GW’s Young America’s Foundation hosts Second Amendment talk by former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
By B.L. Wilson
Former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum spent a collegial evening with members of George Washington University’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation for an address billed as “Lock and Load: The Importance of the Second Amendment and Debunking Liberal Gun Myths.”
GW YAF President Shannon Bell welcomed Mr. Santorum as a “valuable asset to the conservative movement and a strong defender of the Constitution.”
Mr. Santorum asked students in the audience about the concept of rights, whether they thought they had a right to health care for example. A smattering of hands slowly went up. All hands were raised for the right to free speech. Evoking laughter, Mr. Santorum reminded them his speech was not free.
There was also a consensus over the right of Americans to own guns for self preservation, to protect family and property. He said it stemmed from British common law that the colonists brought with them to this country. “Early constitutions even required gun ownership among white males,” he said.
The current debate over the Second Amendment, he said, revolves around the United States Supreme Court decision in the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller case over whether the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms or whether it’s a collective right as part of a well-relegated militia as stated in the U.S. Constitution.
The court ruled that it was an individual right, Mr. Santorum reminded them, in a decision split between liberals and conservatives, with moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy joining conservatives.
Mr. Santorum believes that gun control and preserving the conservative seat on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia were key factors in the election of President Donald Trump.
“I think that probably more than any other issue motivated conservatives to turn out in record numbers for someone who up until a few months before had not been a conservative,” he said.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, he noted, there was a dramatic increase in gun ownership in the United States. But there’s been a renewed effort by the left to limit gun ownership and even to confiscate and take guns away, he said, since mass shootings like those in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“The idea of having 300 million guns in this country and doing anything about constraining gun ownership or even the ability to acquire a gun is somewhat absurd,” he said.
A gun owner himself, Mr. Santorum said he is also an advocate for concealed-carry laws for gun owners who know how to use them and is opposed to so-called gun free zones, arguing that terrorists and mentally deranged people most often target places such as churches and schools where there are many people and no guns.
“So when you say, ‘I can’t believe you are going to allow guns near a school.’ Yes! At my kids’ school, I hope they have someone there with guns,” he said, “because that’s going to keep them safe in case someone who illegally acquired a gun in most cases tries to come to hurt my children.”
During the Q & A session, a student said she was taught that when the Second Amendment was written there were laws against having guns in the home, in Boston, and laws regarding gunpowder storage, and that the founders intended to regulate gun ownership.
Mr. Santorum disagreed with the student over the Second Amendment’s intent but said she had a good point about regulation.
“I’m not going to stand up here and say that everybody has a right to a rocket launcher,” he said. “Every right in the Constitution has limitations that are consistent with the intent of the founders.”
When asked whether as a gun owner he could take down an active shooter, he said that he had received NRA training and regularly went to a shooting range.
“There are certainly a lot of people who have done more training than I have,” he said, “but I feel comfortable that I would be able to handle myself in situations.”
Mr. Santorum had no objections to students being allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus. There are things a college can do to drive home the seriousness of it, courses in gun safety, for example, he said.
“Give people the responsibility and hope for them to act their age and live up to that responsibility,” he said. “I think we need to do more of that in society, not less.”