In recent weeks, the gun control debate has become heated to the point children have become vilified for speaking in favor of limiting public access to certain weapons and some gun owners have been stereotyped as warmongering barbarians. This polarization is unproductive and while overly-simplistic memes posted online may look cute, they are often inaccurate and are little more than silly taunts. Unfortunately, there are many among us who take clever soundbites and memes as gospel and get incredibly upset if contradicted.
Just the other day, a man posted a meme stating Secret Service agents carry a weapon called an HK MP7 and that each elected officials gets lifetime protection upon retirement. When I replied to the post by pointing out I had been in the Secret Service, we never carried that weapon, and only the President and his/her immediate family get lifetime protection, the reaction of the posting individual was predictable. Suddenly, I became a liberal sheep who was being herded to a slaughter. Which is strange, because most sheep I have known are conservative-leaning which is why they cover themselves with so much wool.
Sorry about that. It was baaad.
Anyway—regardless of where one stands on the issue of gun control, there is an underlying problem with an argument made by many gun enthusiast (for lack of a better term). There are many who claim the right to bear arms cannot be limited or at least cannot be limited any more than is already done. Now on the face of it, this is completely illogical. The 2nd Amendment has been limited time and time again and may face more limits in the future. Of course, it was expanded well beyond well-regulated militias to begin with.
And of course there are some limits. You can’t go buy a fully automatic machine gun without jumping through various hoops, nor can you legally purchase a firearm in most jurisdictions if you are a convicted felon. These are limitations. One individual recently tried to tell me that Constitutional Amendments are not, and can never be, subject to limitations. He argued the rights we have from Amendments are permanent in nature. Well, this simply isn’t true. In fact, there is a clue as to the lack of permanence and certainty of our rights. It’s in the name AMENDMents. Amendments are add-ons to other rights. They can be added, adjusted, or repealed. They are fluid in nature and are constantly defined and redefined in the courts. Not buying it? Well, let’s explore the limits and permanency of a few of the Amendments added to the Constitution.
1st Amendment – Sure, you have the right to free speech. However, you can’t scream “fire” in a crowded theater or threaten harm to an individual. I’ve arrested multiple people who threatened a President and they can attest to the veracity of my claim. There are also plenty of obscenity laws on the books and they get enforced throughout the nation.
4th Amendment – You cannot be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures but upon probable cause. However, the courts are continuously updating what constitutes probable cause and what may justify a warrant one day may not the next.
5th Amendment – One cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Those who have had money taken away by the Federal government and been forced to prove the funds were legally obtained would like to debate this one with you.
8th Amendment – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. If there was ever a subjective Amendment, it’s this sucker. What is excessive? What is cruel and unusual? Do those words mean the same thing as they did in 1789?
19th Amendment – Allowed women to vote. Kind of an important modification.
21st Amendment – Repealed the 18th. Bye-bye prohibition. I’ll drink to that!
And so on…
The point here isn’t to push a gun control agenda. It’s to demonstrate that any argument in which a person states they have “God given” or “Absolute” right, is likely a falsehood supported by ill-conceived quips and memes and not backed by any understanding of history, legislation, or jurisprudence. Many atrocities have been supported by our laws. The decimation of the Native American population, the horrendous institution of slavery, the shame of Japanese internment—these were all supported by laws.
We shouldn’t harbor so much fear about our laws being subject to change. However, we should be scared as hell when they are not.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
BOLT ACTION REMEDY
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.
In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology