In an article titled “5 ways the next Congress can protect gun rights,” U.S. Congressman Dave Brat (R-Virginia) outlines steps that federal lawmakers can take to ensure that whoever is elected president cannot violate the right to keep and bear arms. While you have to appreciate his efforts, Americans should not count on Congress to protect their gun rights.

Many of his recommendations, such as stripping the ATF of its illegitimate authority to ban ammunition and expanding the rights of concealed carry permit holders, are very admirable.

However, some of them are troubling because they leave out things that the American people themselves can do besides vote for candidates who purportedly defend the right to keep and bear arms. They also ignore a critical point missed by many, including gun right advocates; the Second Amendment is not in force today. Since at least the 1930s, it has been violated in numerous ways in the form of federal gun control legislation. One of those federal gun laws requires background checks on firearm purchases or transfers, and which Brat believes the feds should enforce more vigilantly.

He writes (bold emphasis added):

The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Justice just recently released a report titled, “Audit of the Handling of Firearms Purchases Denials Through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” As the title suggests, the report identifies just how the DOJ handles occurrences where a firearm transfer has been delayed or denied. The report brings to light something pro-gun supporters have been saying for a while: the DOJ has the tools to prosecute criminals, it’s just not interested in using them. If, according to anti-gun politicians and organizations, everyone who is denied the transfer of a firearm as a result of a NICS denial is a dangerous person, why is the DOJ not interested in enforcing current law? Anti-gun politicians and presidential administrations can’t call for the expansion of the NICS system, but then neglect their duty to enforce current law. Anti-gun politicians simply want to make it harder for lawful citizens to own firearms. The House should be encouraging the administration and the Attorney General to faithfully execute the laws on the books.

In our opinion, this is the wrong track to take. The feds shouldn’t use these tools because it has no constitutional authority to do so. The Second Amendment says the right of the people to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.” As Brat himself points out, gun grabbers enact these laws to infringe on the rights of ordinary citizens seeking to exercise this fundamental right, not to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Having them use these tools would merely give background checks a perceived legitimacy it lacks due to federal inaction.

The federal law mandating background checks for purchase or transfers should be abolished, along with every other federal gun control law. Aside from being unconstitutional, these laws do not deter criminals from obtaining firearms any more than the Volstead Act kept booze out of the hands of bootleggers.

We should not wait for Congress to act. Instead, we should encourage our local and state lawmakers to pass a Second Amendment Preservation Act nullifying federal gun laws in their jurisdiction, or at the very least denying the feds the necessary local and state resources to enforce them. U.S. lawmakers may never repeal federal gun laws, but if the states refuse to cooperate then they are as good as repealed.

Here are five steps that you can take today to protect your gun rights:

  1. Visit this link, download the model legislation (pdf)
  2. Find your state (not federal) legislators – lookup here
  3. Send your state legislators the model legislation in an email. Ask them to consider introducing for 2017 to draw a line in the sand on any more federal gun control.
  4. Within one week after sending, CALL them. Ask if they’ve received it, what they plan to do. Reply to this email and let us know what you find out.
  5. Bonus step – You can also download a model resolution/ordinance for your local community – take the same approach as you did with your state legislators.

At the same time, we should encourage U.S. lawmakers to repeal any existing federal gun regulation. It is easy to forget that the status quo is in violation of the Second Amendment.

We can hope all we want that Congress will hold itself accountable to the Constitution, but we must never put our trust in them to do so. That responsibility resides in the people themselves. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, we must continue to keep the federal government bound by the chains of the Constitution.Where it has broken free of those shackles, we must put bind them once more.

To learn more about federal gun control laws, check out my three-part series on gun control in the 20th Century based on Dave Kopel’s The Great Gun Control War of the 20th Century — And its Lessons for Gun Laws Today.” The series can be read here, here, and here. The ebook version is also available to TAC members. If you’re not a TAC member, now’s the time to sign up!

TJ Martinell