Friday, August 05, 2005

...I reach for my gun

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
-Constitution of the United States, Amendment II.

The Illinois State Legislature recently proposed and passed three fairly logical, rational bills regarding firearms. They were, sadly, supported by gun advocates, and therefore quickly shot down by our governor. In each of these cases, Governor Blagojevich has cited as his aim, “to allow towns and cities to enforce their own laws and to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals."  

Bill one would have, as the governor’s office explained, “overridden local laws” on the transport of firearms. In other words, it would have standardized laws concerning the transport of firearms, so that, if a person were driving from Monmouth through Biggsville, one could expect to have the same standard of law to guide him on his way toward his duck blind near Oquawka. He wouldn’t have to worry about being pulled over at the city limits of some borough with an unadvertised, very strict carry law. He would know what to expect, anywhere in the entire state. Encouraging each town to keep its own distinct laws on a transportation issue is comparable to encouraging towns and townships to set up speed traps on the highways. Good law isn’t about empowering localities to keep and enforce their own ways, but about helping law-abiding citizens to remain law-abiding citizens, by making laws clearer for everybody.

The next bill would have required that State Police records of those who passed background checks for gun purchase be purged ninety days after the person received clearance to buy. In other words, a law-abiding citizen would have his name removed from police records three months after he placed a request to be allowed to make a legal transaction. If I were to buy a gun of any sort, that file would already be kept under license and registration records. Does the state really need to keep records regarding the simple intent to purchase? Blagojevich denied the requirement to delete older files. While calling it “keeping guns out of the hands of criminals”, the State may continue to keep records on honest citizens. Even if ultimately there was no purchase of any weapons, that security check still stays in the State Police files. Permanently. Feeling Big Brother’s breath on your neck, yet?

Well, the third veto ought to get your hackles up a bit: if you already legally own a gun, and you wish to trade it for another, Blagojevich’s veto says you have to treat the trade as though it were a fresh sale, complete with waiting period. I obey the law, I can trade my potentially lethal car this afternoon for an even more lethal one, and drive it off the lot right then, but, no matter that my record may be spotless and my intentions pure, I have to wait to take home my trade-up hunting rifle. So, if the weapon I started out with develops an emotional problem I can’t solve , and the local felis domesticus  season is shortened to one day, I’ll be waiting another year to skin the little*... Okay, bad analogy. But the issue is, it is already already legal for me to own a firearm. Pretend I already own one. I simply want to exchange it for similar merchandise. The State of Illinois is interfering in a business transaction which is really none of their business. 

It looks as though Rod Blagojevich has forgotten these important details: (a) the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans the right to own firearms, without infringement, (b) many downstaters hunt for pleasure and/or sustenance, and (c) it took many of us downstaters’ actually voting for him, in order for him to defeat a fellow Chicagoan in the last election. That last one could be a real kicker, come next time.  

But the sad part of this isn’t simply that Blagojevich is fiddling with our rights as Americans, it’s that the rest of this state’s Left flank -- and plenty from the right, as well -- had no problems with letting this go right on by them, while they complain bitterly about perceived -- yet nonexistent -- losses of freedom under the USA PATRIOT Act.

I own no firearms, so one would think that this has no bearing on my life. But then, as I’ve said to many before, I don’t anticipate the personal need to apply the Third through Thirteenth, the Fifteenth through Eighteenth, or the Twentieth through the Twenty-seventh Amendments to the Constitution within the next few years, either. But I still expect my elected representatives to government, at both the state and federal levels, to uphold every single one of those Amendments, as they were sworn to do, regardless of whether or not they think we will use them.

*No cats were harmed in the writing of this column, regardless of how many buttons Peanut pushed.

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