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The Independent Institute

Debate on Gun Control Should Ask Whether Congress Has Power to Regulate

Gun control has become one of the preeminent battles of 2013. During a press conference last month, in which he was surrounded by children, President Obama urged Congress to ban “assault” (semiautomatic) weapons, limit magazines to 10 bullets, and introduce universal background checks for all firearm buyers. And last night, Mr. Obama again called for this regulation in his State of the Union address. Naming those affected by gun violence, he asserted to a cheering, standing crowd: “They deserve a vote.”

Across the country, Americans are debating the effectiveness of Obama’s gun-control proposals. Commentators on the left argue that semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines aren’t necessary for home defense or hunting. On the right, the president’s critics say limiting guns won’t end violence and point out that no matter what laws Congress passes, criminals will still find ways to be well armed. The proposed legislation, they contend, simply would put law-abiding citizens at a disadvantage.

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William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. and author of the Independent Institute book, Reclaiming the American Revolution. He received his J.D. cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Law and is a former law clerk to Judge William B. Traxler, Jr. of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Full Biography and Recent Publications

Reclaiming the American RevolutionNew from William J. Watkins, Jr.!
RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy
The history of Anglo-American liberty is, in many respects, a history of great charters and the events leading to their adoption. Consequently, Americans revere documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. However, conspicuously absent from this list of revered charters are Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Viewing the Constitution as a procedural document meant to limit government and bring it under the rule of law, the Resolves were for much of the Nineteenth Century considered as a starting point for any discussion of liberty and federal and state relations. Learn More »»