Letter to the Editor: On Guns

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Let’s look at the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

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.

What does it mean? What was Madison’s intent? The first phrase suggests the founders were talking about a state-regulated militia ensuring security of that state. The second phrase, most often quoted by gun-rights folks, sounds like a right to bear arms given to individuals.

In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court ruled that “The right [of individuals] to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence” and limited the scope of the Second Amendment’s protections to the federal government.

That ruling has morphed, via other rulings over the years, e.g. U.S. v. Miller (1939), D.C. v. Heller (2008), McDonald v Chicago (2010), to Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016), where the court reiterated (Wikipedia):
“its earlier rulings that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding” and that its protection is not limited to “only those weapons useful in warfare”

The U. S. Supreme Court’s latest interpretation is that any individual can own/possess any kind of weapon(s) which would be “bearable” (e.g. rifles, grenades, home-made bombs, chemical, biological, nuclear) and does not place restrictions of any kind (age, mental capacity, criminal background) on weapon ownership.
What did our founders envision? Could they have imagined that a “mentally-challenged” individual with a weapon of mass destruction (modern assault rifle) could murder scores of people in a short period before authorities could stop him? I submit that this was not what they had in mind.

In practice, states put their own restrictions on the broader interpretation of the Supreme Court. But even here there are no standards state-to-state which common sense should dictate. Each state, then, has the right to create its own standard so long as it complies with the broad outline of the Federal government.

What is the practical result?

Our lawmakers are mainly concerned with keeping their jobs. They keep their jobs by expressing the collective will of their constituents, the vast majority of whom are gun owners. Part of their income (or campaign funding) is contributed by the gun lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby, in maintaining their mission and relevance, wants no restrictions on gun ownership. Some of their policies, mantras, and propaganda statements are:

1) The more guns we have, the better/safer our society will be.

2) Democrats want to take your guns away. Banning assault rifles is only the first step in that process.

3) Don’t blame the gun. The gun is not the problem. It’s the bad person who misuses the gun who is the problem.
The gun lobby, and their shills (especially GOP members), after every mass shooting, say “Now is not the time to talk about gun control. This is grieving time. We can talk about gun control later when everybody is done grieving and we can address the situation without emotions getting in the way.”

These folks are counting on the fact that people have short memories, that next week the news cycles will return to the latest controversy involving Trump and his dysfunctional enablers.

But here is the problem with blaming people rather than the gun. When we say “Oh, there were warning signs that that particular murderer was likely to start shooting people, how can we realistically know? Where is the line between mental stability and mental instability? Aren’t we all a little crazy? And could someone who is considered mentally stable today become mentally unstable tomorrow? Who could predict the point where someone’s dark thoughts become dark actions? It seems an intractable problem to me.

What is not an intractable problem, though, is the ready availability of the weapon. If the mentally disabled person has no access to a weapon of mass destruction (AR-15 with multiple high-capacity magazines) wouldn’t it be less likely that he could do mass damage?

At the very least we should:

1) Reconstitute the ban on assault rifles and their high capacity magazines.

2) Require criminal and mental background checks for all gun purchases.

3) Close gun show loopholes which allow purchase of any kind of weapon (from a dealer or private person) with almost no checks or regulations in play.

4) Outlaw bump-stocks which easily convert semi-automatic rifles to full automatic.

A better long term solution is to vote out of office our representatives who put their personal objectives ahead of the safety of our children and fellow citizens.

Bob Moores
Chestertown

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Letters to Editor

  1. Gren Whitman says:

    Much as drunk-driving deaths have been reduced, together we can reduce gun violence in America!
    For example, our group, Kent County Citizens to Prevent Gun Violence, is tracking several bills now being considered by the Maryland General Assembly.
    SENATE BILL 814 would broaden the definition of “good and substantial” to include self-defense for handgun wear-and-carry (concealed carry) permits. This would result in many more civilians carrying concealed handguns, and likely result in more incidents of gun violence. We oppose this bill.
    SENATE BILL 707 / HOUSE BILL 888 would ban “bump stocks” in Maryland (also known as “rapid fire trigger activators”). We support these bills.
    SENATE BILL 741 / HOUSE BILL 819 would eliminate the Handgun Permit Review Board and have all wear-and-carry appeals decided by the state government’s Office of Administrative Hearings. We support these bills.
    For more information, go to Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence at mdpgv.com

  2. Susan De Simone says:

    Australia cut gun deaths. So can we. We don’t have more violent people per capita than countries which have far fewer shooting deaths. What’s the difference then? “It’s the guns, stupid. “

  3. Mr Moores is not being bold enough. Conservatives are not shy about demanding a woman’s constitutional right of liberty and privacy to make her own reproductive choices be denied. Likewise, progressives should not be shy about agitating for a repeal the 2nd Amendment. It is as much an 18th Century anachronism as the 3rd Amendment is. Its cost in human misery in the realities of our modern society has long since exceeded whatever theoretical benefits the Founding Fathers were intending to provide 230 years ago.

    The same goes for Mr Moores’s narrow call to reinstate the ban on assault rifles. Pedantics in the gun culture just smirk with delight when they hear that and will be happy to argue incessantly that the term “assault rifle” only applies to weapons capable of fully automatic firing which are already banned from civilian ownership. The ban that is needed is against any and all gas-operated weapons being available on the civilian market.

  4. Frederick Patt says:

    Overall a well-written piece. However, the statement “the vast majority of whom are gun owners” is false; less than half of Americans own guns, and the “vast majority” of guns are owned by a small minority. The NRA also represents a small minority of Americans, yet somehow wields disproportionate clout with our elected lawmakers. This is a clear case of an energetic minority taking control of an issue.

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