When Ron Paul opposed a pro-gun bill on states rights grounds

Ron Paul, 9 April 2003 (mirror):

Mr. Chairman, I rise today as a firm believer in the second amendment to the United States Constitution and an opponent of all federal gun laws. In fact, I have introduced legislation, the Second Amendment Restoration Act (H.R. 153), which repeals the misguided federal gun control laws such as the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban. I believe that the second amendment is one of the foundations of our constitutional liberties. However, Mr. Speaker, another foundation of those liberties is the oath all of us took to respect the Constitutional limits on federal power. While I understand and sympathize with the goals of the proponents of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (H.R. 1036), this bill exceeds those constitutional limitations, and so I must oppose this bill. It is long past time for Congress to recognize that not every problem requires a federal solution. This country’s founders recognized the genius of separating power amongst federal, state and local governments as a means to maximize individual liberty and make government most responsive to those persons who might most responsibly influence it. This separation of powers strictly limited the role of the federal governments in dealing with civil liability matters; instead, it reserved jurisdiction over matters of civil tort, such as gun related alleged-negligence suits, to the state legislatures from which their respective jurisdictions flow. […] Enhancing the power of the federal government is not in the long-term interests of defenders of the second amendment and other constitutional liberties. Therefore, I must oppose this bill.

Of course, this is from 2003 and the bill which was eventually passed was from 2005. Rep. Paul gave a different rationale (mirror) for voting against the 2005 version:

Mr. Speaker, while I sympathize with the original objective of S. 397, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, I am forced to oppose this legislation primarily because of unconstitutional gun control amendments added to the bill in the Senate.

I personally think these amendments were a convenient justification for Paul to oppose voting for the bill at the time and he would have voted against the bill on states rights grounds even without the gun control provisions. Many 2nd Amendment enthusiasts these days are not even pretending to use concern about “states rights” as an excuse to oppose federal gun bills and regulations. The unfettered marketing, manufacturing, dealing and ownership of guns are considered civil rights to them. Therefore, it would go against their beliefs to allow states to interfere with this. I believe that Ron Paul used different reasoning in 2005 because he assumed it would be more acceptable to gun rights absolutists.


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