Elizabeth Warren gun purchase proposal: Is it constitutional?

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WASHINGTON — A proposal by 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to limit the number of guns an individual could purchase to one a month is a contentious issue that has conservatives and liberals in sharp disagreement.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of an individual to possess and bear arms. But courts have ruled that the government can regulate the purchase and use of firearms.

What is the criteria to determine compatibility with the Constitution?

TMN asked policy analysts to assess the merits of Warren’s proposal.

“In my opinion it would be blatantly unconstitutional. We’re talking about limits on the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right,” said Amy Swearer, senior legal policy analyst at the conservative-leaning Washington, D.C-based Heritage Foundation.

She added: “If you were to apply this to any other exercise of a constitutional right, to any First Amendment right — some sort of limit on the number of Facebook posts you can publish or the number of books you can publish or the number of times you can go to church or listen to religious material or exercise your right to petition the government for grievances —we would look at that and say: ‘Well, that’s absurd; you can’t do that.’ ”

But Will Marshall, president of left-leaning Washington, D.C.-based Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), disagrees.

“I don’t think it’s unconstitutional,” he said of Warren’s proposal. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Marshall added: “We’re in the middle of a pandemic of violence in America. A lot of it is aimed at school children. This society is miserably failing to protect its children, and in my view, we need real action, tough action, to rein in military weapons and to reduce the conditions that create these kind of mass casualty attacks.”

As of Sept. 3, the U.S. has seen 289 mass shootings this year, according to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive. Among the victims are at least 40 people who were killed in recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and as well as two Texas cities: El Paso and Odessa.

House Democrats are expected to mark up several gun-control measures next week when Congress reconvenes after its month-long summer recess. The proposals include legislation that would bar anyone convicted of a hate crime from buying guns, and red-flag laws, which would allow courts to temporarily confiscate weapons from persons deemed to be at risk of committing violence. However, it is unclear if any gun-safety legislation could pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Warren unveiled the proposal on her campaign website last month as part of a broader gun-safety plan. Her proposal is modeled on a Virginia law that was enacted in 1993. The law was crafted to help reduce bulk purchases by straw buyers. According to the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 20-25% of all guns recovered at crime scenes in the U.S. were acquired through bulk purchases.

Other provisions in Warren’s proposal include requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases, raising the age of eligibility for the purchase of all guns from 18 to 21, creating a federal licensing system, and levying additional taxes on gun dealers and manufacturers.

This article is republished with permission from TMN