With the gun control debate still raging nationwide, we should carefully consider the original intent of the Founding Fathers in applying the U.S. Constitution – including the Bill of Rights — to federal, state and local governance.
While many arguments and interpretations have been directed at parsing the language of the Second Amendment there’s a larger concept at stake here that dates back to colonial times: federalism versus anti-federalism.
These are terms we don’t hear about often enough. Yet they may hold the solution to the larger debate over guns and government, which appears to spiraling out of control based on the escalating vitriol.
Ironically enough, the orginal Federalists of the late 1700s called for a decentralized government. Yet it was the anti-federalists who ultimately espoused the belief of preserving and protecting states rights. It’s a question of whether government works best from the bottom up, or the top down? It may just depend on the specific issue at hand, in this case gun laws.
Will of the People
We often forget that the Founding Fathers envisioned a relatively weak central government with limited power — a stark contrast to today’s sprawling bureaucracy of about two million civil servants working for Uncle Sam. In theory, at least, a limited central government better reflects the will of the people — or so the crafters of the Constitution thought.
However, it’s obvious by now that the original theory of federalism (decentralized government) has been flipped on its head. The federal government has assumed more and more power over the states, over time, on a wide range of policies and predicaments. Scholars even coined the term “Imperial Presidency” in reference to all of the additional powers assumed by the Executive Branch — and that was about half a century ago.
Yet states rights appear to have be discarded from the national gun debate. This begs the question of what the federal government’s role should actually be in relation to gun control laws and regulations? Has Uncle Sam bitten off more than he can chew?
States still have unique and unequivocal constitutional rights, at least as originally articulated and intended. The Tenth Amendment states:
- “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
While Congress and the White House continue to disagree with vehemence, the solution to the issue of firearms and gun control may actually be found at the state and local levels — where the people are not just self-serving superficial politicians in Washington.
Lens of Anti-Federalism
What if the Executive Branch got out of the way altogether by delegating authority over gun laws exclusively to the states? Could this be a viable solution when viewed through the lens of federalism vs. anti-federalism?
Why not further empower states to formulate their own gun laws, as they already have, according to the will of people at the grassroots level? Why does the federal government need to be Big Brother?
Deferring gun law decision making to the states makes sense due to clear differences among the 50 states on numerous fronts, including regional geography, population size and other demographic variables, ideological and moral philosophy, as well a codes of conduct and standards of living, among other factors.
Diversity of Gun Laws
Having gun laws decided on a state-by-state basis may be preferable to the Executive and Legislative Branches imposing a one-size-fits-all solution — along with the accompanying political dysfunction and partisan gridlock.
For instance, gun sentiments and gun laws in New York and Maryland are very different – if not completely opposite — from Texas and Florida. Thus what’s wrong with a diversity of gun laws?
While anti-federalism may not solve all the gun-related problems we face, at least state and local governments would be more empowered to reflect the will of the people on this unique issue.
We’ve witnessed the regretful results of today’s out-of-touch lawmakers in Washington, who are solely consumed by political self-interest. Whatever happened to the will of the people from the grassroots up?
Isn’t that what democracy is supposed to be all about?
Guns & Government: What’s the Solution?
Guns & Gov: Banning Assault Weapons
Should U.S. Schools Have Police Presence? The NRA Says YES…
* All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.