Dear Nucla, Colorado: Mandatory gun ownership is still a bad idea

posted at 9:31 am on June 8, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

This was an ill conceived plan the first time I heard of it, and it’s gotten no better with time. Some overly enthusiastic supporters of the Second Amendment in the town of Nucla, Colorado have taken their support of a sacred freedom for Americans and shoved it a bit over the line. The town has passed a law requiring every head of household to own a firearm.

Guns have put Nucla in the national Second Amendment spotlight since the Nucla Town Board on May 8 passed the first — and only — municipal ordinance in Colorado requiring heads of households to have guns, and ammunition, “in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the town and its inhabitants.”

In truth, guns were ingrained in the culture of this out-of-the-way western Colorado town before the current gun-rights movement and before anyone had dreamed up what is being called the Family Protection Order. A visitor is hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t already own guns — many guns — before the ordinance passed.

Only one member of the town board voted against the measure, but he’s not some sort of gun grabbing, Left wing firearms prohibitionist. In fact, if you read his response in the article, he makes a lot of sense. He just doesn’t want any more government regulations, including those at the town level.

But that’s not the only reason to oppose this sort of law. Charles Cooke outlines another important principle on this topic at The Corner.

The idea that there should be no difference between what one likes and what one thinks should be mandated is extraordinarily destructive to liberty — especially in today’s world, in which appeals to “public health” and “public safety” are routinely used to trump the freedom of the individual. Is this really the road that we want to start going down? A reminder: Obamacare’s individual mandate is a terrible idea because it forces people to buy a product that they might not want, not because it operates in service of a bad policy. The moment that we forget this on the Right, we will start a mandate war, in which we are not objecting to mandates on principle but objecting to them in practice. Then, whichever party is in power will use its authority to force people to conform. That way lies disaster.

The mandate argument is important, but it’s a bit more wonky than what lies beneath. When I hear this sort of discussion taking place, the more important – and basic – word which comes to mind is freedom. We have a number of freedoms which we hold near and dear, requiring permanent vigilance to ensure the government doesn’t mince them up too much under cover of protecting us from ourselves. But it’s equally important to remember that every freedom has two sides to it. You have the freedom of speech, but that also means that you are free to remain silent when you choose. You have the freedom to worship as you see fit, but it does not carry with it an implied requirement to attend church. And you have the freedom to keep and bear arms, but nowhere does it say that you must.

The closest I’ve seen to a valid argument in support of mandatory gun ownership as a constitutional principle is the example of state governments mandating automobile insurance to make sure everyone is protected and set up to some degree against liability. But that comparison fails on two points in my opinion. First, it was the same argument which was used to claim that the individual mandate in Obamacare was legal. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. But more to the point, even the state laws which require auto insurance almost universally provide a back door out of the requirement. (You can generally post an interest bearing bond in the amount of the minimum liability coverage to be used to pay someone if you are found at fault.)

The town makes a great case in arguing for gun ownership with the goal of lowering crime rates and protecting the general welfare. But they should also remember the need for personal responsibility and the right of refusal. The residents will – hopefully – always be free to purchase a firearm should they wish, but it’s not the place of the government at any level to force them.

EDIT: (Jazz) The original title of this article spelled the name of Nucla incorrectly.

UPDATE 1: Fascinating information provided by unclesmrgol in the comments providing some historical reference I was unaware of. “An Act more effectually to Provide for the National Defense by establishing a Uniform Militia throughout the United States”. In part:

Militia

Of course, that goes to the question of whether this would pass constitutional muster, which clearly sounded dubious to me. (We were originally focusing instead on the idea of rights vs. obligations and the wisdom of government mandates.) But this puts a twist on it. This might stand up in court after all, even if it’s still a very questionable idea. Would love to see any challenges to related legislation over time which made it to the SCOTUS. But still worth reading. Thanks!


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

1. Passing symbolic “make-a-point” laws without any intent to enforce them is a despicable misuse of government, from either side of the aisle.

2. How do you feel about forcing someone to keep guns if they honestly hate and/or fear them?

I’m not afraid of snakes. I like them, actually, and I have a couple in my house right now. How about a law requiring everyone to keep at least one snake in their home? Don’t like snakes? Too bad, it’s the law.

Bat Chain Puller on June 8, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Only those willing to take responsibility for owning a gun should own a gun.

Just like people who don’t drive for similar reasons.

ProfShadow on June 8, 2014 at 3:59 PM

The current Federal definition of the US Militia is:
All adults over the age of 18 and under the age of 56 that are not a felon or mentally unsound.
Former and Retired Military have an upper age of 65 but even that uper limit can be wavied – a 92 year old Doctor was recalled to active duty for Afghan.

This is the basis for Selective Service [Draft] and the requirement to register.

Legally there are precidents for requiring gun ownership…

DJ Elliott on June 8, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Dear Nucla, Colorado: Mandatory gun ownership is still a bad idea

The closest I’ve seen to a valid argument in support of mandatory gun ownership…

Jazz, Perhaps this would be a good time to review the case of Morton Grove, Illinois v. Kennesaw, Georgia where Kennesaw passed an ordinance in 1981 requiring homes to have guns and ammo and Morton Grove’s 1982 reactionary ban of handguns. A look at history and facts might be enlightening.

RJL on June 8, 2014 at 5:20 PM

If the Court does their job correctly ( aka follows original intent) then of course this will stand up in court. Up until the 20th Century we had mandatory gun ownership, sometimes part of State Constitutions.

MWC_RS on June 8, 2014 at 5:27 PM

Wherever this has been enacted, crime has gone down. Even Detroit’s Police Chief has told citizens to get a gun and defend their property and they will not be prosecuted if someone breaks into their home and they shoot them. Gun ownership is a deterrent to crime and criminals know it.

flytier on June 8, 2014 at 6:45 PM

irongrampa on June 8, 2014 at 10:24 AM

It’s unalienable right, not inalienable right. An inalienable right is one granted by the Government, that can be taken away. Unalienable right is a right granted by God that can not be taken away. People need to know the difference that the difference is extremely important!!!!!

flytier on June 8, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Actually, the constitution does state allows Congress to “raise and support Armies” and thus very constitutional.

BigGator5 on June 8, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Well, according to SCOTUS, Obamacare is constitutional. Still a rotten idea. A military draft might be a necessary evil under some circumstances, but the fact that it is necessary does not negate the evil.

AngusMc on June 8, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Well, according to SCOTUS, Obamacare is constitutional. Still a rotten idea. A military draft might be a necessary evil under some circumstances, but the fact that it is necessary does not negate the evil.

AngusMc on June 8, 2014 at 7:20 PM

The Draft isn’t evil. At all. Most small nations, like Israel, has a mandatory no excepctions draft when you turn 18. Is Israel evil?

I personally believe in, and support, an all volunteer military. We currently have a big enough population that we can enjoy such a voluntary force. But if WWIII happens we just might have to activate a very large force. I would be at the recruiting office to see if they will take me.

BigGator5 on June 8, 2014 at 9:01 PM

I am a former Marine, and feel conscription is a form of slavery, sorry.

Back to the OP however: this law is blatantly unconstitutional. I own several firearms myself, but find laws like this to be offensive.

quikstrike98 on June 8, 2014 at 9:58 PM

Nucla, Colorado.

Pop. 695

Pfffft.

Meremortal on June 8, 2014 at 11:36 PM

“I am a former Marine…”

quikstrike98 on June 8, 2014 at 9:58 PM

Heh.

Meremortal on June 8, 2014 at 11:39 PM

And you have the freedom to keep and bear arms, but nowhere does it say that you must.

Really?

A well regulated Militia,….

That seems to hint at the possibility of a mandate.

If this town wants to form a permanent militia and require its members to own and maitain a firearm in service of that militia, then great. More power to them. There would have to be exemptions for conscientous objectors and such (or you could move past the city limit). (They could also offer to house weapons in a city armory for those that didn’t want them in their homes.)

If they do it because they want to play some in-your-face game over the 2d Amendment, then heck no. Freedom wins that argument.

Now, the interesting part would be how the state laws and constitution would view a town militia (or posse).

GWB on June 9, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Up until the 20th Century we had mandatory gun ownership, sometimes part of State Constitutions.

MWC_RS on June 8, 2014 at 5:27 PM

Can you please post a link to support this? Preferrably with actual links to state constitutions?

How about a law requiring everyone to keep at least one snake in their home? Don’t like snakes? Too bad, it’s the law.

Bat Chain Puller on June 8, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Maybe because snakes have no actual benefit to something like defense of the community and aren’t a protected right at least partly due to that usefulness? (Unless you advocate a “snake field” around the town? Like a mine field, but slitherier?)

GWB on June 9, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Of course, that goes to the question of whether this would pass constitutional muster, which clearly sounded dubious to me.

Depends on if you consider the US Constitution, “constitutional”…

US Constitution, Article I Section 8 Clause 16: “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia…”

The term “militia” is not defined in the Constitution, since it left it up to the states to determine WHO is considered part of the militia. (That whole pesky 10th Amendment thingy.)

Since I live in Ohio, I’ll quote section 9.01 from the Ohio Constitution…

Ohio Constitution, 9.01: “All citizens, residents of this state, being seventeen years of age, and under the age of sixty-seven years, shall be subject to enrollment in the militia and the performance of military duty, in such manner, not incompatible with the Constitution and laws of the United States, as may be prescribed by law.”

The only questions should be… why are citizens not being educated in employing their basic right and duty, and why is Congress shirking its constitutionally required duty?

Oh, that and why are HA authors willfully ignorant of the Constitution…

dominigan on June 9, 2014 at 11:34 AM

GWB on June 9, 2014 at 10:06 AM

US Constitution: Article I Section 8 (look at Clause 16)

Ohio Constitution 9.01

You may also want to look at section 9.05 of the Ohio Constitution that covers the maintenance and safekeeping of public arms, which implies what you asked about… that the state should maintain arms for public use by citizens when calling on the militia.

Of course, all government entities, and most family units, have been neglecting their citizen requirements of the training needed to correctly and safely operate those firearms.

dominigan on June 9, 2014 at 11:39 AM

You may also want to look at section 9.05 of the Ohio Constitution that covers the maintenance and safekeeping of public arms, which implies what you asked about… that the state should maintain arms for public use by citizens when calling on the militia.

dominigan on June 9, 2014 at 11:39 AM

That relates, but is much different than what MWC_RS indicated, which is a mandate on citizens to maintain their own arms as a part of their state constitutions. If they are out there, I would love to see them.

I think one of the difficulties in our 2d Amendment fight was the nationalization of the Army (vice the state units that fought in WW1). It took the idea of state militias and buried it. The consequence of that is that firearms (particularly longarms) became either something that only well-trained gov’t employees used, or they were some “lesser” firearm that you used for hunting.

I’m an advocate for a return to local “posses” and state militias for our military and law enforcement needs. We have grown a state structure that is anathema to our rights.

GWB on June 9, 2014 at 12:22 PM

How about a law requiring everyone to keep at least one snake in their home? Don’t like snakes? Too bad, it’s the law.

Bat Chain Puller on June 8, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Maybe because snakes have no actual benefit to something like defense of the community and aren’t a protected right at least partly due to that usefulness? (Unless you advocate a “snake field” around the town? Like a mine field, but slitherier?)

GWB on June 9, 2014 at 10:06 AM

How about a law to require everyone to buy health insurance?
Oh ya, wait, uh….

Actually – in the local press, people from Nucla say the law is not intended to be enforced – just making a statement that the town supports the 2nd and criminals should think twice about coming in – like Kennesaw Georgia did back in 1982(?).

dentarthurdent on June 9, 2014 at 12:31 PM

How about a law to require everyone to buy health insurance?
Oh ya, wait, uh….

dentarthurdent on June 9, 2014 at 12:31 PM

No right involved in that, either – not in any of the amendments that have actually been voted on and written down, anyway.

Actually – in the local press, people from Nucla say the law is not intended to be enforced – just making a statement that the town supports the 2nd and criminals should think twice about coming in – like Kennesaw Georgia did back in 1982(?).

And, if that’s the case, then they need to kill it. Laws that aren’t going to be enforced should never be passed. Period.

GWB on June 9, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Nonsense Jazz. Providing for the common defense is a legitimate power of government, and mandatory gun ownership is a historically constitutional power that’s merely fallen out of vogue. But it’s no different than the draft. We may not be afraid of Canadians sacking the white house again, but there are plenty of other reasons as evidenced therein that the ordinance is principled, not merely practical. So no, this is not an argument of practice instead of principle; only arbitrary and unconstitutional mandates are argued on practice. There’s nothing unprincipled in abiding only by constitutional mandates.

CapnObvious on June 9, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Jeez. Will everyone just relax? It’s simple; they’re worried about the “Revenge of the Prairie Dogs”:

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20118320,00.html

Got a friend who used to hunt them there with a 30-06. That usually did it.

NoPain on June 9, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Maybe because snakes have no actual benefit to something like defense of the community and aren’t a protected right at least partly due to that usefulness? (Unless you advocate a “snake field” around the town? Like a mine field, but slitherier?)

I dunno; maybe you could swing it at an attacker, or something.
Make sure you don’t grab it by the sharp, bitey end, though.

orangemtl on June 9, 2014 at 11:28 PM

I’ve been to Nucla on a business trip. It is an extremely small town. Short on people but big on nature. If you like driving 60 miles to the nearest theater but like being far away from people it is a great place to live. A big revenue source is renting extra rooms to hunters during hunting season.

Nicest people you’ll ever meet. When you pass someone on the road you wave to them.

jtdavies on June 10, 2014 at 2:40 AM

Comment pages: 1 2