Friday, June 27, 2008

The 2nd Amendment For Better & Worse

Like any orthodox defender of the Bill Of Rights, I have to support the Supreme Court decision from Thursday regarding the Second Amendment, despite the reality that it opens up some safety issues for American society. The D.C. local law banning handguns was an unconstitutional attempt by a local city government to illegally amend the U.S. Constitution and strike down one part of the Bill Of Rights without the benefit of a national constitutional convention or the approval by two thirds of states. The narrow 5 to 4 majority did leave the door open to some sensible regulations preventing criminals or the mentally ill from acquiring guns or perhaps those that would seek to own dangerous military type weapons. The Second Amendment allows for the ownership of guns by law abiding citizens, but probably there is room to ban those in the public who would argue that they should also have the right to own dangerous military weapons of mass death such as machine guns, bombs, hand grenades, flamethrowers or other military weapons, except in nonfunctional form as military history items.

What I'm very concerned about is the Supreme Court decision still hardly represents some new orthodox commitment by the court to fully honor the Bill Of Rights at face value, or to only allow for abridgements of portions of the Bill Of Rights once a constitutional convention or two thirds of states have approved some constitutional amendment. The best example of this is the wide number of unconstitutional local, state and federal laws that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to abridge the First Amendment when it allowed "local communities" to determine what sort of free expression should be tolerated. Certainly not everything said in the name of free speech is either attractive or even desirable, but on the face reading of the Bill Of Rights, government was never intended to act as final editor on what can be said in American society. The founding fathers would have never ever allowed such a slippery and dangerous standard as "local community standards" to abridge free expression. If the founding fathers ever even approved of any limitations on freedom of speech or religion, then it would have been reflected by an established single national standard and not some dangerous patchwork of local communities taking it on themselves to ban any speech that some local prosecutor has his own moral objections to.

Even though I recognize that the Bill Of Rights protects the right of law abiding citizens to own guns, the public still must understand that guns do cause problems in society. My grandmother's own 16 year old brother was killed by his gun when he fell during a hunting accident, and my sister's own husband has lifelong disabilities due to an accidental rifle accident as a child. For his entire life, he faces some physical limitations because of the serious amount of damage a gun can do to a child. And many other families will have suicides or domestic disputes complicated by guns. Guns will be stolen during home burglaries and used in armed robberies or other incidents. Guns are more likely to cause domestic household problems, rather than to prevent rare acts of crime such as home invasion robberies.

American society will certainly suffer more than benefit because of guns, however there is still a constitutional right to own them that I support. But I'm also concerned that some of the biggest supporters of gun rights sometimes have some serious mental health or anger management issues. Most of the men who purchased gun magazines or books in a general title bookstore business I once owned deeply disturbed me because you could tell that they had some real issues. Unfortunately, some very dangerous persons are sometimes attracted to guns. I know of a case where a mentally ill person twice lied on gun applications and acquired guns and opened fire on traffic for no good reason and was found not guilty due to mental defect twice by a jury. How society can address these issues are more complicated. "Gun morality" is a complicated issue for American society to keep the screwballs or children from hurting themselves or others, while allowing the real adults in society the right to own a gun for legal and legitimate reasons.

I'm certainly no big fan of guns, in fact I'm a big critic of guns. However the orthodox intent of the Bill Of Rights never allowed for any local government to enact a blanket ban on guns. The local D.C. law which stood for 32 years and was intended to help put some curbs on local violence was an imperfect attempt at keeping some semblance of order in a city with a very serious crime problem as well as an effort to offer better protection to the legislators and other who manage the federal government in that city.

The job of security for elected government officials in Washington may well become more complicated because of this imperfect, but correct ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. This court new decision hardly makes the job of police agencies to control screwballs or terrorists any easier, but the court made the right call on the unconstitutional D.C. law.

Unfortunately the NRA is planning a number of lawsuits to attempt to remove some of the restrictions on mass killing weapons such as assault weapons in the wake of this new court ruling. However, it would certainly be in the best benefits of society not to increase the number weapons owned by the public, as almost certainly suicides, accidents, domestic problems and crime could certainly increase as a result. There is a need for real personal restraint here and not to worsen society just because the U.S. Supreme Court made a correct decision that one local government went to far in an attempt to assert some sort of public safety.

I'm very happy not to be a gun owner. I only hope those that choose to own a gun have the right mental health and anger management skills and personal responsibility not to injure themselves or others with the freedom they enjoy under the Bill Of Rights that the court affirmed on Thursday.


At 12:34 PM, Blogger Bill Baker said...

Assault weapons are not mass killing machines. The term assualt weapon is a manufactured term. Fully auto weapons are already banned and they well should be, but the so called assualt rifle is just a cosmetic term. The term makes rifles with certain features that do not benefit the shooter in anyway sound bad. A legal AR-15 is no different then a .30-06. As for hand grenades, flame throwers and RPG's they are not guns, two are expolsives and the other is a military weapon.

The assault weapons bill that failed to get going died for this reason. One it was proven to not deter any crime. Two the Democrats added almost all normal hunting rifles to this bill.


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