The State of the Second Amendment
With the recent issues of gun violence and mass shootings in the country, North Carolina is still seen as a permissive state for gun ownership. As the Orlando Shooting Incident and its related frustrations dissipate, those against gun rights activists across the country are call for numerous reigns and even the abolishment of the Second Amendment.
House Bill 562 signed by Senator Pat McCrory in December 2015 allows the Sherriff to conduct a background check of the previous five years for a prospective gun purchaser. This has been limited from the previous 20-year reviewable length. Several members of State have concerns that this reduction of reviewable time makes it easier for people to get their hands on a gun. Even gun shop owner Larry Hyatt is wary of the situation because the ‘moral character’ issues that can deny a person a gun permit, are undefined. The North Carolina Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun sense challenged the proposed bill’s provision that removed the permit requirement for pistol ownership.
Adam Goldstein, a physician from UNC Chapel Hill, conducted a survey between several hundred physicians in the state. The purpose of the survey was to find the common criteria that physicians would use to bar a person from acquiring a concealed weapon permit. The results showed some variation however. Dementia, PTSD and depression were common traits that physicians considered if they were to deny a person a weapon permit. However, no such requirement to conduct a mental health survey of the patient exists in North Carolina, and until then, those exhibiting these and other characteristics may acquire a weapon. The survey was also quick to mention the normal adage that ‘correlation does not equal causation.’
Duke Researcher Jeffrey Swanson conducted a review of ten years of data related 81,000 mentally ill people that have committed crimes. The data suggests that of the 1,914 violent deaths in 2013, 1,237 (65%) of those deaths were suicides.
“Seventy-two percent of them, on the day they used the gun to end their life, had they walked into a federally licensed firearm dealer to buy a gun, they were legal to do that, even with a perfect background check system,” Swanson said. “They did not have any mental health commitment record.”
However, in response to those findings, there really is no clear connection between any laws preventing a permit for a weapon to those with a mental condition and the prevention of violent crimes. In fact, Swanson concedes that even if we found a cure for depression, schizophrenia and other mental conditions, the potential for violent crimes would only decrease by 4%.
Is NC planning to restrict gun ownership in light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando? Probably not, the legislature has in the past put only minor restrictions such as the background checks mentioned earlier. However, NC has always been a state that is pro-ownership and has consistently made it easier for citizens to exercise the fundamental right. If there is data that can prove a significant correlation between violent crimes and having a mental disease, then this information may be the catalyst that seals the argument in favor of any major gun restrictions.
The Supreme Court has mainly remained silent; as if to say this is an issue best left to the states themselves. In 2008, DC v. Heller gained nationwide attention when the Supreme Court held that a weapon may be held for legal purposes in one’s home and thus invalidated a ban on handgun possession in homes. The Court reasoned that the Second Amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation” and that the essential right is “the inherent right of self-defense.” The home is “where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute”, and “above all other interests,” the second amendment elevates “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” See also People v. Aguillar (2013).
The Supreme Court recently declined to hear the case of Shew v. Malloy, which challenged a ban a Connecticut law that banned semi-automatic assault rifles and larger capacity magzines in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. The denial thus leaves Connecticut to uphold the ‘constitutionality’ on the ban against automatic assault rifles. While NC is not subject to the rules of the 2nd Circuit, the denial of clearly defined rights may be heard around the country. As the Supreme Court previously held for the Second Amendment in Heller, and for the defense of the home; in the future, the argument could just be for the ability for states to set more stringent restrictions and regulations on who can acquire any weapon.