Waiting periods, expanded background checks, and gun-free school zones are some of the issues being debated at the State House lately. They have all been described as “common sense” gun reforms.
In all of these debates it is important to remember that the right to keep and bear arms is just that, a right. Many pitching these reforms consider it a privilege, and a dangerous privilege at that.
While many of the reforms proposed appear quite tolerable individually, it is important to take them as a whole. Each one presents a speed bump to the exercise of a right. Each of those speed bumps puts law-abiding individuals further away from their right.
As has been said on many occasions, a right not exercised is a right lost. If all of these reforms were to go through, then the private sale that is now subject to a background check is also subject to a seven-day waiting period. Even a sale from a federally licensed firearms dealer is going to mean multiple trips to obtain a firearm. Then to use the firearm there will be another seven-day wait to buy ammunition, not including weekends or holidays. So, no more picking up a box of ammunition on the way to the range, or before a weekend of hunting.
If you choose to buy a pistol and exercise your right to carry that pistol your average day becomes a mental exercise to consider if you will be committing a crime by entering a very widely defined school zone.
Rights are not absolute and are always a balance but the question that needs to be asked is if the same proposed restrictions would be put in place on other rights. Should there be a waiting period before giving a speech, or exercising a religion? Perhaps there should be a background check before people are allowed to assemble, to make sure they are not “prohibited persons.” Of course these are extreme examples but they underscore the problem. If we did have a waiting period for speech then fewer people would speak. Speech would then be a right exercised only by the enthusiasts (willing to go through the red tape) and criminals.
Like the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly, the right to keep and bear arms belongs to everyone. The more obstacles put in the way of law-abiding citizens exercising any right, the less likely it is exercised. If rights cannot be exercised then they can easily be lost, forever.