Civics Lesson for State Rep on Guns

Printed from:

“It is a privilege that we allow individuals to hold onto something that causes harm and death. It is a privilege to have a car license, it is a privilege to have a gun license.”

—  Massachusetts State Representative Marjorie Decker, Democrat from Cambridge


It takes a civics lesson to become a citizen. Maybe we ought to start requiring one to become a state rep.

We could. It is a privilege to be a state representative. Nobody has a right to it. You have to qualify by whatever rules the state establishes, and then the people have to elect you.

That’s nothing like a right, which is something a person has just by virtue of being an American. A right is something the government can recognize and protect, but not bestow. That’s because a right precedes the government.

Article XVII of the Massachusetts Constitution and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution both recognize the right of people to keep and bear arms, something the Second Amendment says “shall not be infringed.”

State Representative Marjorie Decker’s claim that having a gun license – which, regrettably, is currently needed to own a gun in Massachusetts – is a privilege as opposed to a right is not only wrong. It’s outrageous.

How does she justify it?

During her testimony Thursday before a committee at the Massachusetts State House, Decker claimed that the state’s gun restrictions are responsible for our relatively low gun fatality rate. But gun control famously doesn’t work. And since about two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are suicides, it makes more sense to credit the relatively low gun fatality rate in Massachusetts to our relatively low suicide rate.

Yet there’s something even more important than utility at stake here.

Here’s Decker’s philosophy of governing:

“As legislators, I always ask myself, whenever we make any decision about a policy, a rule, a regulation, a budget:  Does this create further harm to our community and our Commonwealth? Or does it actually make us stronger, healthier, and safer, and more vibrant?”

Notice what she didn’t ask:  Does this make us freer? Or less free?

Does Decker care about freedom?

She tiresomely tried to hang recent mass shootings in this country on gun manufacturers, before returning to her gun-ownership-is-not-a-right theme.

“Nobody has the right to own anything that will cause bodily harm and hurt others,” she said.

Nobody is in favor of causing bodily harm and hurting others, under any circumstances. But here’s what Decker’s argument really means:

Nobody has a right to defend himself.