During the halftime break of the Sunday night football game, Bob Costas read and put his support behind a newspaper editorial that basically blamed the recent murder-suicide tragedy in Kansas City on gun ownership and called for a ban on firearms. In case you didn't read about the incident, it is believed that a Kansas City Chief football player engaged in domestic violence with the mother of his young child, shot and killed her, and then turned the gun on himself. Obviously, a horrific incident, but it is not an incident that should be used as a springboard for further limitations on gun ownership.
While I am a lifelong resident of rural Centre County, I am probably in the minority of the population as I do not hunt and do not even own a gun. As I do not currently own a gun, I have no real personal stake in the gun ban battle. However, as a criminal defense lawyer, I find myself routinely fighting against the infringement of people's constitutional rights in search and seizure issues. I did recently have a State College criminal case in which I challenged the constitutionality of some Pennsylvania laws as they infringe on a person's right to bear arms and transport a firearm. Somewhat ironically, the case started because a State College magisterial district court did not have a place for a person to "check" his firearm when he appeared in court despite the fact that Pennsylvania law has required such "check stations" since 2002. I am, however, a firm believer that people should be permitted to exercise the rights that are given to them in the constitution, such as the right to be free of illegal searches and seizures, the right to vote, and the right to bear arms if you choose to do so.
Right to Bear Arms is Protected by Constitutional Provisions
While many people are aware that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a person's right to bear arms, some people are not aware that Pennsylvania's Constitution has a similar protection. Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that "[t]he right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned." Therefore, in order for guns or firearms to be outlawed in the United States, the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutional provisions protecting one's ability to bear arms would need to be amended.
If Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Guns
While I admit that this saying is cheesey, it is also accurate in my opinion. We already have many laws "on the books" that limit who may possess firearms. For example, if a person is convicted of a felony offense in Pennsylvania, such as a charge of drug delivery, they are not permitted to possess a firearm. Some people would be surprised to discover that some second offense DUI charges also impose a lifetime ban on gun ownership. The problem is that the people who are often prohibited from possessing guns are the same ones that routinely ignore the law, so these outlaws will have guns even if they are banned. I am of the opinion that laws prohibiting gun ownership will simply remove guns from the law abiding citizens that generally use the guns for lawful purposes, such as hunting, target shooting, or self-defense.
As a father of three young children, I have considered purchasing a gun for protection and self-defense in the event anyone broke into my home. I enjoy knowing that our constitution currently protects my right to purchase a gun for protection, and I do not believe that the recent tragedy should be used as a platform to push firearm regulation. As a State College criminal defense lawyer, I will continue to advocate for the protection of our constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms.