Opinion

The Great Debate

Confronting the political problem of guns

By Newton Minow and David B. Apatoff
January 3, 2013

We hope 2013 brings a civil, intelligent, and constructive national debate about gun policy. Past debates often failed to get traction because Americans have a fundamental disagreement about the meaning of the Second Amendment. Emotions and anger take over – and rational discourse disappears.

But we all now owe the 26 little children and teachers murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a sincere effort to bring light rather than heat to this debate. It does not advance progress for one side to insist that all guns should be confiscated while the other side argues “good guys” should shoot the “bad guys.”

What exactly is the right the Second Amendment protects? In the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, Justice Antonin Scalia was clear writing for the majority: The Second Amendment does not protect “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any way whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

The “right to bear arms,” Scalia wrote, only applies to “the sorts of weapons … in common use at the time” of the Second Amendment – which was 1791. What was “in common use” then?

As Craig R. Whitney describes in his new book, Living With Guns, Congress passed the Uniform Militia Act in 1792 – requiring all free, able-bodied white males under age 45 to muster with a local militia and equip themselves “with a good musket or firelock.”

The Wall Street Journal, reading the Scalia opinion, states: “Governments can impose substantive regulatory limits: to license guns; bar felons or the mentally ill from buying guns; regulate certain types of heavy weapons.”

The modern equivalent of weapons “in common use” does not include the high-speed, high-capacity weapons used to massacre large numbers of citizens in Aurora, Colorado, or Newtown. Some gun advocates invoke the Second Amendment to thwart a meaningful discussion of what guns should be in “common use.” But the Founding Fathers never intended the Second Amendment to protect such extreme weapons from “substantive regulatory limits.”

Once the Second Amendment limits are recognized, the debate is not about the Constitution, but about policy. And policy here means politics.

Our representatives should not be permitted to hide from their responsibility to hold an open political debate with the excuse that our Founding Fathers resolved that question 220 years ago.

The National Rifle Association enters the picture, amply funded by the $11 billion firearms industry, which produces the kind of “dangerous and unusual weapons” that the Supreme Court specifically ruled are not protected. The National Association for Gun Rights sends pledges to legislators, saying: “I DEMAND you vote AGAINST any assault on my gun rights.”

Consider, the gun lobby has succeeded in blocking presidential nominees to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives since 2006 – even those nominated by President George W. Bush.

Guns are not the sole cause of these mass killings. But focusing on issues such as our mental health system and the extreme violence in video games will not solve the problem unless gun advocates are finally willing to enter into a responsible dialogue.

As the poet William Butler Yeats wrote, “the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” Our political leaders are not bound by the Constitution’s Second Amendment to stand by helplessly when Sandy Hooks happen.

We do not face a constitutional problem, but rather a lack of courage to face a political problem.

First, we need to disenthrall ourselves from the notion that the Second Amendment prevents us from exercising our own judgment and making sensible political compromises.

Second, we need to understand how the current dependency on political campaign contributions has skewed the political debate about gun laws.

Finally, we need representatives with enough courage and conscience to remember the children of Sandy Hook when they deliberate what is in the public interest.

 

PHOTO (Top): Flag hangs over stockings left as a memorial for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, on a fence surrounding the cemetery in Newtown, Connecticut, December 27, 2012. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

PHOTO (Insert Middle): Reproduction of a flintlock rifle, ca. 1775

PHOTO (Insert Bottom): An automatic weapon is displayed on a wall at the Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona December 10, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Comments
31 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Not to minimize the loss at Sandy Hook, but the media never reported a single fact about the guns used in the killings. In fact, there was the usual media blackout on the gun facts. Lanza never walked into the school bearing the Bushmaster as the gun hating media portrayed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju_NllT1i Do

Like the Oregon mall shooter, who was confronted by a citizen with a pistol stopping any further killing–total media blackout of facts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dsV6TCwd 0o

Posted by BrianP. | Report as abusive
 

I won’t take issue with the context of your argument, but the “politics” you refer to is the mitigating issue. While you speak to common use weapons (or words to that effect) the dialogue is often starts with the discussion of a total ban of particular types of weapons–where the proponents of the ban even confuse the terms “automatic” and “semi-automatic” (without acknowledging that “automatic” weapons are already highly regulated).

From there the conversation moves to banning all “semi-automatic” weapons –which would include many shotguns, hunting rifles and handguns–which under your definition are very “common”. So the issue is not necessarily “restricting” certain types of weapons, but more about who develops the definition of what might be restricted. Unfortunately,those with the loudest voices start with promoting a total ban of all firearms (under their interpretation of the Second Amendment). As soon as they assume the podium, the conversation is driven to the extremes and the middle ground is lost.

There are sufficient laws already in place to protect the citizenry–but those who commit crimes using guns are too often offered plea-bargains to expedite the legal process, thus diminishing both the offense and the punishment. So perhaps the most logical place to start is to (i)not allow any plea-bargain for any crime where the perpetrator is in possession of a firearm (whether he uses it or not), and(ii) any convicted felon in possession of a firearm gets an automatic sentence (this law is already in place, but is selectively applied). No plea bargains, no reduced sentences, etc. So you have an opportunity to secure the controls you seek with some laws that are already in place–that makes it an enforcement issue which can be implemented immediately (as in today). It also requires laws such as Colorado’s “make my day” law or Florida’s “castle doctrine” laws–where a person is not liable for prosecution where they are physically threatened or there is unlawful entry into their home–with tightly defined “rules of engagement”.

Lastly, it is important that those involved in the discussion acknowledge the failures of highly restrictive or total bans on gun ownership (see Chicago and D.C.) as part of any conversation. There is a reasonable middle-ground where citizens have the right to possess firearms to protect themselves, and the rights of non-gun owners citizens are protected as well.

One correction needs to be made. The NRA is supported by the voluntary dues of over 5.0 million members. Since the Newtown shooting, about 50,000 new members are registered each day. So the idea that the NRA is strictly a lobby for the firearm manufacturing industry is a distortion of the facts.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive
 

When I was a child, Elmer Fudd chased the wabbit with a shotgun and Yosemite Sam would shoot anything that moved. If you turn on Looney-tunes today, you will see that those cartoon characters are no longer shooting at each other. Yes, you can still find tons of violence in the media. I see that violence differently than my son and nephews do. Only time and slow generational change will reduce the violent tendencies of the past. Change is happening at a pretty good speed for a societies as large and diverse as ours. We just need to be diligent and keep moving into the first global age.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

So the NRA is not funded by 4.5 million Americans who are members? They pay over $100,000,000 a year. But of course the NRA is funded by the gun industry. The evil gun industry.
More anarchist lies, don’t believe a thing the anti gun people say, because their goal is to have the US like Somalia. With a somalia type environment, a group can rule the US and enslave its people. It is because of the gun control liars that Americans arm themselves.
By the way, who funds all the gun control organizations?
It used to be the communists, Chinese, and the Soviet Union. (known fact)
I wonder who funds the gun control crowd now. Drug dealers? Crime cartels? Gangs? Middle East countries? Al Qaida? China? Fascists? The wealthy? Republicans (who can’t win an election)? I wonder why that part was left out in this wonderful unbiased piece of trash so called journalism?
100 million US gun owners are NOT going to give up their guns, and all the armies in the world are not big enough to make them do it.
Live with it Newton and David.

Posted by americanguy | Report as abusive
 

Thanks for making my point americanguy. We obviously can’t take guns away from people without violence. So let’s not do that. Concentrate on the younger generations. If we can keep up the pressure for the next forty to sixty years, we may actually not be the biggest arms dealer in the world and look like Somalia, a place where everyone is running around with guns.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

Removing, discounting, and restricting the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens has been a major contriuting factor in some of the worst loss of innocent human life in recent American history.
For example:
Did you know that the removing of the rights of pilots to carry a sidearm contributed to the terrorist being able to complete their mission on September 11th?
We can trust a pilot with 200 lives and a million dollar airplane but NOT a pistol? Hmm…
The real tragedy is Newtown was that there was NOT an armed person in the school at the time that could have SAVED those kids and staff.
Gun free school zones have become the preferred killing zones for nut jobs while the government ties the hands of the honest, law abiding citizen to defend their own children.
In America we close the mental hospitals and give more rights to the insane killers than to the innocent victims.That is the real problem,and one that the liberals in government and the media have created.
Instead of addressing the common contributing factors in these circumstances liberals only want the ability to remove YOUR 2nd amendment rights.

Posted by gotliberty | Report as abusive
 

New legislation proposed in Illinois only reinforces my comments above:

“One measure would ban the possession, delivery, sale and transfer of semiautomatic handguns and rifles. People who currently own such weapons could keep them but would have to register them. The bill would allow semiautomatic weapons to be used at shooting ranges, but those facilities would be regulated.”

The ignorance of politicians …. further criminalize law abiding citizens, and the gang-bangers will run rampant. (Oh, sorry, they already are! 500 shooting deaths in Chicago alone in 2012–with some of the most restrictive gun ownership laws in the country.) Do these politicos honestly think the criminals are going to register their guns because you created a new law?

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive
 

More blather and fact-less garbage from the uniformed…Ever notice how not one article actually shows statistics? If they bothered to take the time to researched the data and included it any of these articles it would invalidate their argument.

Since I have commented on numerous articles pertaining to this subject I will say this much. If the Liberals are planning to ban certain types of firearms and magazines then the ban should also pertain to ALL civilian authorities. What I mean by that is ALL civilian agencies, that includes all law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies, they shouldn’t be granted preferential treatment, the ban should apply to them as well. Yep, no more large magazines or “scary” looking rifles for them either. If ordinary Joe citizen doesn’t get to have them neither do our civilian authorities, its only fair. Also, law enforcement agencies should no longer be allowed to buy military surplus ammunition, Bradley fighting vehicles (believe it or not our State police actually have several of these vehicles), surplus arms or magazines, that practice should be banned right along with the rest. The way I look at it is if I can’t have it neither can they, I should able to have whatever our civilian law enforcement agencies can have. Yet, I notice in Feinstein’s bill she exempts law enforcement officers from the bans she wants to impose on Joe citizen.

I’d also like to point out that I haven’t been able to find out exactly what size magazine(s) that the shooter had in the Sandy Hook incident. All the articles are saying is the rifle used was capable of holding a 5-40 round magazine. What size magazine did the shooter actually have and how many?

Further, CT has the 5th most restrictive gun laws in the US but yet this still happened, that alone should tell these gun grabbers that more restrictions are not the answer.

Posted by lawgone | Report as abusive
 

prohibitions never work, but you can try and in the process the right wing will gain back much support. The problem with both the right and the leftist ideologues is that they think people agree with them, and maybe a few do, but most are just voting for the lesser of two evils. So when they actually get some level of political popularity they begin to apply their true agenda and end up angering people and losing influence. Of course our choices are really one party claims to be conservative and fiscally responsible, but in reality are more interested in pressing their religion and morality on everyone else and i so doing destroy all freedom, and the other party claims to fight for the working class and poor, but really work to extend government control to every aspect of life, and in so doing destroy all freedom. Yep, one wants christianity to control you and the other want the federal government to control you. Either way, you are a slave.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive
 

The Second Amendment is clear enough. Not.

Any time you have ‘well-regulated’ and ‘shall not be infringed’ within two sentences of each other, you either need a re-write or some federal regulations to clear it up. Cuzzatschidt don’t make sense. That’s why we argue over it so much.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Scalia erred partially in his assessment of the 2nd Amendment, and it’s highlighted by this article’s mention of the Uniform Militia Act. The 2nd Amendment clearly intended possession of current standard rifles in use by the military. Today that would include the AR-15, and so forth. The suggestion that the Founding Fathers were so ignorant of technological progress as to intend only muskets in perpetuity is ridiculous, and here the left (even when posturing as the open-minded voice of civil discourse) has a field day being able to quote none other than Scalia. A shame.

So, the constitution is not an entirely moot point as this article suggests.

Scalia is right, though, that the idea was not that every one can own “any weapon whatsoever”. And indeed we are not here arguing about RPGs, Mobile Rocket Batteries, IEDs, and so forth.

But let’s be clear about where .223 semi-automatic rifles with magazines of 20 to 30 rounds stand:

–They are slightly less than the standard military issue in that they are not capable of fully-automatic fire or even 2-3 round bursts.

–They are of a less powerful caliber (i.e. less heavy) than the military’s standard weapons in .308 (7.62×51), .338 Lapua, and .50 BMG. Many states already have heavy regulations on the .50 and similar calibers. These are heavy weapons.

–They are slower (i.e. less high speed) and of lower capacity than .223 SAW weapons often included in military units.

So, while the .223 is an effective weapon — and the founders hardly intended to put useless weapons in the hands of their people — it is hardly the nuclear bomb that so many would have the uninformed believe it is.

Add to that the fact that the Virginia Tech Shootings were carried out with 10 and 15 round magazines, and it is evident that magazine capacity is only a small factor in public safety.

Lastly, I have to note that this article is a priori pro-legislation with an almost naive implication that legislation (whether regarding mental health, guns, or exposure to violent media at a certain age) can eliminate gun deaths/gun violence in a society. But we cannot legislate individual sanity or individual morality, and those who attempt it are most often collectivist elitists who’ve hitched a hoped-for legacy to a popular ideology.

A couple of dangers of the idea that legislation can totally rid us of violence in society is that by nature, no legislation will ever be enough, and in addition, our elitist do-gooder sets the stage for totalitarian (or fundamentalist, if you like) disciples.

Change can be good, but today’s politicians often seek to make change quickly in a race to get a bid in on a reputation or legacy.

Posted by citizen033 | Report as abusive
 

“as of 2008, armed citizens in the USA killed more violent criminals than the police (1,527 vs. 606).” FACT
Take away guns from citizens and 1,600+ more innocent people will die based on police FACTS and STATISTICS. And that does not include the million crimes prevented where no one was killed, but the civilian had a gun and used it to protect themselves. FACT

I think that about does it for the ridiculous gun control article. By the way, the only people who have guns in Somalia are the warlords and gangs. In Sudan and parts of Africa even 12 year olds have AK47′s and kill and rape at will, because the population is unarmed and cannot defend itself. FACT. “The Sandy Hook school was a known gun-free zone”. FACT All gun free zones have failed, and violent crimes have actually gone up in gun free zones. FACT. NYC has had a 50% increase in murders by knives. FACT

Posted by americanguy | Report as abusive
 

…The “right to bear arms,” Scalia wrote, only applies to “the sorts of weapons … in common use at the time” of the Second Amendment – which was 1791. What was “in common use” then?…
This is an expansion of the actual Supreme Court Syllabus which does not state “of the Second Amendment – which was 1791.” as this article insinuates. It is actually stating that the right to beaar arms applies to the sorts of weapons that are in common use of the time, meaning today or any current day in the future. So the extrapolation that only flintlocks should be legal is wrong as the most common guns of the day are now the semi automatic pistols and revolvers most often used for self protection. The other part of the syllabus related to the Washington DC law requiring that any guns that were allowed to be registered be kept in a state of dis-assembly or trigger locked at all times. This was rejected by the Supreme Court as to being in violation of the Second Amendment.
So in summary, for the author of this article to espouse a truthful, open, honest dialog and then with slight of pen, insert personal opinion in order to strengthen one side of an argument is dishonest journalism.

Posted by bondcliff | Report as abusive
 

I don’t really give a crap about what our forefathers thought of gun control. This is not the 18th century. The Concepts they laid forth were wise for their time and still are. We should strive to live up to their example.
Countries that have armed themselves heavily and created armies always use them. History points this out quite plainly.
The idea that Billy-Bob-Smith and his trusty assault rifle is going to fight the evil government, or just the criminals in the neighborhood is really pretty stupid. Makes a great action movie or video game, but a terrible society. The article is very well written and I hope the country does have a real dialog on gun control. I guess because I just don’t trust all of you red-neck Budweiser Buda’s out their.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

The notion of the NRA as a grass roots movement of gun supporters is only partially accurate. The total revenues of the NRA (for 2010, the most recent year for which figures have been released) were $228 million, and only $107 million of that came from membership dues and fees. That means that the majority of the NRA’s funds come from “other” sources, such as its “corporate giving program.” The $11 billion gun lobby spends over ten times what the gun control groups spend on campaign contributions and lobbying.

Bondcliff, if you go back and read the Heller decision, as well as the Miller decision which Heller quotes with approval, you will see that the Supreme Court’s standard is weapons “of the kind in common use at the time.” The foes of gun control wish that language would disappear, but it is there, plain as day.

Posted by iorek | Report as abusive
 

Why do the self-proclaimed historians on here keep talking about guns as if that word appears in the constitution at all. The 2nd Amendment says ‘Arms,’ not guns, not firearms. Arms. The government knows what it means by ‘arms.’ As in Arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Arms sales to Turkey, Arms sales to Egypt, Arms sales to Israel, Arms sales to Yemen. Do you think those are deliveries of rifles and handguns? Poor fools. If you think you are living the full meaning and intent of the 2nd Amendment by owning some paltry personal firearms…. good luck. The NRA is feeding you crumbs while the rich people get the cake.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

The only political problem with guns is the constant leftist assault on our natural right to keep and bear them.

Crime itself may be a political problem, but that demands that the government deal with criminals, not make more by passing malum prohibitum laws that violate an enumerated right.

The purpose stated in the Second Amendment is to keep the people in parity with government force viz small arms. While semi-auto rifles don’t quite do this, they are as close as we are likely to get.

In 1939, U.S. v Miller created a two-pronged test defining what types of small arms enjoy constitutional protection. The Court held that arms “in common use” that “bear[s] some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia” met the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment.

In 2008, the Court held in D.C. v. Heller that the Miller test was precedent as to the types of arms protected, contrary to the malignant leftist interpretation that it limited the right to a state militia.

The arms that Senator Feinstein targets for a federal ban are precisely those that meed both prongs of the Miller test, hence her proposed bill is facially unconstitutional.

Feinstein wishes to treat the right to arms as a political question. It is not. It is a constitutional one, and the Supreme Court has already spoken.

Posted by Chelley | Report as abusive
 

Looking at these comments we can see that the quote from William Butler Yeats was right. The worst commenters are the ones filled with the most passionate intensity.

Posted by iorek | Report as abusive
 

AlkalineState, are you insinuating that the second amendment allows citizens to own “Arms” of any type? If that is the case, then you just won yourself a spot on the evil government watch list. At least I sincerely hope so. Joe Six-Pack with an RPG, just what we need. That’ll make everything safe right?

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

As a member of the NRA for many years and a gun owner I am troubled by some of the pro gun arguments. It is reasonable to own an assault rifle as there are many ranges where these can be enjoyed. It is dubious if a machine gun (fully automatic) can be justified as they spray all over the place and are almost impossible to “aim” when in that mode.

Also, it would appear that to allow high arms to be born in accordance with the spirit of the Second Amendment, the militia must be “well ordered”. Having attended a couple of gun shows recently there appear to be a number of people who appeared to be extremely “dis-ordered” who were obviously purchasing weapons.

Given that a ban on all arms would only serve to increase crime as the criminals would walk the streets without fear of the armed public (which, thankfully our local Sheriff supports wholeheartedly), the questions is “How can we limit access to nut jobs?”.

Given that a gun owner has a known resident in the home who is receiving either medication or psychotherapy for a mental disorder, it would seem prudent that no weapons could be kept on the premises barring say a .45 cal 1911 type home defense pistol.

Any larger weapons could be held by the local gun club ‘in common bond’ so to say, for use by the responsible person for hunting or target shooting.

The other problem in America is lawyers. It would not bother me in the least to provide a reference from my Pastor or my Physician in order to assure the more frightened members of society that I can actually be trusted with firearms. While there would be howls of protest, the Redcoats left the US a long time ago and so
both weapons and the enemy has changed but so have we as a people.

Gone is the English Scots Welsh Irish stock and within that an underlying common understanding of how society works. So surely a compromise can be reached. The idea that small magazines mean safer streets is put to the lie by the ability to reload magazines in seconds. Also, legislation restricting magazine sizes and numbers to be held would violate too many freedoms so what can be done?

The idea of a Guarantor may work in some cases but the US is so litigious that were anyone to “go postal” after having received an “ok” from some Doctor or Physician, the lawsuits which would ensue and fall on the Guarantor’s head would simply discourage anyone from ever signing such a document in case they would be sued.

Just as lawyers have destroyed the American health system (50% of all medical costs are down to litigation and I know this as the head of a large hospital told me) so too would lawyers destroy the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

However the gun lobby, the writer included, must find an apologetic to explain how the term “well regulated” can be proven to be sound as for now no such thing exists.

From years of being around hunters and long membership of the NRA, perhaps the NRA itself should become such a regulatory body where local chapters vet the local people. That happens in our local shooting and gun club, it is expected that we follow the rules at ranges, so why not explore this route?

Posted by EotS | Report as abusive
 

To own a gun, a background check, gun safety and proficiency classes should be required without exception. Since the government does not have the funds to place armed guards everywhere, intelligent trained people with guns would be able to lessen the carnage of innocent lives by shooting the attackers. The guns, like criminals are never going to go away no matter what law you write to try to make that happen.

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive
 

tmc, I’m suggesting people should debate what the Constitution actually says, not what they want it to say. The Constitution makes no mention of guns or firearms. The Second Amendment says ‘Arms.’ When we do an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, do you think those are shipments of handguns and rifles? Are you naive?

Those are F-16′s, anti-aircraft rockets, RPG’s, munitions, guidance systems, the works. Arms. It’s not a walmart truck full of pistols and varmint guns. So why does the government sell this stuff to other people (people who would do harm to us, and have)…. but not allow its own citizens to have real arms. RPG’s don’t kill people. People kill people. No?

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Yes, I see your point. Taking that into account, I hope we learn to understand what our forefathers intended, not what some modern sophist can twist the almost ancient written word into. The theme of the article I guess.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

Since the Constitution does not mention guns or firearms, and since ‘arms’ is a much broader term than just guns (as noted above), it appears we need to go back to the drawing board regarding the meaning of the Second Amendment. Couple that with its very poor wording (‘well-regulated’ and ‘shall not be infringed…. found in the same sentence), and it’s time for some legal clarity on the matter. And I’m not talking random case law here and there. We need national legislation laying it all out. What is legal, what is not. What constitutes infringement, what is are ‘arms,’ what is a well-regulated militia. Other federal laws include definitions. The Second Amendment should also.

For the record, gun control works. We know this because the countries that have gun control have far fewer gun deaths (tens of thousands fewer each year). Also for the record, gun control when you already have 300 million guns in the population…. does not work. It can’t work. The weapons are already out there. Any effort to confiscate or ban further would be bogus. But we need a clear path going forward, and it starts with legal clarity.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

I was wondering if the author was going to cover a ban on automobiles. It seems they cause the tragic deaths of many as well.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive
 

The automobile analogies are kind of played out. Are the gun owners really asking to have point-of-sale tracking, taxing and registering of all guns, the way we do with vehicles? On every sale and re-sale? Titles filed with the county, and annual registration fees so we can track who the hit-and-run guy was?

I didn’t think so. We don’t ban cars, but we regulate the hell out of them. And we use them for a public revenue stream. Is that what you want to do with guns? Then enough on how similar they are.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

NAGR, what an appropriate abbreviation.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive
 

The problem isn’t gun politics. It’s unidentified, unregulated sociopaths. It’s a PEOPLE problem. We need to identify and lock up the nuts(politicians excepted, of course).

Anyone got an idea how to do that, now’s the time!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

From the article:The “right to bear arms,” Scalia wrote, only applies to “the sorts of weapons … in common use at the time” of the Second Amendment – which was 1791. What was “in common use” then?—That is NOT what Scalia said! Scalia said “the sorts of weapons…in common use at the time.” Not “at the time of the Constitution.” With that finding as anchor, the Court ruled a total ban on operative handguns in the home is unconstitutional, as the ban runs afoul of both the self-defense purpose of the Second Amendment – a purpose not previously articulated by the Court – and the “in common use at the time” prong of the Miller decision: since handguns are in common use, their ownership is protected. AR15′s are in common use TODAY. Get it?? Scalia himself owns a large collection of firearms and is an avid shooter, they aren’t all muskets and flintlocks. This entire article is garbage, and is intentionally lying to the public. Disgraceful….

Posted by Mastafing | Report as abusive
 

I wrote an email to my rep in Congress about two weeks ago and put >No more gun control< in the subject line. I’m not going to get into the email I wrote, but their response is below, and, I agree with it…

Thank you for contacting me in the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut to express your concern about proposals that would restrict the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans. I share your concerns.

As a father and a grandfather, my heart goes out to the parents and families of these children, and the families of the teachers and school employees whose lives were so tragically cut short. We all grieve as a nation over this senseless tragedy. We are all interested in looking for real solutions that will help prevent such tragedies in the future.

Before jumping to conclusions and possible solutions as some politicians and activists have already done, I believe that we need to develop a more complete understanding of what happened leading up to this tragedy. In particular, we need to understand more about the perpetrator and his background and mental state of mind. Too often Washington is tempted to jump quickly to conclusions and quick fixes without fully understanding the complex issues involved and adopting “solutions” that fail to address the underlying problem.

Clearly, the individual who perpetrated this terrible act (Adam Lanza) was mentally disturbed, and news sources thus far indicated that intervention was seriously lacking. The specifics of any mental or developmental disability from which he suffered must be fully understood and investigated. Understanding more detail on this subject will play a significant role in developing interventions to prevent future Adam Lanzas from carrying out such unthinkable acts.

Also, some media reports have indicated that he was on psychotropic drugs. We need to understand what drug or drugs he was on and what role, if any, these drugs may have played in his mental state and aggression. Some reports indicate that his mother was in the process of having him committed to a mental institution. Is this true? And, if so, what role may this have played? What early warning signs were there? What actions were or were not taken? What barriers to intervention exist and what changes in law might be needed to address such deficiencies?

Additionally, media reports indicated that Lanza spent a considerable amount of time playing violent first-person shooter video games. What role if any did this play particularly when combined with his mental instability, and possibly being on psychotropic prescription drugs? You may recall that serious mental problems and addiction to violent video games were also traits that investigators uncovered when investigating the murders carried out by James Holmes at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

A Washington Post poll following this tragedy reports that a majority of Americans believe that this incident reflects a larger problem in American society. Some have suggested that the culture of violence is poisoning the minds of children and these games are desensitizing children to the reality of violence. The Parents Television Council reports that the average child graduates from elementary school having seen 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 acts of violence on television. By age 18, the number of murders is up to 40,000. Can this level of exposure be a factor in already troubled youths committing aggressive acts, including murders?

The issues at hand here run deep and deserve a broader discussion and investigation. The issues involved also cross federal and state jurisdiction and thus any solutions, once we understand all of the issues at hand, may merit consideration at multiple levels.

Many long time advocates of restricting the Second Amendment began calling for more gun control in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. However, one must first consider that the state in which this took place, Connecticut, already has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country and those laws did not prevent this unthinkable act. Initial reports indicate that the firearms belonged to the shooter’s mother, who herself was a victim of Lanza. We need that part of the investigation to be completed so we know for certain whether the firearms belonged to Ms. Lanza. If they do – and were in compliance with current law – then we need to recognize that broad-base firearms laws are not likely to be effective in preventing gun violence in the future.

A common thread of serious mental imbalance, increased aggression, excessive exposure to violence through various media, and prescription psychotropic drugs, and the failure of early intervention have been a common factor in similar acts of violence.

I look forward to a complete investigation into this tragedy so that any proposed solutions are focused on the specifics of the case to address this growing concern of mentally unstable individuals and firearms crimes.

End of email…

Anyone that thinks Feinstein, Boxer, Schumer and other gun grabbers are going to waltz into DC and pass bans are sorely mistaken. There is going to be a fight.

Posted by lawgone | Report as abusive
 

Mastafing, you are misquoting Scalia’s opinion. You should take a sedative, and go back to re-read the case when you are in a calmer state of mind. “At the time” does not mean “today,” no mater how desperate you are to construe it that way. It means “at the time.” Scalia is an “original intent” jurist, and you would have a mighty hard time arguing that that James Madison intended to leave machine guns and RPGs uncontrolled on the streets of modern cities.

Posted by iorek | Report as abusive
 

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