Debate: Is Individual Gun Ownership at Stake in This Election? | Opinion

The gun debate is one of America's most bitterly contested sources of civic and political strife. Few other issues conjure up the sort of emotional intensity, raw fervor, historical context and cultural salience as does America's recurring battle over the extent and scope of our Second Amendment constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But, given the way this issue has been so politicized and made into a cudgel of partisan warfare, a new question arises: Is the venerable, centuries-long American tradition of individual gun ownership itself actually on the ballot this November? Will the results of this election potentially place in jeopardy the individual right to keep and bear arms itself?

This week, John R. Lott, Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center debates John E. Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence on whether individual gun ownership is actually at issue in this election. We hope you enjoy this timely exchange.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion editor.

Americans' Very Right to Keep and Bear Arms Is on the Ballot This Election

Democrats will "confiscate your guns and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment," President Trump warned in his recent acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination.

He's right. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has promised to use executive orders to ban guns, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has promised to make former Congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) his gun czar.

Individual Gun Ownership Is Not at Stake in This Election

As a long-time gun owner, shooting sports enthusiast, businessperson and gun safety advocate, I can say with complete certainty that gun ownership is not at stake in this fall's election.

It is well-settled law that private firearm ownership is a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, in the 2008 Supreme Court case of D.C. v. Heller, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the 5-4 Court majority that "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." Scalia further stated that these limitations allow states to enact reasonable gun laws regarding the sale and ownership of firearms in order to reduce gun access to legally prohibited individuals, such as felons, domestic abusers, terrorists, adjudicated mentally ill individuals and children—and to do so without trampling anyone's constitutional rights. Consequently, enacting gun safety laws, such as universal background checks, military-style assault weapon and large-capacity magazine bans, police discretion for licensing and consumer safety manufacturing regulations have been considered reasonable and legal by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as lower state and federal courts.

Man in gun store in Ohio
Man in gun store in Ohio BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images