Opinion

Is Requiring a Fee to Exercise a Right Constitutional?

Regardless of which political party you belong, I think we can probably all agree that requiring a fee to exercise a right is just wrong, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. Let’s take voting for instance. We all can agree being able to vote is a right. The right to vote is mentioned five times in the U.S. Constitution. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments speak of voting specifically. So it’s agreed that it’s a right. So what if we required a few things in order to be able to exercise it?

Well, I think that requiring someone prove who they are, and qualifying that they are a U.S. citizen, is not too much to ask. Everyone can do that regardless of economic status, and it will not prevent anyone from voting. Right? But what if we added a $100 “voting” tax? Just something to make a little extra money for the government. Not a big deal, right? What? Wait! If you add a fee to exercise a right, does that not put that right out of the reach of some people who may be economically challenged? That makes that fee discriminatory against that demographic of people. We can’t have that. H,ow can we add fees to exercising a right and make it hard or impossible for people without the means to be able to exercise that right? Can we not all agree that is not what a right should be? Can we agree that if you exclude a segment of the population it becomes discrimination?

As one of our founding fathers, James Madison, stated so eloquently: “The purpose of the Constitution is to restrict the majority’s ability to harm a minority.” We need to make sure that we remember that we have to take care of the rights of all the people —even those we may not agree with— but if it’s a right guaranteed by the Constitution (our highest law of the land) then we should do everything in our power to make sure we do not discriminate against any group, majority or minority.

So why do I bring this up and use the right to vote as an example? Because this is exactly what some legislators are trying to do to the Second Amendment. They want to charge an additional tax on firearms and ammunition. They want to add fees to getting a permit to own or carry a firearm (requiring a license to own a firearm is already unconstitutional in my opinion). The latest stroke of infringement is to outlaw private sales of firearms and require all sales to go through a federally-licensed firearms dealer (FFL). This would add a “transfer fee” to every purchase of a firearm. Regardless, if it was from a FFL or a private citizen. While these things are wrong on so many levels, let’s get back to the basics of a right. Making that right out of reach for any group of people.

Firearms are not cheap but you can get them fairly inexpensively if you look around. What possible way can taxing or adding a fee to firearms and firearms transactions stop any type of firearms crime? It can’t. That’s ludicrous, of course. And by adding a fee or tax to own or possess a firearm (other than the cost of the firearm itself and maybe regular sales tax) they are trying to limit the rights of all people who are of a certain demographic, in this case the very people who are most prone to crime and need the ability to defend themselves.

Many cry discrimination and racism about many things, but those that make our laws and try to restrict your rights this way are some of the biggest culprits. So a word of advice or warning to our legislators who are thinking of this way of restricting a right that all law abiding Americans should be able to exercise: You cannot tax a right out of existence; the people will not stand for it.

Folks, pay attention to your state and federal representatives and what they are trying to do or pass. Stay up to date on your state‘s legislative sessions and the bills being discussed and submitted. Most of all, make your voice heard! Regardless of what side of the aisle you are on, trying to remove rights should be a time you come together and make sure that those in positions to make laws know your feelings.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Chris Wagoner

Chris Wagoner is a U.S. Army Veteran and has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a freelance writer and posts his articles on "Down Range with Chris Wagoner".

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