The end of the Second Amendment?

Everyone understands that our constitutional rights are not unlimited. The right to peaceably assemble does not give us the right to violate the fire code, the right to lobby our elected officials does not include the right to scream into a bullhorn outside an elected official’s bedroom window at 4:00 a.m. and the right to keep and bear arms does not include people in prison.

It is reasonable, then, that some people convicted of violent felonies would be forbidden from owning firearms. (Even that should not be a blanket lifetime prohibition, because not all crimes are the same and not all crimes have the same circumstances.) But the case against Lisa Folajtar is not one of a violent crime. She was convicted of tax evasion. There is no public safety reason to ban her from owning firearms for life.

The logic of banning anyone who has been convicted of a crime from owning firearms could literally be the effective end of the Second Amendment if the Supreme Court and/or Congress and state legislatures do not step up and protect our rights. As the Institute for Policy Studies notes, “the average American professional commits about three felonies a day.” It would be very easy to target someone and then convict her of a “felony” in order to disarm her.

Obviously, over-criminalization is a severe threat to our Second Amendment rights. But even if we were to magically eliminate that specific threat, over-criminalization is a huge problem in every area of life. People could go to prison without any knowledge that they committed a crime at all and no intent to commit a crime. Criminal records can destroy employment prospects, raising public assistance costs and removing someone from the tax base.

We need criminal justice reform. Every criminal code needs to be examined, and then action should be taken to remove unnecessary laws. Since the laws are so byzantine, perhaps the best solution is to rewrite our criminal code from the ground up, repealing all existing criminal laws with a new set of laws. Certainly, many laws that specify federal crimes should be repealed, leaving criminal justice to the states where it belongs in our federalist system. We should vote for candidates who support these needed reforms.