TOE TO TOE: Should the U.S. tighten restrictions on firearms? NO

Caleb Berry is a senator with USUAA.

Our nation has been sent into a state of shock and grief in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting. The shooting in Parkland, Florida took the lives of 17 people as well as leaving 17 more injured. It was a true tragedy and the victims of such a horrendous act of violence will always be in our thoughts and prayers.

In the aftermath of this misfortunate event, some have argued for an increase in “common sense” gun control measures enforced by law at the federal, state and local level.

However, some “common sense” gun control measures are unconstitutional; specifically, that some gun control measures creating an extended “gun free” zone around campuses are unconstitutional.

In order for this argument to be valid, it is first necessary to define a “common sense” gun control measure to oppose. It is ill-advised to write an argument against all gun control efforts in general due to the diversity of each measure and the jurisdiction enforced.

Between 50 states, multiple territories and multiple levels of government ranging from the federal government to county regulations, it is unlikely that a single gun control measure could have a significant and enforceable effect on the life of the average American nationwide.

For the sake of clarity, let us examine a recent Illinois Supreme Court case in support of my thesis: The People of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Julio Chairez, Appellee.

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The State of Illinois is currently subject to the Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW) statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1. The People v. Julio Chairez partially concerns the constitutionality of subsection (c) (1.5) which prohibits an individual from carrying a licensed gun within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, public transportation facility or residential property owned, operated or managed by a public housing agency.

In April 2013, defendant Julio Chairez entered a plea deal professing to unknowingly possessing a firearm within 1,000 feet of Virgil Gilman Trail. In 2015, Chairez filed a post-conviction petition arguing that statue under which he was convicted was unconstitutional. The State of Illinois Supreme Court agreed that the UUW statute was indeed unconstitutional, issuing the following statement in the opinion of the court:

“The effect of the thousand foot language on gun rights is a near-comprehensive ban. The practical effect is that a person cannot leave his house with his licensed firearm because he would constantly be in jeopardy of accidentally and unknowingly entering within a thousand feet of a school, public park, public transportation facility, or residential property owned, operated or managed by [a] public housing agency.”

Not all “common sense” gun control measures are unconstitutional, but some are. The fact that the highest court in Illinois, one of the most liberal states in the union concerning gun ownership rights, has declared a state statute that extends the “gun free” zone around schools, parks and other public accommodations unconstitutional is proof of that.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Governing our society and the people within it. If the Constitution needs changing, then find enough people who agree and work to change it; however, until it’s changed, the Constitution is what we live by.