Gun Laws & Legislation

Opinion: Semi-automatic rifles “You say want, I say need”

Guns and Gear Contributor
Font Size:

By Billy Johnson, NRA News Commentator

Nationally, there is a push for increased regulations on legal gun ownership. One of the central premises of this push is that people don’t need particular types of guns, such as semi-automatic rifles. I find that premise to be fundamentally flawed. Let me explain why.

We are being asked to agree to legislation that restricts our Constitutionally protected rights. The burden of proving need doesn’t fall on us; it falls on the government to justify that restriction. Historically, Americans have enacted legislation that restricts their rights because of the perception it will make them safer or more secure. Now I’m not saying I think that’s okay, but if we use history as our guide, the data has to support the assertion that restricting this right in this way will make us significantly safer.

According to the recently released 2012 FBI crime stats, last year there were 12,765 murders. Of those, 322 used a rifle. The data doesn’t differentiate between semi-automatic and bolt action rifles. Still, rifles were used in only 2.5 percent of all murders last year. We are being asked to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in order to prevent their use in less than 2.5 percent of all murders. That’s irrational and is a result of the media and our politicians engaging in inflammatory rhetoric that is meant to instill an overinflated fear of semi-automatic rifles in Americans. Restricting our access to semi-automatic rifles will not make a statistically significant impact on our safety and security.

Even more concerning is that as a society, we have willingly accepted the premise that we should have to justify exercising our Constitutional rights. Those rights are not granted to us; we are born with them. We do not have to prove we need them; we inherently have them. We are born with them, the Constitution protects them, and it’s the primary function of our government to uphold our Constitution.

But still, we expend a tremendous amount of time and energy justifying our need for the rights protected by the Second Amendment. And every time someone abuses that right, the government threatens to take it away by asking the rest of us to prove, yet again, we still need it.

Imagine, for the sake of the argument, if we did the same thing every time someone abused one of our other rights. Take, for example, our Constitutionally protected right to due process.

There are times when there’s a preponderance of evidence linking a suspect to a crime. Say, for example, there were several witnesses, police arrested the suspect on scene, holding the murder weapon, there’s ample DNA evidence. It’s obvious that the person is guilty, but the suspect insists on a trial.

We will, of course, grant one—even if it comes at horrible psychological costs to the victims and enormous monetary costs to the taxpayers.

And in the end, when the suspect is found guilty and sentenced, no one will ask why we need to have trials or whether we should restrict them to instances when we don’t have strong evidence that the suspect is guilty. Why? Because that’s not how it works. The commitment to protecting our rights and restricting them as little as possible is vital to maintaining a Constitutional republic.

Restricting access to rifles is a restriction on our Second Amendment rights. Further, when tens of millions of Americans own rifles, less than 325 were used in homicides last year. Restricting access to rifles will not make us safer, but it will make us less free.

I’m a law-abiding American citizen. I vote. I pay taxes. I would serve on a jury if asked to do so. I take my responsibilities of citizenship seriously. It undermines the very foundations of our nation when our elected leaders force our citizens to earn, justify or barter for the rights protected by the Constitution. And those who would ask us to do so are not fit to lead us.

Thanks to our friends at NRA News for this contribution. Take a moment to visit them by clicking here.