From Steve Scalise to Philando Castile, guns are the cause of much heartache. The gun issue is a tough dilemma, but there are solutions.
A little more than a week has elapsed since James T. Hodgekinson decided to pull out his SKS 7.62 and open fire on a baseball field of practicing lawmakers at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia. The impact of this event on the day to day affairs of Capitol Hill appears to be minimal. The day of the mass shooting some TV news outlets even chose to continue with the politically charged Russia investigation story during the evening broadcasts instead of taking a day off from narrative shaping. There were even those in the media who questioned some of the legislators involved the day of the shooting if they were rethinking their positions on the accessibility of firearms.
According to gunviolencearchive.org, a left-leaning advocacy group, there have been 164 mass shootings in the United States thus far into 2017. The Congressional Baseball Game practice shooting was different because the victims survived and immediately did what politicians do best; they contacted the media and began to drive the narrative for their own story. The other 163 mass shootings this year did not have wall to wall breaking news coverage from lawmakers on the scene so it was not possible to report the carnage of the related violence with such interest, accuracy, and timeliness. Violence against another human whether he or she is a lawmaker, homeless, or a school kid should not be tolerated in a civilized society.
It is typical in conservative and libertarian circles to hear clichés like, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” This tired old rhetorical lynchpin does not appropriately value the horrific nature of gun violence. It minimizes the legitimate trauma and long-lasting pain felt by victims of physical aggression. Sensitivity toward the feelings of a victim does not need to coincide with supporting a policy of firearms prohibition. It was obvious from the immediate live feeds streaming on TV’s across America the morning of the shooting that these lawmakers were experiencing the normal adrenaline induced reaction to such a terrible event. Unlike typical victims, these legislators actually have the power to make changes in our nation which may impact the frequency of future mass shootings.
What is the legislative response to the attempted mass murder of legislators in Virginia? Since the attempt was made on his life, Congressman Mo Brooks has introduced H.R. 2940, the Congressional Self-Defense Act. This legislation allows only congressional lawmakers to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in America except the U.S. Capitol or in areas where the President or Vice President are located. This is a piecemeal approach to combating the progressive’s ban on carrying concealed firearms in Washington D.C. Giving special rights to members of Congress so that they may be free to exercise their right to self-defense is a reactionary approach and lacks principled consistency. Unfortunately, in Washington lawmakers must make concessions and settle for a half-a-loaf instead of a full meal.
Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, Liberty Caucus member, introduced H.R.2909 the day after the shooting. This legislation is designed, “to require reciprocity between the District of Columbia and other States and jurisdictions with respect to the ability of individuals to carry certain concealed firearms.” This is another half-a-loaf. Instead of ensuring that every American has the right to carry a concealed firearm, this bill simply requires the right of self-defense for the Washington D.C. area.
The correct path forward to ensure personal liberty is H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. This bill would extend national reciprocity to all qualified individuals in the U.S. Much like the wave of states during the past year to pass Constitutional Carry this reciprocity bill would ensure the kind of legal consistency across state lines that Americans have come to expect. The logical equivalent of this bill is segregation-era Alabama being required to recognize mixed-race marriages certified in other states. Citizens shouldn’t lose their rights simply because they walk across an artificial political barrier into another state. It is incumbent upon legislators to acknowledge that all Americans have the right to self-defense and allow for Concealed Carry Reciprocity everywhere that the 2nd Amendment is law.
There are two sides of the gun violence coin. In this mass shooting there was the initial attack and then a secondary defense response from police. In recent years the use of deadly force by police has not always been praised like it was in this case. Last Friday a jury in Minnesota acquitted the police officer who killed Philando Castile. If you are not familiar with this case, Mr. Castile was shot to death after being pulled over by the officer. The incident was streamed on Facebook live and clearly exhibited that the officer panicked unnecessarily. Mr. Castile calmly informed the officer that he had a legally concealed weapon upon first interacting with the officer. He was rewarded for this honest, calm, and forthright declaration with seven bullets and death.
What good is it to the citizens of our nation if police are empowered through jury nullification to commit murder against people lawfully carrying firearms and exercising their personal freedom? Any law is meaningless unless it is enforced. The free exercise of your Constitutional rights should never provide justification for roadside execution by any member of law enforcement. The type of violation of liberty is just as heinous as the aggression presented by James T. Hodgekinson against our nation’s lawmakers. While the debate over the scope of our personal freedoms rages in the halls of Congress we must be steadfast in our understanding and compassion for all victims of aggression, especially victims of aggression initiated by the state.
Anson Knowles is the host of the Alabama-based radio program The Anson Knowles Show Live, Local, Liberty Oriented Talk on 92.5FM/770AM WVNN and wvnn.com.