The Problem with “Take the Guns First, Due Process Second”

guns and bullets on top of the US constitution

I’ve always held the firm belief that civil discourse is one of the keys to moral political policy and an educated public. Being that gun control is an especially hot topic as of late, I have engaged in dozens of open discussions surrounding the second amendment in this spirit. I have observed that, in general, most of the pro-gun control rhetoric comes from those with severely limited knowledge of and experience with firearms.

As a fierce second amendment supporter, I have objections to most of the gun control policies that have been placed on the table. Most notably, I am still overwhelmingly alarmed by President Trump’s recent statement in a meeting with lawmakers to “take the guns first, go through due process second.” This suggestion is not the first I’ve heard of its kind, and it must be shut down immediately.

To give some context, President Trump was referencing proposals that seek to address mental illnesses as they pertain to firearm ownership after the nefarious mass shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this year. He put forth the idea that, upon ambiguously gathering a suspicion that a particular individual is mentally unstable, authorities would have the right to seize any firearms he possesses without a court hearing first.

To address the most obvious flaws first: vague proposals like this pave too much gray area to nail down concrete legislation. Who would have the authority to bring potential cases of mental instability to the police? Without specifying any relationship requirements between the complainant and the individual in question, anyone could abuse this sort of regulation for malicious purposes. Moreover, what standards would we use to determine mental instabilities?

Donald Trump said in the meeting, “I don’t want mentally ill people to be having guns.” Yet, he offers no way to measure or even define that term. How do we decide which mental illnesses are justified in robbing people of their second amendment rights, and why? And if degree of severity should be a factor, how do we determine those levels?

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These concerns are not the even the most alarming. As it stands now, we already have regulations in place to safeguard against mentally unstable people having guns while also ensuring the laws are constitutional. There are restrictions in place for those who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions or explicitly deemed mentally incompetent in the court of law. The federal background check undergone by everyone purchasing a firearm through an FFL (federally licensed dealer) flags any individual to whom those two restrictions apply, and the dealer rejects the transaction.

If we were to implement additional laws that ban guns for anyone with a certain mental illness, we would set a dangerous precedent for more to be added to the list at the federal government’s disposal. People like me who suffer from Anxiety and PTSD symptoms through no fault of their own could theoretically be subject to these unconstitutional gun-grabs.

Furthermore, one of the most unsettling components of this argument is the utter disregard for due process. President Trump’s own words suggest that it should be swept aside because of the waiting period, but that is precisely why his proposal is so problematic. In the United States of America, my rights are guaranteed to me unless and until due process is upheld and a court of law rules otherwise.

The objective here is understandable: catching evil behavior before it can come to pass. But we cannot treat individuals as if they are criminals solely because we suspect they have the potential to eventually become one. Not only does this notion unjustly rob Americans of their rights, it dehumanizes innocent people. The burden of proof is not on me to convince the government that I am mentally stable enough to exercise my rights; it is on the government to explicitly prove that I am not. Thus, any waiting period that comes with due process must be tolerated.

To give an additional example, another common gun control proposal I hear is “No fly, no buy.” This is the idea that anyone on the no-fly list should automatically be barred from purchasing a firearm. Without exception, without due process. Again, the objective is understandable: If someone is deemed threatening enough to not be able to board an airplane, he shouldn’t have a gun. I agree. However, as with just about every other federal system, there are incompetencies. It is not uncommon for people to be placed on the no-fly list by mistake, and this is not an error that can be undone. We keep this flawed system in place for security purposes, but that is not an argument for implementing gun control based upon it. To restrict a few innocent civilians from flying is one thing, but to deny them their second amendment rights is another matter entirely. Each circumstance is unjust, and I disapprove of both, but one is a privilege and one is a right.

The conversation about gun control is an extensive and exhausting one. It consists of countless suggestions from opposing viewpoints, and it demands a total solution to acts of evil that likely does not even exist. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly a crucial discussion worth pursuing. However, in this endeavor, it is also important to remember that what might seem like justice to you could be a direct violation of someone else’s rights. Any such proposal ought not to be considered in a free society. The right of the collective should never supersede the right of the individual. This notion is morally absolute and is the very foundation upon which our founders built this, the greatest country in history. The only privilege we are all afforded is living in the United States of America where we are guaranteed protection of our God-given rights. We have a duty to protect them at all costs.

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