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The Great Gun Debate

Nothing gets the blood pumping faster than a good old fashion debate over the Second Amendment.  Considering we are on the verge of entering into that every four year cycle of political craziness called “election season” you can bet that someone running for some office somewhere will try to make an issue over it.  The three basic positions over the gun control debate are: Nobody should have them; all of us should have them and only the “special people” should be able to buy, own, or carry, etc.  The special people are law enforcement, and whoever else needs them in the performance of their duties. 

The Police

I’m sure you have heard this before, “It’s not guns that kill people it’s people who kill people.”  That statement is known as “logos”, a Greek word, that can mean several things but one of them stands for “an argument.”  I can argue from that position based on personal experience and using philosophical discourse.  Last August I was involved in a shooting, not as a cop, but as a citizen when a gunman killed seven innocent people (three of them children) on my street, in front of my home on what should have been a beautiful Sunday morning.  For those who argue that citizens shouldn’t have the right to bear arms I would counter by saying that if I would have been prevented from having access to a Glock 23 several more people, other than the seven, would have been dead.  Ultimately, the high velocity rounds from my former partners M4 ended the killing spree. 

Even law enforcement seems divided on the issue.  A few years ago the International Association of Chiefs of Police took the official position in front of a Congressional Sub Committee to argue against the passage of then H.R. 218 (a.k.a. “The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act”).  Interestingly enough, the committee that heard the testimony was the “Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.”  Initially, it seemed like a WTF moment.  Police Chiefs not wanting cops carrying guns around the country in this post-9/11 environment we live in and era of mass killings or lone wolf style terror attacks?  If you keep reading the testimony you see that arguments raised, in my opinion weak, can have some merit.  First, the power of the states to determine what would be best for their individual communities.  Second, training and authority dissimilarities from state to state.   Third, every chiefs complete nightmare; the liability factor, and fourth accidental shooting of off-duty or undercover officers.  When it comes to gun control, even the policing profession itself is divided.

The Courts

“Gun Shy”; that’s known as “meiosis”, better known as an intentional understatement.  The courts on the other hand have most recently demonstrated much more definitiveness on this issue.  Since their first decision where they decided they had the authority to overturn unconstitutional law, Marbury v. Madison, in 1803 it’s only taken the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) a mere 205 years to finally address a significant 2nd Amendment issue in its 5-4 decision of District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).  In Heller, for the first time in history, SCOTUS finally decided that a law-abiding citizen could legally possess a functioning firearm in their home for self-defense.  Really?  Better late then never I guess.  Actually, recent cases from the federal court system seem to be setting a trend that is far more consistent than what police officers demonstrate.

  United States v. Roy, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107620 (D. Me. Oct. 6, 2010) – Laws prohibiting felons or the mentally ill from possessing firearms is “presumptably lawful.”

United States v. Oakes, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107599 (D. Vt. Nov. 18, 2009) – Once again, convicted felon then no right to have a gun.

 United States v. Huet, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123597 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 22, 2010) – Here is an interesting one.  Girlfriend owns a firearm and lives with boyfriend, who is a felon.  The court dismissed the federal “aiding and abetting” indictment against the girlfriend, because if failing to do so then anyone who is sane, or law abiding would loose their 2nd Amendment Right given similar events.

  United States v. Smith, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98511 (S.D. W. Va. Sept. 20, 2010) – Defendant convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.  The court ruled that the government had a significant interest in preventing gun related deaths due to domestic violence.  Defendants 2nd Amendment challenged denied.

 United States v. Smith, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98511 (S.D. W. Va. Sept. 20, 2010) – Here is one of my favorites.  The defendant can’t possess a firearm for self-defense measures while engaged in a felony crime, drug trafficking. 

So what are the federal courts, most recently, telling us about their perspective of the 2nd Amendment?  Good people have the right to bare arms, bad people don’t. 

Our Founding Fathers (briefly)

“’Arms in the hands of citizens (may) be used at individual discretion…in private defense.’” – John Adams, 1788

“’arms…discourage the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property.  Horrid mischief would ensure if (the law-abiding) deprived the use of them.’” – Thomas Paine

“.The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.’” – Alexander Hamilton


Tragically, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Marton was killed by a gunshot wound last month.  While the FBI investigates and the entire Sanford, Florida, Police Department are unjustifiably branded as racists, or corrupt, by the media the truth is that another trial will inevitably unfold in the court of common opinion that may or may not influence the Florida State Legislature.  The issue is called the “stand your ground” component of their Castle Doctrine.  Twenty-six states have adopted similar legislation to what Florida enacted; more than half the nation.  A larger question looms.  Can a law-abiding citizen defend themselves without having to flee an aggressor with deadly or serious bodily harm intentions?  The Police seem to say No, The Courts Yes, our Founding Fathers Yes and the Politicians seemingly No.  The winds of change are upon us.

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About The Author:

Keith R. Lavery, M.A., CMAS, is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching at a public Career Center, University System of Ohio. He has facilitated and designed criminal justice, security, and law enforcement courses of instruction at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career spanning nearly 20 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, to include HIDTA Drug Unit, CLANLAB Enforcement Team, SRT and Supervision. In 2008, Keith was awarded the Certified Master Anti-Terrorism designation from the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board. Academically, he has completed post-graduate course work dedicated toward a Doctorate in Education. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.