The arms 'conversation' needs more focus

Opinion: Columns

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Dennis Walsh

The Second Amendment is comprised of one short but confusing sentence. It reads: "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" (as ratified by the states). It's too bad that the "conversation" [A conversation about weapons, Viewpoints, May 8] had so little to do with the Second Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

Scalia wrote the opinion in the D.C. v. Heller decision, which struck down D.C.'s law regulating possession of a handgun by protecting the right to possess a firearm (including handguns), unconnected to the military, for lawful purposes. The NRA has wrapped itself in that decision without acknowledging all of the content.

This is part of that decision: "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places, such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

The Second Amendment doesn't mention guns or firearms. It only says "arms." Many things fit the definition of "arms" beyond guns. Many types of arms are regulated — switch-blade knives, for example. Currently, there are regulations on various guns. Machine guns made after 1986 cannot legally be sold. The Supreme Court has ruled that the type of guns protected under the Second Amendment are part of ordinary military equipment (U.S. v. Miller). Very few soldiers are issued handguns. Issuance of a handgun to an ordinary, individual soldier is very unusual. The vast majority of those issued weapons get "assault" weapons. Does that mean handguns should be prohibited? Juveniles may not possess handguns (U.S. v. Rene E., 583 F .3d 8 1st Cir. 2009). A number of state and federal laws prohibit juveniles from possessing a handgun and prohibit people from giving, selling, loaning or renting a handgun to someone younger than 18 (e.g. target shooting, farming activities).

In the "conversation," Nil's last statement was, "One reason I feel that responsible citizens should be allowed to own sophisticated weaponry is that guns are necessary to protect ourselves from the government." Does "Nil" really think that his sophisticated weapon could possibly stop the government from taking his weapon/s away from him? Fatuous thinking. It didn't seem to work at Ruby Ridge or Waco. Will "Nil" stand his ground? Or is "Nil" a part of the "well regulated militia," marginalized by Scalia in the Heller decision? If that is true, then he must be aware of the Federalist Paper 29 (1788) in which Hamilton envisions that militia to be under the control of the "national authority." "Nil" must also be acquainted with the Militia Acts of 1792, which describe the organization of the militias and provided for the president to take command in times of imminent invasion or insurrection.

America is addicted to guns — my opinion. Our gun-related murder rate compares favorably with a number of Third World countries and far exceeds that of any other developed country. An addict must admit to the addiction before healing can begin. Until our legions of gun owners make that admission, there will be more dead. More dead children. Since the massacre at Newtown, at least 3,935 people have been killed with a gun. The vast majority are not suicide. An unfortunate number of the dead are children. (Slate: Gun Death Tally, 5/9/2013)

Reader Comments

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Pete Prokopowicz from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 10:48 PM

A quick check with Wikipedia and CDC indicates that most gun deaths ARE suicides, rather than the "vast majority" being homicides. This should be corrected in the original argument for it to be pursuasive.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 4:00 PM

Dennis - other than enforcing the existing laws preventing felons, drug addicts, violent criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing a firearm. How do you suppose that regulation of the possession of arms can be accomplished without violating the second amendment?

Hey Dennis  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 1:24 AM

I'd have to disagree with you on something. I'm no NRA member and won't be joining anytime soon but I have in fact heard harsher sentencing and conviction rhetoric from gun rights supporters than the critics. In my experience, the supporters are eager to distance themselves from those who possess and use weapons illegally and without training because of the problems they create for people who have legal intentions with the same. I've yet to see a supporter want lighter sentences and no training.

New2OP from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 7:29 PM

How come none of these opinion, opining pieces never acknowledge that "gun violence" is half of what it was 20 years ago and the lowest it has been in 50 years? We are moving in the right direction, but it has had nothing to do with gun control

Dennis Walsh from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 5:56 PM

I wrote about regulating the possession of arms - not prohibition of firearms Typical knee jerk NRA defense tries to reframe the argument. As long as they keep the spot light on "shall not be infringed" and "evil government taking your gun", the core issues of the gun problem remain in shadow. The NRA never addresses those issues of America's "gun problem" -- the homicide rate via use of a gun.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 9:11 AM

Dennis, history is filled with people revolting against a superior armed govt. Gun homicides in the US are largely thugs killing other thugs. Around 80% of the murders in Chicago are gang related. How is banning firearms for the vast majority going to stop inner city violence?

Parks from Kyle  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 8:54 AM

imited to either curtailing this our most basic of Fundamental Civil Human Rights or dealing with crime after it occurs. I for one will not voluntarily give up my rights.

Parks from Kyle  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 8:52 AM

This is what I heard: Blah, blah, blah, blah, gun owners have an illness (addiction), guns bad... Same, tired old anti rights diatribe you get from every Lefty. I'm really not given enough characters to retort properly. So I'll just say this, I am truly saddened that people use their Fundamental Civil Rights to hurt, kill and maim innocent people and they should make it illegal to kill people without just cause. Barring our ability to determine a crime will occur before it does the choices are l

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:58 PM

Four thousand people have died as a result of gunfire since December. The vast majority were committed with handguns by criminals who cannot legally own a gun under current law. Yet in Cook County we fail to prosecute those who illegally possess firearms. We fail to prosecute those who illegally transfer firearms. We fail to submit mental health records to the national instant criminal background system. Instead we must restrict or ban legal owners who want to protect themselves from thugs.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:25 PM

Mr. Walsh there has been a long history of regulation of firearms in the United States. The Heller decision acknowledges this but it also acknowledges that the outright ban on handguns is unconstitutional. This has nothing to do with the military and nothing to do with machine guns. It has everything to do with a citizen's right to self defense. The semiautomatic handgun is the preferred weapon of choice and thus the D.C., Chicago and Oak Park bans on handguns were unconstitutional.

MeMike from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 11:06 PM

http://goo.gl/TDatP

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