PROVIDENCE, R.I. (May 7, 2019) – A bill introduced in the Rhode Island House would remove stun guns from a list of prohibited weapons, a small but important step toward recognizing the fundamental right to self-defense.
Rep. Charlene Lima (D-Cranston) and four other House Democrats introduced House Bill (H5884) on March 21. The legislation would remove stun guns from a list of prohibited weapons that include blackjacks, slingshots, billies, sandclubs, and sandbags. While it doesn’t directly concern firearms, a section of the bill contains important concepts that can be used to defend gun rights or to remove gun control provisions in the future.
It reads in part (bold emphasis added):
The United States Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution extends to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding, and that the Second Amendment is fully applicable to the States. Further that the Second Amendment protects the possession of stun guns as a legitimate means of self-defense and that a categorical ban on possessing or owning such a weapon violates the Second Amendment, and therefore by application violates Article 1, Section 22 of the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island.
Although the bill inaccurately argues that the Second Amendment applies to the states, it correctly notes that it is in violation of a state constitutional provision to keep and bear arms. Further, it makes it clear that neither the Second Amendment nor any “right to bear arms” in states’ bill of rights is limited to the technology at the time they were written. Just as the First Amendment doesn’t just protect the right to use a printing press, the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to be time-sensitive.
Lastly, the bill recognizes a person’s right to defend themselves. St. George Tucker was one of the most influential legal scholars of the early American republic. He wrote that this right to be “the palladium of liberty.”
“The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible.”
EFFECT ON FEDERAL GUN CONTROL
While passage of H5884 would not affect federal gun control, state legislation that promotes self-defense subtly undermines federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.
This bill would “normalize” self-defense and help expend “the market.” Less restrictive state gun laws and policies that expand self-defense options will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.
H5884 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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