Only six months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear in Heller that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to keep and bear arms. Now the fight is shifting from guns to ammunition by gun prohibitionists who would render the right to keep and bear arms meaningless by limiting and taxing bullets.
A case in point is last session's House Bill 2833, which may be introduced again this legislative session. The bill would have imposed a tax on each round of ammunition sold in Arizona, mandated that each bullet and box of ammunition be "coded" for entry into a statewide database, and it would have ordered the destruction of all uncoded ammunition by January 1, 2011. In short, the bill proposed the legal framework for gun prohibition through ammunition deprivation. These efforts should fail because what the Constitution prohibits the government from doing directly, it also prohibits the government from achieving indirectly.
This is no different than trying to circumvent the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press through a discriminatory tax on ink. Believe it or not, as recently as 1983, the First Amendment was so poorly understood that a challenge to just such an ink tax went all the way up to the Supreme Court. When it got there, in the famous case of Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue, the Court appropriately swatted the tax down as undermining the First Amendment.
It took dozens of similar Supreme Court decisions over several decades before the First Amendment's protections were recognized as they are today--still imperfect, but undeniably robust. Likewise, the Heller decision is certainly not the last word on the Second Amendment. If gun owners maintain the eternal vigilance and fortitude exhibited by defenders of the First Amendment, principled jurists will ultimately see through such indirect efforts to violate the Second Amendment.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute's Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.
U.S. Supreme Court: Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v.Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue
Arizona State Legislature: HB 2833
U.S. Constitution: Second Amendment