Most gun rights activists are against any attempts by the federal government to restrict the right to keep and bear arms. However, that is not always the case.

A recent Wisconsin appellate court ruling that declared illegal aliens have a right to own a gun. But at the same time, the court also concluded that despite the plain language of the Second Amendment, the feds have the power to restrict gun rights of some people.

In United States v. Merza-Rodriguez, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that an illegal alien found with a .22 caliber cartridge when arrested by local police had not violated a federal law that prohibits illegal aliens from possessing firearms. The previous district court ruling denied his motion, stating that the Second Amendment does not “protect” illegal aliens.

In response, several pro-gun right websites have criticized the decision, claiming that the defendant did not have any “Second Amendment rights” and that the federal court should have ruled against them.

While we empathize with their perspective on the matter, we feel it is absolutely critical in our fight to protect the right to keep and bear arms to deprive the feds of any control over our guns. In doing so we are not seeking to vindicate the court’s ruling – which actually missed the mark anyway.

It is important to keep in mind several very important truths.

One, our gun rights do not come from the Second Amendment. There is no such thing as “Second Amendment rights.” The amendment does not grant anything; instead, it acknowledges a right we already have and prohibits the federal government from violating it. We do not require pieces of paper with the proper signatures in order for our rights to exist.

Two, the right to keep and bear arms is not merely confined to the United States, nor just to American citizens and residents. Everyone, everywhere, has the natural right of self-defense. That many nations deny it to their citizens and residents is both true and irrelevant. Rights are not contingent on whether or not a government affirms them.

Thirdly, the law prohibiting illegal aliens from having firearms is superfluous. Some may argue that undocumented aliens shouldn’t be allowed to have guns because they are in the U.S. illegally and the feds don’t enforce immigration laws. Therefore it is necessary to deny these people access to firearms because it provides another avenue for police enforcement. Without dismissing the validity of such an argument, it reveals the true problem – the lack of immigration enforcement. We don’t solve that problem by giving the feds the authority to restrict gun ownership in order to prosecute people for breaking immigration laws they can’t/won’t enforce. We should not reward federal incompetency with more power.

Another response might be that people violating the law do not have a right to keep and bear arms while doing so. They give up that right, the argument goes, when they choose to commit a crime. This is correct, but this is also where the point has to be made very clear: If someone is committing a crime, then their guilt should be determined by the violation of that law. Whether they had gun at the time or used a gun to commit it is irrelevant to their guilt or innocence.

Bear in mind that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong in their ruling, where they ironically concluded that “the Second Amendment does not preclude certain restrictions on the right to bear arms, including the one imposed by § 922(g)(5).”

The Second Amendment says the right “shall not be infringed.” There is no exception clause or asterisk next to it.

In short, giving the feds the authority to pass laws making it illegal for people to bear arms while in the act of committing a crime, i.e. deciding who has “Second Amendment rights,” only opens the doors for restrictions on the gun rights of the law-abiding.

The feds should stick to enforcing the (few) laws they have the constitutional authority to pass.

TJ Martinell

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