendment I know want to be able to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights without interference and, otherwise, to simply be left alone on the matter. I dislike the arguments “they” espouse and I think they’re wrong on the matter. But the free exercise of a right includes the ability to not exercise that right. That’s perfectly fine and anyone on “my” side of the debate sneering down their nose at our fellow citizens who make that decision are equally wrong. We want to be able to exercise our rights and not be continually challenged in doing so. Extend the same courtesy, please, to those who choose to not do so. None of the gun rights supporters I deal with on a regular basis are guilty of this and I’m very glad to have become a member of this group. I’m not sure where this gentleman I was speaking with has run into this attitude and I fear it’s not as prevalent as he’s being told it is. Still, it’s something to be studiously avoided and, frankly, confronted when we do run into it, if ever.

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