Enforcing the Laws on the Books

When it comes to gun control there is already a veritable library of laws on the books. Some advocates of gun rights and gun control often make quips about focusing on enforcing current laws. Both sides are making a statement that current gun control laws are not stringently enforced. In the case of gun rights activists they are implying that crimes involving firearms can be addressed by stringently enforcing current laws and that new laws are unnecessary whereas advocates of gun control are implying that current laws aren’t being enforced and therefore a higher rate of crimes involving firearms exists than should.

The concern I have with the idea of enforcing current laws, a concern that should be shared by both my fellow advocates of gun rights and my philosophical opponents advocating for gun control, is that laws can be interpreted different by different individuals. Consider the Second Amendment Foundation’s (SAF) latest victory in Illinois where a judge ruled that the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago made the individual state’s prohibition against non-state agents carry firearms illegal. This decision was a boon for advocates of gun rights and a defeat for opponents of gun rights but could have had the opposite outcome.

Remember that the federal appeals court decision actually overturned the decision of a lower court, which held a different interpretation of the Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago. One court believed that the Supreme Court’s decision, which allowed for “reasonable” gun control laws, allowed an individual state could prohibit non-state agents from carrying firearms while a different court believed the opposite. If the defense appeals the case we may see it land in the Supreme Court where a third interpretation of the McDonald v. Chicago ruling could be decided.

Utilizing the interpretation of current laws has played out in the quest to advance gun rights and I’m not saying we should abandon this strategy. What I am saying is that advocates of gun rights should be careful about advocating for the enforcement of current laws. I believe it would be smarter to recognize the court system for what it is, a convenient tool to advance gun rights, but not imply that current gun control laws are just. If we imply any consent to current gun control laws we could find ourselves at the wrong end of a court ruling. Were this to happen we would be forced with either consent to the law or make hypocrites of ourselves and claim that the law, in this case, shouldn’t be enforced.