Your “Needs” and the United States ConstitutionThis past month brought more episodes of the recurring “reality show”, “We Need To Do Something.”  The show has been running for years on every major and minor news station. You can catch snippets of the episodes in print media as well. The show, like most reality shows, seeks to tell a story of how ordinary people react to the events occurring in their world. However, this reality show, like most in my humble opinion, also shows that the stars are filled with an overinflated sense of their importance in the world as well as their intelligence. The subject of the latest episodes? Gun control.

You must consider that gun control is different from any other issue. For example, consider this question: Is it a good idea to climb Mount Everest without using oxygen? If you have never climbed a mountain, have never been exposed to high altitudes and don’t know a crampon from a crouton, you would likely politely reply, “I have no idea.”

Perhaps you might say, “Since I know nothing about that, my opinion would not be very helpful.” Some inquisitive folks might respond, “Well, I do not know anything about that, but I would like to learn more.” Not so with gun control. You see, with gun control, the voice of ignorance rises and sometimes, is the loudest in the room.

I heard the grossly uninformed Governor Cuomo of New York spout a blatant falsehood this week, “No one hunts with an assault rifle.” He is wrong. The “assault weapon” platform being demonized is the so-called “AR” style rifle. This is one of the most popular rifles with hunters, competitive shooters and recreational shooters in the United States. I have hunted and used these types of guns in competition for years. Let’s move on to his next statement, with which I agree, “End the madness now.”

Perhaps no stronger function of government exists other than the power to pass legislation to govern the conduct of citizens. Our country was founded upon principles of freedom from government intrusion not reliance upon government. So during this reality show we have been forced to witness, where does the concept of “need” ever arise when discussing a constitutional right?

Unfortunately, we hear this word daily. “Why does anyone need an AR-15?” “Why does anyone need a magazine that holds more than ten bullets?” “Why does anyone need to own a handgun?” The import of adding the word “need” to these questions is that you should be expected to justify ownership of these items.

My concern should be the concern of every LEO. What would be the effect of this “need” analysis on law enforcement? We have come a long way obtaining equipment like semi-automatic handguns and patrol rifles that we desperately needed for many years. Both of these firearms are issued to LEOs with high capacity magazines. However, how often have LEOs fired more than ten rounds in an encounter with a perpetrator?  How often have street officers fired patrol rifles to end a felony assault?

Like the possession of firearms by law abiding citizens, the possession of semi-automatic weapons, high capacity magazines and AR style rifles by LEOs has definitely had an impact on reducing crime and saved the lives of LEOs around the United States. These items many times form the deterrent that avoids injury to LEOs and the use of deadly force.

However, the same people applying the analysis of “need” stand ready and willing to question the need of LEOs to possess these items. You hear them every time a LEO fires more than a few rounds during a gunfight. Reports center on the number of rounds fired and not on whether or not the shots were all lawfully justified. Need more proof? The new law passed by the New York legislature did not exempt law enforcement from the magazine capacity regulations. I do not believe this was an oversight. You can decide for yourself.

As I said earlier, I agree with Governor Cuomo on one thing, “End the madness now.” In the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the private right to firearms ownership. Any future laws regulating firearms ownership or use must be analyzed in light of this opinion. Further, we must vigorously prosecute criminals who use any type of firearm during the commission of any type of crime. There is no dispute that criminals who have attempted to purchase firearms and been prevented from doing so by the current background check system are not being vigorously prosecuted. The failure to do so is madness.

Legislation passed in a rush that is driven by emotion is bound to be flawed. For those who believe this is not true, look at the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 that limited the exercise of speech against the government. The laws, which were invalidated by the United States Supreme Court, were a fear inspired reaction to a threat of revolution within the United States. It was an embarrassing exercise of Congressional authority that we cannot fathom occurring today. However, the emotion surrounding the current debate surrounding gun control is no less fear inspired.

I encourage dissent in my law firm. Everyone is free to disagree with me and to voice their opinions to me and others. I foster this culture based upon a simple principle: if you surround yourself with people who always agree with you, you will never know if you are wrong.  When we allow people who are blissfully ignorant about firearms and crime to control the debate on firearms, we risk disaster and LEOs are not safe from the aftermath.

So, “end the madness now” and become part of the debate. Let your voice be heard. Recognize that your ownership of firearms and high capacity magazines is up for debate and criticism by people who have never walked a day in your shoes and would never consider doing so if you extended the invitation. Read your state constitution and the United States Constitution. As for the latter, the word “need” is not in it.

Lance LoRusso is an attorney, former LEO and founder of LoRusso Law Firm, PC in Marietta, Georgia.  He is the General Counsel for the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police and author of a blog, www.bluelinelawyer.com.  He speaks at many conferences for law enforcement on use of force, responses to critical incident, and other topics of interest to law enforcement. His book on critical incidents entitled, “When Cops Kill: The Aftermath of a Critical Incident” is available through www.whencopskill.com. Profits from this book will support law enforcement charities. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (bluelinelawyer or lancelorusso).