Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with others, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin for banning guns in City Hall. This suit comes on the heels of recent events involving gun control and the Second Amendment. There are legal grounds by which the Attorney General may proceed with the lawsuit and he is using it to full effect.
Ramifications of Second Amendment
A recently enacted law permits a party to initiate a lawsuit against local governments over their prohibition of gun laws. Paxton jumped on this and is planning to take the issue to court. City Hall has banned guns and this has led to outcry from both the National Rifle Association as well as other Gun Rights groups who want the full protection of the law in accordance with the Second Amendment.
Under the Second Amendment, every person is entitled the right to gun ownership. This sounds simple enough. However, the entire political spectrum has been upended because of this concept. In light of recent shootings that have been occurring nationwide and overseas, politicians and legislators are taking up a stand for or against these alleged weapons of destruction. Some will go as far as to ban even the most harmless of firearms, such as airsoft guns and the like. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are hardline conservatives that will do whatever it takes to provide full access to guns and ammunition.
There are strong arguments made on both ends. Texas has gained notoriety for being a rather staunch believer in gun rights, and has gone to great lengths, as shown here, to give the maximum gun rights to the people. Paxton is no newcomer to this issue. He has been fighting for gun rights in his home state of Texas and nationwide for a long time and hopes this new legislation will pave the way for further rulemaking that will enable full gun control across the nation. City Hall does not allow guns to be carried at their facility but with this lawsuit, Paxton hopes to curb gun control by giving people the right to carry firearms on their person even at sensitive locations such as government buildings and courthouses.
Discrepancies in the Law
As I mentioned earlier, the Second Amendment essentially grants the right to gun ownership; however, there are nuances to this very broad area of law. Case law, which acts as valuable precedent, has tweaked the framework when it comes to the Second Amendment ever since its conception. United States v. Miller did not give unlimited gun rights to a gun owner, but limited it accordingly.
For example, an AR-15 might be exempt because an AR-15 might not fulfill the intention of the Second Amendment, which was to equip individuals with a defense that was in line with a well-regulated militia (as required by the Second Amendment). This is but one case that has discussed the Second Amendment and built on it in some way. There are many more and it is still an ongoing debate.
Furthermore, every state has its own set of rules when it comes to gun control. For instance, in California, it is a conceal carry system, meaning that for someone to go around publicly holding a firearm on their person, they will need some form of permit. In other states such as Florida, it is an open carry system, and this permits the gun holder to publicly carry their firearm. Texas has a similar approach.
The point of all this is that the Second Amendment by itself does not govern the issue. It is an intertwined system that is controlled by many different judicial layers and there are political underpinnings to it that make it that much more difficult to understand. It will come down to the legislators to change the system into a more functioning and uniform entity that will not continue to polarize the major political parties and will hold true to the values embedded in the Constitution.
Old v. New
One of the inherent problems with this Gun Rights Debate is interpretation. The U.S. Constitution was conceived during an era when the open landscape allowed for gun use. Today, we live in an entirely different era. How should the Constitution be altered to fit with this new way of life? The late Supreme Court Justice Scalia strictly adhered to the language of the Constitution and this left little room for interpretation.
On the other hand, there are others who will allow for more interpretation. And even further along the spectrum, there are jurists who will mold the interpretation so that it is reflective of the times. Zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times, is the real deal, and the Constitution needs to be interpreted according to the frame of mind that exists at the time. Today, we live in a world where terrorist attacks are rampant and security measures are not where they need to be. None of the founding fathers were plagued with an international threat such as this, so they couldn’t possible have had this in mind when they put together the Constitution.
There needs to be change. The text of the Constitution is important, but adjustments have to be made. The reason why the gun rights debate is so polarizing is because one side adheres so strongly to the Second Amendment while the other side wants to change the old by injecting a new model that does not necessarily change the old but places it in a new and relevant context. There is a reason why close to thirty constitutional amendments have been made over the last couple centuries.