On February 2nd, I posted a blog under the title “The Second Amendment: History, Whys and Wherefores”. Near the end of that statement, there was a brief recounting of previous efforts to enact bans on assault weapons; i.e. the 10-year, national prohibition (1994 – 2004), and those in the city of Denver along with in about “a half-dozen (individual) states” (actually there are eight that remain in force). What is striking is that only the law in Denver has been challenged in court, and unsuccessfully at that.
In the time that has passed since posting the aforementioned blog, here is what has occurred to me: The NRA and zealous defenders of Second Amendment rights vis a vis ownership of an assault weapon, have been unrelenting in claiming that any bans now being contemplated would be an unconstitutional infringement. How can that assertion be valid and not apply to bans already on the books? It can’t which begs the question “Over all these years, why has there been only one court challenge?”
Here’s a possible answer: It may well be that the NRA is terrified that any further litigation could lead to a most unwelcomed judgment; i.e. the bans are constitutional, and there is nothing in the Second Amendment that guarantees private citizens the right to own assault weapons. So, the NRA chooses to avoid court contests, opting instead to kill potential bans in Congress before they are ever enacted. If that is indeed the organization’s strategy, it is getting a good bit of help; mostly from conservative senators who live with the dread that a negative rating from the NRA will cost them votes among their constituents.
Is there any hope of getting beyond this self-serving/job preserving behavior on the part of many members of Congress? Maybe. Public opinion now favors the ban, and Colorado and Connecticut have just enacted tougher gun control laws. So, we are moving in the right direction, albeit glacially. Let us hope that this pace is quickened by the growth of political courage on the part of our elected officials, and not by another Newtown.