The Supreme Court has agreed to hear, for the first time since 1939, a Second Amendment case, this time to arbitrate the constitutionality of individual rights to keep guns in their homes. By agreeing to review the District of Columbia’s Federal Appeals Court ruling the right to keep and bear arms is an individual one, thereby declaring unconstitutional the District of Columbia’s ban on hand guns, the court may shed light on the long standing controversy over the amendment’s meaning.
The anti-gun faction insists quite vocally that the clause “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” references a state militia. The original version of this clause contained but one comma after the word “State” — the later addition of the first and third placed commas would not have survived the red pencil of my high school English teacher.
Grammatical faux pas aside, I am not a constitutional scholar but, I have mastered sufficiently not only the ability to read but also to comprehend the meaning of the written word without reading into it that which is not the author’s intent. Accordingly, I am inclined to view “the people” described in the Second Amendment to be the same as those in the First and Fourth and to whom those rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth. To assume the framers assigned a meaning to the Second other than as stated defies logic.
Those who would restrict firearms to military or police use along with those would ban selected or blanket manufacture and sale of handguns in particular are victims of fear, misinformation and illogic and, of course the already armed thugs. Admittedly, firearms in the wrong hands or handled carelessly are a danger; however, gun ownership by law abiding citizens, whether for self protection, recreational shooting, hunting or collecting is protected.
Opponents of basic gun rights assert that banning firearms in general and handguns in particular is the panacea to end all gun crimes, citing biased studies and statistics as evidence. In deaths involving children for example, the gun control lobby uses Center for Disease Control data which include those 19 and under, willfully ignoring that 80 percent of these are homicides committed by criminals 15 to 19 years of age. Of accidental deaths during 2000, children 14 and under were ten times more likely to die from drowning than by gunshot.
Other ploys implemented by the anti-gun lobby are demonizing the National Rifle Association along with attacks on ownership of “assault weapons.” The former is a classic fear-mongering smear tactic as the objectives of the NRA are firearms education and training, gun safety, certifying instructors and recommending mandatory prison terms for those who commit crimes while in possession of firearms. Where is the demon?
The anti-assault rifle crowd, most of whom have not the foggiest notion of what comprises such a weapon, declare them both unsafe and unnecessary, as legitimate hunters would shun their use. In that, I agree inasmuch as hunters are too knowledgeable of shooting commensurate with the game being sought to carry a rifle exceeding the firepower and weight required.
To those adamantly opposed to private ownership of firearms, I must respectfully disagree. In addition to the hunter, the home protector, the recreational shooter, the collector and the investor all have a legitimate right to be protected by the Second Amendment. The much maligned “assault rifle” owner may shoot at targets or tin cans as desired. Education and safety training are a better answer.
Any notion that outlawing private gun ownership would cause us to be safer in our homes or person is foolish to the point of inanity. The only persons who would obey such an edict are the law abiding among us who are at the most risk. One who assumes the armed criminal who is already carrying in defiance of the law to conform is, to put it succinctly, a Twilight Zone reject. The last time I looked, crimes of murder, robbery, assault, drive-by shooting and rape were all violations of established law with no portent of stoppage.
The Second Amendment is not broken — the Supreme Court should recognize it.
J. Karl Miller retired as colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.