Editor: The General Assembly has finally taken a small step forward to address the problem of gun violence. Despite the well-attended rally a few months ago on the capitol grounds by those opposing even minimal, commonsense gun legislation, the legislators are to be commended and we should consider rewarding them at the next election for their principled stand. Their opponents surely will as well.
Second Amendment absolutists cite the Second Amendment as the basis for their implacable opposition to public action to impose restraints on the deadly proliferation of guns, particularly handguns. They base their opposition on three principal arguments: A limited and mistaken reading of the Second Amendment. They argue that even modest regulation will cost lives, as alleged by the slogan, “Guns Save Lives,” although no reliable evidence is offered to support that contention. Finally, they argue that even limited gun regulation would not prevent any of the shocking mass shootings that have devastated families all over the country. In other words, unless control regulations can prevent all mass shootings, they’re useless, “feel good” measures that will paradoxically cost more lives, as citizens are deprived of their individual means of defense, while also being deprived of their fundamental Constitutional rights.
First, this argument is an all or nothing version of letting the “perfect be the enemy of the good.” If regulation of guns doesn’t bring shootings to a complete halt, we should do nothing.
Secondly, gun rights advocates should actually read the Second Amendment. It’s only three lines in length, and opens by referring to a “well-regulated Militia” as “necessary to the security of a free state …” In other words, it is a right of “the people,” understood as a corporate body, not an individual.
The preamble of the amendment clearly suggests that the purpose of the right to “bear arms” is to ensure the security of the community as a “free state.” This is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the militia is “well-regulated,” e.g., in control of local militia members and their use, storage, and maintenance of weapons. Moreover, those bearing arms are members of a “well-regulated militia” are in support of an over-riding public policy interest, namely, the “security of a free state.” This is not framed as the sole responsibility of individual militia members, but the common purpose of a “well-regulated” militia.
Nowhere is individual security or home protection mentioned. Indeed, during the colonial period, a significant portion of the population consisted of young, indentured servants, and most adults didn’t have the financial means to own a gun, and most guns were publicly owned, housed in local arsenals to be dispensed for community militia drills or during security emergencies when deemed necessary by community leaders.
The issue of gun control is very divisive, and perhaps in need of a panel drawn from interested members of the community and organizations representing various viewpoints, and moderated by a respected member of the local community.
Randy Ihara, South Riding