Why Schumer's Gun Control Bill is an Assault on Liberty

Less than two months after the media pandemonium in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a knee-jerk gun control bill designed to expand the segment of Americans who are legally prohibited from owning or carrying a firearm. Rather than embodying the “common sense” gun control advocated by President Obama, this rash piece of legislation is an affront to the most basic principles of our justice system and threatens to further restrict the freedom of responsible citizens to defend themselves in their homes and on the streets.

The so-called “Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011” is nominally written to close loop holes in the background check system that firearms dealers must use to reduce the number of guns that fall into the hands of society’s more dangerous elements (i.e. violent criminals and the insane). However, in doing so, the act “clarifies” the definition of drug abusers or addicts who cannot own firearms under current law.

Schumer’s bill expands that definition to include people who are merely arrested for drug possession or who test positive on a drug test. This includes people never convicted of a crime, people who are recreational drug users with no record of violence, and arguably even people who test false positive on routine urine tests.

The law prevents certain segments of the population from owning dangerous weapons because they are deemed to be threats. It is difficult to imagine why a casual pot smoker — much less a casual poppy seed eater — should be prohibited from owning a weapon that could make the difference between life and death during a home invasion or attempted robbery. However unwise it might be for the law to prevent nonviolent drug users from owning firearms, it is deplorable for the law to prevent people from owning a gun who have never been convicted of a crime.

In the American justice system, the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty of a crime. Schumer’s bill would undermine that principle by stripping an important constitutional right from people who have never been convicted of an offense. This sets a dangerous precedent that almost certainly violates the Second Amendment and threatens other vital constitutional protections. Congress must learn that an assault on liberty cannot be “common sense.”

Photo CreditWikimedia Commons

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Jason Orr

Jason is a student at Harvard Law School and writes on legal and policy issues. A 2009 graduate of the College of William and Mary, he worked at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Virginia, before reentering academia. Jason's views have been published in a number of print and online news outlets, including the Washington Post and the Daily Caller.

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