As our nation mourns our fellow Americans who lost their lives in the senseless act of terrorism that occurred in Orlando earlier this month, the ability of Americans to protect themselves is more important than ever. Senate Bill 656 was an important step in that direction, as it would have enacted Constitutional Carry and provided Missourians a greater ability to defend ourselves and exercise our 2nd Amendment rights.
This morning, Governor Nixon vetoed the bill, calling it an “extreme step” and claiming that it will take away “the ability of sheriffs to protect their communities.” As a relentless defender of the Second Amendment and our Constitution, I am disappointed in Governor Nixon’s veto and encourage the General Assembly to overturn it.
In light of recent events, the urge to pass new laws to protect Americans and help prevent further attacks has moved to the forefront of our national conversation. First and foremost in any consideration of new legislation should be the security and protection of our fellow Americans. Of equal weight must be the preservation of all Americans’ constitutional rights.
There are ample laws already on the books aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of violent criminals and individuals with mental illness. We don’t need new gun laws; we need the will to enforce the laws we have, yet there are real obstacles to this goal.
A July 2015 article in the New York Times highlighted myriad problems that plague the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is supposed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Some of those problems include spotty cooperation from the states and narrow definitions of mental illness. Also, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) says that most states report less than 80 percent of their felony convictions to the national system. As a result nearly 7 million convicted felons are not currently registered.
Politico reported in 2013 that only 1.5 percent of those who attempted to purchase a gun illegally were prosecuted. In other words, the vast majority of people who broke the law by trying to obtain a gun illegally were simply allowed to try again. Broadening who is covered under a law that is not enforced accomplishes nothing. Until our existing laws are adequately enforced, violent felons will continue to falsely pass background checks to buy firearms.
If the intent of new gun laws being considered is to save lives, it’s clear that banning certain types of guns will fail in that regard. Criminals will simply ignore the laws and use illegal means to access the guns they want. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves will have been curtailed.
We must enforce our existing laws to ensure violent criminals remain incarcerated, ensure that dangerous people and those with mental illness are in the NICS database, and vigorously prosecute those who try to illegally obtain a firearm.
Rather than restricting Americans’ constitutional right to firearms, we should encourage more responsible citizens to receive firearms training and consider purchasing a gun for the safety of themselves, their families, and their neighbors.