Our First Amendment Rights Depend on the Second

By Rep. E. Werner Reschke

The tragic deaths of 17 students at a Parkland, Florida high school is a grim reality we must all face. In addition to the tribulation, this mass-shooting once again brings up political rhetoric claiming guns are bad, therefore guns should be banned. The idea of keeping children safe while at school is one in which we all can agree. However, banning guns from law abiding citizens runs contrary to a foundational principle that as Americans we have a natural right to protect ourselves — in other words, the right to bear arms.

A month later after the Parkland shooting, #MarchForOurLives protests took place in several cities across the United States. Organized and funded by Left-wing groups, students took to the streets in anger against our current gun laws, including the Second Amendment.

While the #MarchForOurLives demonstration was bold and loud, their message was muddled and unclear. Now many are rushing to fill in the blanks: from requiring more background checks to eliminating the Second Amendment, as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently said. While there may be some room for improvement in background checks, the idea of eliminating the Second Amendment is dangerous and gaining support. In Oregon this idea manifests itself as Oregon IP 43, which requires the surrender or registration of all “assault” weapons and limits the size of magazines. Let me ask, will such a mass-gun registration stop any violent crime? Of course not, but the registration of guns is not for that purpose. The only reason for gun registration is so the State knows who owns guns. The only practical reason for that knowledge is that IP 43 is Step-1 of a two-step program. Step-2 is the confiscation of guns from law-abiding citizens: first the State must know where all the guns are before they can confiscate them. If this is not the goal, then IP 43 just creates more bureaucratic busy-work with no real public benefit, meddling into the private affairs of ordinary citizens.

#MarchForOurLives was an emotional outburst at best, but a menacing movement at worst. It continued to promote the idea that a gun-free America will be a safer America. This is in complete opposition to how the Founding Fathers thought about guns in the hands of private citizens. Our nation’s framers knew that gun ownership by citizens would allow us to protect ourselves from the tyranny of an overly ambitious government, who is continuously tempted to over-step its constitutional boundaries. It is not coincidental that the Second Amendment follows after the First Amendment. The Founding Fathers clearly understood that without our right and ability to protect ourselves from government, our freedom to assemble, criticize and protest that government would soon be in jeopardy.

Therefore, it is quite ironic, and illogical, to protest for the removal of the one right (Second Amendment) that protects our ability to protest (First Amendment). Our right to free speech, to assemble, for a free press and freedom of religion found in the First Amendment are completely dependent on the Second Amendment. Weakening the Second Amendment concurrently weakens the First. Without the the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms and form militias, the First Amendment is in at risk of being over-run by an ever-expanding government — under the guise of keeping us all safe.

A gun-free America does not guarantee a less violent America. However, it does ensure a less free one, and therefore, a less safer one.

E. Werner Reschke represents Southern Klamath & Lake Counties in the Oregon State House of Representatives.