Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Second Amendment and you

So today the Supreme Court issued its' ruling about the Chicago gun ban. It found, as expected, that the Heller decision guaranteeing an indivual right to bear arms, extends to states as well- or "incorporated". I am not a lawyer so I can't speak to the many intricate and convoluted points in the ruling. But I can pick out some things the Justices said that make sense or not. First of all, consider this quote from Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opionion: referring to whether the second amendment is binding on states and cities" limits ( but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values".

Now if I take that at its' literal interpretation, I might even say that the statement defends the city of Chicago in its' gun ban. One would think that the city of Chicago first established the gun ban because of all of the senseless gun violence in their city. That was the city's way of devicing a solution to social problems that suited their own local needs and values. But Justice Alito chose his words to mean that the individual right is binding and may limit some things cities can do- gun bans for example. Are you following my line of reasoning?

Amazingly, the 5-4 majority read the same words of the second amendment, crafted by our founding fathers, and found something very different from that of the minority. Here are the words of Justice John Paul Stevens from today's New York Times, writing for the minority: " “The reasons that motivated the framers to protect the ability of militiamen to keep muskets available for military use when our nation was in its infancy, or that motivated the Reconstruction Congress to extend full citizenship to freedmen in the wake of the Civil War, have only a limited bearing on the question that confronts the homeowner in a crime-infested metropolis today."

Contrast those words with Justice Alito, again, writing for the majority: "..the right to self-defense protected by the Second Amendment is fundamental to the American conception of ordered liberty. Like other provisions of the Bill of Rights that set out such fundamental protections, he said, the Second Amendment must be applied to limit not only federal power but also that of state and local governments."

So, are you still confused? I know I am. All these years, I have believed that the idea behind the Second Amendment was to grant indivuals the right to have their guns in case of a national emergency requiring people to form a "militia" and come to the aide of the government, if needed. But those days are long gun when that sort of thing would be necessary. We now have a National Guard to take care of that. Nonetheless, I have had debates with gun rights folks who actually believe that the right to bear arms applies to all citizens who have a responsibility to arm themselves in case they need to rise up against the government. This is certainly a very different interpretation and frankly, scares me a lot. This view borders on the possibility of insurrection and more.

I was happy to hear that the majority opinion did not give license to the gun lobby, with all the power they have, to overturn all gun laws. What a travesty that would be. Imagine this: overturning the Brady Law which requires background checks on all gun sales at licensed dealers. Since 1994, the Brady Law has stopped over 1.6 million prohibited people from buying guns from licensed dealers. So then, just anyone could buy any kind of gun from anyone and use it just anywhere. How will this affect you? How could it not? More criminals, domestic abusers, terrorists and dangerously mentally ill people would be able to get guns anywhere they want. How about changing the requirements for permit to carry laws so that just anyone can carry anywhere with no training requirements, no background check or no restrictions on where they may carry or how often the permit needs to be renewed. This would be tantamount to overturning seatbelt and airbag laws which we now know to save lives.

Supreme Court decisions do affect all of us in subtle and very overt ways. If you want to allow dangerous people to have more guns than ever in more places than ever, you like this decision. If you believe that reasonable restrictions should be applied to guns and gun owners, you don't like this decision. But even the majority in both the Heller and McDonald cases made sure to note that reasonable restrictions on firearms can apply as well as to who can have guns and where they can be, etc. Though there can be no more gun bans, there can be gun laws. The idea that those on the side of "gun control" want to ban guns ( which we don't) is off the table. No more slippery slope argument.

This could be considered a victory of sorts for the gun lobby. They may have won this battle, but they have not won the war. They will challenge state gun laws at great cost, as admitted to by Justice Alito. But, oh well. Hundreds of cases have been brought to courts by the gun lobby since the Heller case and by criminals trying to shorten sentences, challenge local gun laws or fight a gun charge against them. But not one case has been won using the Heller decision. The same will happen with this ruling. Common sense will prevail, in the end. The reason it will prevail is because the majority of Americans understand that guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do at the rate of 30,000 a year with another 60,000 more injuries. Guns do terrible damage to families and communities alike. Our elected leaders understand this at the gut level but many are still unwilling to challenge the gun lobby who has convinced them that their power is unlimited.

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