Defense of guns
Michael Carley suggested in his Feb. 6 commentary that the Second Amendment has historically been understood as a state’s right. He may not be an attorney or constitutional scholar, but even as an institutional researcher at the college such a blunder is surprising. As the Supreme Court noted in its 2008 landmark Heller decision, the word “people” as used in the Second and other amendments refers to individuals and not states, and virtually every serious scholar has acknowledged the amendment guarantees an individual right.
The state’s right idea was cooked up about 60 years ago by activists seeking to curtail Americans’ right of self-defense.
Had a person suggested to the founders who wrote the Bill of Rights that they did not have an individual right to own or possess firearms, that person would have been tarred, feathered and run out of town.
Heller established that while the right to keep and bear arms is held by individuals it is subject to reasonable restrictions and therein lies the rub.
Limitations on constitutional rights must be narrowly drawn to achieve a compelling governmental goal, but cannot be so restrictive that they effectively eliminate the right. So the real question is: with 310 million Americans owning some 300-400 million firearms, what laws would have any realistic chance of reducing gun violence or future Sandy Hook tragedies, yet won’t cause more harm by making innocent people defenseless against violent criminals?
Carley’s statement that no one needs a military style automatic or semi-automatic assault rifle for personal protection merely shows his confusion about firearms. Automatic weapons — machine guns— have rightfully been outlawed since the 1930s. By contrast, semi-automatic firearms are legitimately used daily for self-defense, hunting and target shooting by millions of Americans.
More importantly, the so-called assault weapons ban and 10-round magazine limit would do nothing to reduce mass shootings or other gun crimes by violent criminals but would make it much harder for their victims to defend themselves.