The Second Amendment to the US Constitution clearly states that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, the Second Amendment does not specifically detail one intricate component of gun ownership: Americans’ right to ammunition.
In a majority of states, lax laws allow firearm purchases at local sports-oriented shops, including establishments as ubiquitous as Walmart. Even as gun control laws are resisted, however, a loophole exists that can both preserve Americans’ fundamental constitutional rights while also curbing the externalities caused by them. Stateside, and perhaps soon federally, ammunition itself may be controlled, and even banned, leaving Americans with their guns without the means of being able to use them.
Over the past decade, the sheer number of shootings involving innocent people has caused citizens to question the necessity of preserving the Second Amendment in today’s society. In an effort to curb the massacre of innocent people, solutions including legislation to curb legal purchase of assault rifles as well as stricter background checks for firearm purchasers have been proposed.
Considering the constitutional sensitivity of the issue, few see total gun prohibition as the solution. As evidenced by the externalities resulting from the War on Drugs’ prohibitive efforts, such a decision would likely not end the problem posed by gun ownership and easy availability. Instead, gun control laws have been introduced, but these initiatives have been met with friction by those who wholeheartedly believe in citizens’ unequivocal right to bear arms. It would, in fact, be a slippery slope if comprehensive gun prohibition were enacted, questioning the sustainment not only of the other nine amendments preserved in the Bill of Rights. The 21st Amendment does however provide a guide – repealing the Second Amendment may only be achieved through a federal amendment, preserving the validity of the Constitution as a result.
California itself has also been a leader in gun control legislation, holding to progressive ideals even amidst constitutional worries. Even with a prominent Republican in the national executive office, the sheer number of shootings of innocent people this year has impressed the importance of some gun control legislation upon the federal government. Given the NRA’s important role in Republican politics however, the impact of this pressure has thus far been minimal.
No exact statistics detail the number of individuals or households that own guns countrywide; estimates have predicted this number as one-third or less. Of course, gun ownership is skewed by state, and although these states provide limited restrictions for firearm purchases, the issue of gun control has predominantly been a state, rather than federal, issue.
However, the Second Amendment says nothing of an American’s right to ammunition. Following the Californian model, ammunition – if not prohibited entirely — can be limited and controlled if standard gun control laws are met with friction. This idea is not new — it was considered as early as the 1960s. While efforts have been made to control wanton weapons like assault rifles, the banning of which does not infringe upon hunting, these efforts have been blocked in Washington; beside them, attempted ammunition regulation has been a mainstay.
Faced with federal indecision, the states can own the issue themselves. While gun control laws have taken many forms over the course of their history, ammunition control is a simple solution which may snowball into another — an ammunition ban, a blanket law whose only fault is mincing the control of the different types of ammunition available to consumers.
Supporters of both the Constitution and gun control have consistently proposed ammunition regulation as the solution. It is not a panacea — any prohibition provides a ripe opportunity for black market sales to emerge and associated decisions may be brought before the Supreme Court. Regardless, stalled progress in Congress leaves states with an important decision — to take matters into their own hands and regulate ammunition. With enough support, an amendment is on the horizon. With a three-fourths vote, change is possible.