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Sunday, December 16, 2012

End the Madness

The death toll from the United States’ love affair with weapons just keeps mounting. The latest carnage is twenty small children and the six teachers and staff who futilely tried to save them from a lone, crazed gunman, heavily armed with automatic weapons legally purchased by the gunman’s mother. Oh, and also the gunman’s mother, a gun lover, who was her son’s first victim.

The Second Amendment and recent Supreme Court opinions, District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), are used to buttress the claim that every Tom, Dick and Harriet has the Constitutional right to buy and carry guns.

In 1791 when the Second Amendment was adopted guns were made by a gunsmith as single-shot weapons, loaded through the muzzle, fired by a flintlock, with rudimentary rifling. Now gun lovers, like the latest shooter’s mother, can easily buy all sorts of guns, including automatic weapons. Along with lots of ammunition for quickly re-arming those weapons.

We are seeing how well the rigid and some would say poorly thought-out application of this particular Constitutional provision is working out.

Meanwhile, journalists engage in speculation about why the gunman would shoot children. Who cares why? What about crazy do we not understand? And if we knew the gunman’s reasons would it make any difference? I don’t think so.

What would have made a difference is if the gunman had not had easy access to automatic weapons meant for killing lots of people quickly.
In a dissent in the Supreme Court’s Heller case, Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Souter, Ginsberg, and Breyer, engaged in legal analysis that sensibly construed the Second Amendment:

The Amendment’s text does justify a different limitation: the “right to keep and bear arms” protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia. Had the Framers wished to expand the meaning of the phrase “bear arms” to encompass civilian possession and use, they could have done so by the addition of phrases such as “for the defense of themselves”.

Those who favor gun control urge immediate action to try to avoid future tragedies like the one in Connecticut, and the many other places whose names now are identified with this horror.

 Those who uphold unlimited “gun rights” send their condolences to the families and urge prayer.

God helps those who help themselves. I’m asking my legislators and President to put an end to unlimited rights for those who would use guns for domestic terrorism or senseless violence.

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