Guns & America

Last January, after Jared Lee Loughner shot Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, seriously wounding her and killing or injuring 19 others, Clarence Dupnik, sheriff of Pima County where it happened, told a TV interviewer that the law allowing Loughner to carry a concealed handgun anywhere (which he had purchased legally despite a history of mental illness) was “the height of insanity” and added, “I don’t know what else they [gun proponents] can do. Maybe they could pass a law that would require that every child have an Uzi in their crib.”

On the other hand, Charles Heller, co-founder of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said that citizens carrying guns were what had saved Gabrielle Giffords: “The reason the perpetrator was caught was because of rapid action of the citizen militia. And it’s crucial, it’s vital, if a guy like that was to get loose and reload, it’s crucial to have armed people ready to defeat him.”

That kind of polarized reaction occurs every time there’s a big incident involving guns in the United States. Why? How did it get this way? How did we come to stand alone among advanced nations in both our love of guns and our disagreement about them? We really are unique in that way. Americans own nearly 300 million guns, and our rates of gun-related homicide are at least five times as great as in other advanced nations.

The story of our love-hate affair with guns turns out to be as old as the European settlement of America. When the first Europeans arrived they found a dangerous wilderness where they had to hunt to eat and always had to be ready to defend themselves in a land without laws. By 1650 they had gotten so in the habit of defending themselves that a Connecticut law required that “every male person … shall have in continuall readines[s], a good musk[e]t or other gunn, fitt for service,” and all the colonies had similar laws to make possible their localized assemblages of fighting forces, known as militias.

By the time of the Revolutionary War, guns represented not only protection against man and nature as well as a source of food but also freedom against English oppressors. King George had the British Army; Americans had their personal guns and militias. In the words of historian Clayton E. Cramer, “Americans used guns initially as tools for individual self-protection and hunting, but by the time of the American Revolution, firearms became symbols of citizenship, intimately tied to defending political rights. Gun ownership was not universal in early America—but in every period, in every region … gun ownership in our nation’s early history was the norm—not the exception.”

When 1,800 British troops marched toward Concord, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775, 3,700 militiamen turned out with their guns to oppose them, and the armed rebels struck terror in the hearts of the British. Later in the Revolution, the Pennsylvania rifle, invented by a Swiss immigrant for hunting, gave Americans a big advantage over the British and their Brown Bess muskets. George Washington even had his troops wear hunting shirts because the British thought any American who hunted was “a complete Marksman.”

Americans appreciated their guns as crucial to their liberty. That’s why the second of the first ten amendments— the Bill of Rights—decrees that “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.” On the other hand a national army was seen as a potential source of tyranny. That’s why the Third Amendment, almost forgotten today, says, “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

After the Revolution, in the early republic, “hunting and fishing probably were the chief American sports,” in the words of historian Richard Hofstadter. “For millions of American boys, learning to shoot and, above all, graduating from toy guns and receiving the first real rifle of their own were milestones of life, veritable rites of passage that certified their arrival at manhood.” As the nation itself reached adulthood, it did so by rapidly becoming more urban and industrialized. The rise of industrialization was very much about guns, too, as weapons makers in New England showed the way from individual craftsmanship to the use of interchangeable parts and assembly-line production.

Many of the boys who grew up with guns in the early nineteenth century went on to become the conquerors of the Wild West, where the role of guns became part of legend. When movies came along, the Western hero, always ready to draw and shoot, became a central part of American popular culture, and he was followed by the private eye, the gritty cop, and the gangster hero. Films from The Great Train Robbery to High Noon to Bonnie and Clyde to Reservoir Dogs have never stopped immortalizing the American love affair with the gun.

If the central place of guns in American life goes back to the beginning, gun control has a much shorter history. Outside of the Second Amendment, there was no major federal gun legislation until 1934 when Congress passed the National Firearms Act. President Franklin Roosevelt championed that law as a way to fight organized crime, and it did so by putting prohibitive taxes on machine guns, silencers, and other tools of hoodlums. A Federal Firearms Act in 1938 added licensing for anyone wanting to sell firearms and record-keeping of who bought guns.

Nothing much more happened in the way of gun laws until 1968 when, in the wake of the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., a Gun Control Act took effect expanding the requirements for licenses and record-keeping and adding to the list of those, such as convicted felons and drug users, who couldn’t legally buy guns. Since then, there has been a slew of laws, some of them—such as the 1986 Firearms Owner’s Protection Act—easing restrictions, and others—such as the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act—tightening them. It has been estimated that today there are altogether more than 20,000 federal, state, and local laws regulating guns. It’s a bewildering patchwork.

Not until the passage of the 1968 law and the growth of urban crime to record levels in the 1970s and ’80s did guns and gun control become a big political issue. The National Rifle Association (NRA) was barely political at all for most of its existence. Founded in 1871 by a group of Civil War veterans who wanted to improve marksmanship among Americans, it only started a legislative affairs division in 1934 when the National Firearms Act was before Congress. The NRA made its first presidential endorsement in 1980, supporting Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter. But today, with more than 4 million members, it is often cited as the most powerful lobbying organization in the nation. It spent $10 million on the 2008 presidential election, and, in 2011, Wayne LaPierre, its chief executive, said of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Attorney General Eric Holder, “Why should I or the NRA go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?”

That Second Amendment may itself be a main cause of the extreme polarization that LaPierre’s statement reflects. If guns are a central part of our history, of our tradition of standing up against oppressors, and of our sense of freedom to defend ourselves and to enjoy our lands, then the Second Amendment is the defining document certifying their place in our lives. But it is a very disappointing document, too, in that nobody can agree on what it means. If anything, it creates more problems than it solves.

Constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson wrote that “no one has ever described the Constitution as a marvel of clarity, and the Second Amendment is perhaps one of the worst drafted of all its provisions. What is special about the Amendment is the inclusion of an opening clause—a preamble if you will—that seems to set out its purpose. No similar clause is part of any other Amendment.” That opening preamble, of course, is “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” which is followed by “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” What does that mean, about a militia? Does it tell us that the amendment only means to protect ownership of guns for collective military use, or, to the contrary, does the second part of the amendment confirm that we can own guns, period?

No one ever gave a definitive answer until 2008 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, but even then the court mainly proved that it, too, was bitterly divided over the matter. The District of Columbia had passed a law banning ownership of handguns and requiring that people who owned rifles and shotguns keep them unloaded and locked or disassembled. A group of gun owners had appealed the law up through lower courts to the highest bar in the land.

The Supreme Court split five to four. In the majority opinion, Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, wrote that the amendment’s words plainly “guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” He added that the preamble “does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”

Justice John Paul Stevens, in the main dissenting opinion, wrote that the decision was based on “a strained and unpersuasive reading” that “bestowed a dramatic upheaval of the law.” He also complained, “The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons … I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice.”

So there remains as profound disagreement as ever over just what the Second Amendment means and how broad the fundamental American right to own guns really is. That disagreement will probably never go away. However, though the 2008 decision came out firmly in favor of gun ownership rights, it has not noticeably changed the landscape of gun control laws. Since it was issued there have been more than 80 suits filed to overturn gun laws; few if any of them have succeeded.

Pro- and anti-gun forces continue to quarrel, flaunting competing and conflicting statistics about whether the prevalence of guns in American society makes us more or less safe. But in a land where guns are a central part of our heritage, where we prize individualism and self-reliance, but also where the violence done by guns vastly exceeds that of any other advanced nation, the sides in the eternal gun debate will likely never fully agree. Still, they surely can get along better.

Sanford Levinson wrote his landmark study of the Second Amendment partly to convince his fellow liberals that they should stop jumping to the conclusion that the amendment narrows the right to gun ownership. He concluded by writing, “Perhaps ‘we’ might be led to stop referring casually to ‘gun nuts’ just as, maybe, members of the NRA could be brought to understand the real fear that the currently almost uncontrolled system of gun ownership sparks in the minds of many whom they casually dismiss as ‘bleeding-heart liberals.’ Is not, after all, the possibility of serious, engaged discussion about political issues at the heart of what is most attractive in both liberal and republican versions of politics?”

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  • Charles Davis

    Your article seems to quickly skirt over the intent of our founding fathers constitutional amendments regarding firearms ownership. Most people seem to agree that the original writers were a deeply religious people that felt individual rights were god given essential rights and the government’s job was to protect those rights. They wrote the10 amendments in 1791 to protect those rights. Thought out the document they refer to us as “WE THE PEOPLE”. Most people accept this concept except in the case of the second amendment by anti firearms people. Their convoluted logic is that in the second amendment, WE THE PEOPLE really is referring to the “National Guard” founded much later in 1891. This of course is ridiculous. It was written to insure that the right of self-defense not be taken away by a government mandate. Some statistics by the” National center for health statistics” that you omitted in your article might be of interest.

    * Approx 80,million Americans exercise their constitutional rights to Keep and Bear arms. They use them for Hunting, collecting, personal protection and target shooting (A international sport). Misuse of these legally owned firearms is less then 0.2%.

    * Fatalities in the USA have dropped 67% in the last 50 years.

    * You are twice as like to accidentally die from choking as from firearms

    * You are three times as like to die from drowning.

    * You are 32 times as likely to die in an automobile accident.

    * 2,5 million American citizens use a legal firearm every year to stop a crime. Many times no shots are fired.

    While driving a car is more 32 times more dangerous then a firearm, it is not protected by the constitution. Owning a firearm is a constitution right if you chose. If you agree with the right to keep and bear arms, joining the NRA is a great way to project your views to politicians.
    Charles Davis
    A certified Firearms instructor in Massachusetts

  • Robert Staurovsky

    Mr. Sanford Levinson wrote to his fellow liberals about the 2nd Amendment, I have a question for him, why is it that most of the people in Congress that want “GUN CONTROL” are of the Jewish Faith? After what Hitler did to the Jewish People in World War II, you would think these would these people would be the last people on earth that would want Gun Control. I and my fellow NRA members don’t understand this at all, maybe he or someone of the Jewish Faith could explain the reason or reasons they would want to disarm themselves and other people.
    My family lost a family member in World War II in Germany fighting for the freedoms of this country and the freedoms of the people of Europe, so we know first hand what the 2nd Amendment means and NO one will take it away from us. We as a family hold it very dearly to our hearts and we shall protect it at all costs. My Dad, three of my uncles fought in World War II, my brother fought in Bosnia, I and brother-in-law were in the service, his son is a combat wounded vet from the Middle East after two tours. So we as a family have done our part in the military, now it’s time for the politicians to send their children into the next conflict and see how it is not knowing if little Johnny or Mary is coming home in a body bag.
    So if some politician thinks he or she they are going to take away “OUR” 2nd Amendment, be warned, it belongs to “WE THE PEOPLE”, not you the politicians!!!

  • Cody Donald Grundy

    I appreciated, as a sportsman, collector and career soldier, the remarkable moderation shown by Mr. Allen in his article. He was obviously at pains to deal with a controversial subject with balance and attention to history. My thanks to the editorial staff for publishing his effort.

    The issue of gun control largely comes down to the heritage of this country being contested by people who honestly feel they can legislate the behavior of others. People who attack gun ownership, as pointed out by Mr. Allen, appear unknowing and/or uncaring of the nation’s traditions. I submit that they also feel they can somehow turn our society into a British society by legislating away the legal ownership of the tools we used to get rid of British domination. Changing people is, I feel, delusional. Taking away my firearms will merely render me defenseless in the face of people who would never possess their firearms legally, anyway. The thugs would realize how much easier it would be to attack the law-abiding, without fear of danger to themselves.

    The issue of wording, and reference to militia, is quite understandable to the student of American history. In the early colonies, the only standing army was the occasional unit of the British Army, grudgingly committed by London to our defense against, usually, France. The colonists knew that their real defense was their own manpower, who were required to be enrolled as members of the militia, to provide their own arms and their own ammunition, and to be subject to whatever organization and training their particular local governments required. Were these men really soldiers? Not in the sense that they gave a sense of comfort to professional British officers under whose orders they occasionally came. But were they effective? Very much so–I’m reminded of the bitter words of a British Army officer during the Revolution, who wrote his family that he and his troops only had safety on the ground they physically occupied–the rebel militia controlled the countryside. I submit that such a situation was very much in the minds of our founding fathers. Armed citizens were our trump card.

    I did a career in the regular army, and I always felt that my boyhood training in shooting and hunting made me a far better soldier and officer. The army never had the range time really needed to make expert riflemen of our soldiers, so those of us who already knew how to handle weapons were invaluable in the training of those who had no such experience.

    Again, my compliments to Mr. Allen and to the Saturday Evening Post for speaking for the Nation’s and the citizen’s defense and right/ability to defend what is precious. If we ever give away our rights, or allow them to be legislated away, there is no one else on earth to stand in our defense.

  • Sam McGirt

    Despite all the chest beating statements by gun advocates, one fact remains: One cannot walk the streets of America, nor in many areas, even remain in their homes free from the fear of being shot by some thug. And the suggestion that everyone, including the elderly, children and mentally impaired should protect themselves is asinine.
    The most enjoyable part of my recent trips to both Italy and England was being able to walk the streets of large cities without fear of losing my life. That said, the Second Amendment, no matter how ignorant or outdated, will stand until Americans will finally think for themselves rather than listen to the gun lobby and make a change.
    Since it appears that most guns used by thugs are stolen, rather than being purchased legally, I think part of the solution would be a law requiring gun owners to keep all but one weapon in a gun safe or safe room. I also think the NRA should make this proposal, which should satisfy the gun manufacturer’s lobby because they can manufacture or re-label gun safes and increase their sales. That is basically what protecting the Second Amendment is all about anyway.

  • Suzi Hargens

    Although the Constitution was written many years ago – at a time when things were much different – we have no way of knowing how these same men would word it today. Although I personally want no part of being armed – I would not deny that right to others.
    But I do think our many laws should be rewritten into one encompassing law that would then be enforced. For instance – strict licensing should be enacted – and people with mental problems should never be allowed to purchase guns. Charles Heller in the article said citizen militia is what prevented Loughner from firing more. But if purchasing restrictions had been followed – he would not have been able to purchase a gun in the first place.
    Also the sale of bazookas and other extra large guns are never used for hunting – only for killing people.
    So I believe guns should be available – but some common sense should also be used on the whole matter.

  • Les Milewski

    Guns in America December 3rd 2011

    The anti gun groups often cite statistics that show gun related deaths here are the highest among progressive nations in the world. The countries cited in this comparison are those who severely restrict, or outright ban, private ownership of guns.
    Of course we’re the highest. When both the good and the bad have guns, there’s going to be more deaths. The difference is that the increase in deaths is on the bad guys side, while the victims side actually will be lower.
    Take the case where the attacker has a knife or baseball bat and the victim is unarmed. Chalk up one death of an innocent person who, poor guy, doesn’t even get counted in the gun related deaths count. But suppose the intended victim had a gun? Now, we have a gun related death involving a living innocent person and a dead criminal. Those kind of increases I can live with anytime.
    How about running a comparison between the bad guy/good guy deaths? Divide the criminal deaths by the innocent victims deaths. That eliminates population differences between the various countries. I’ll bet America would come out way ahead. It’s quite logical, arm the victims and less of them will die.
    There’s also articles where the writer states the intended victim should flee rather the stand his/her ground. Those same writers never suggest the aggressor should flee when the tide changes and the intended victim produces a gun.

    Les Milewski
    9091 St Andrews Dr
    Seminole, Florida. 33777
    (727)397-8483
    LesMiles@aol.com

  • john l mccowen

    lets ban… pocket knives…base ball bats … golf clubs…beer bottles…poisen…drowning…arsen…human hands …hammers… axes…suffocation and more… all have been used illegally and accidently to effect death of humans and desatreoy properth…

  • john l mccowen

    what amazes me is these persons who …(some of them have been to school 20 yrs) … can`t read one sentence of english and get the meaning ..”THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS “and then for Fredick Allen to ask what does that mean…please mother give me a break !!freddie you need to go back to school!…And then there is Sanford Levinson… who claims to be a constitutional scholar …says the constitution is not clear…however… it is very clear… except for those who want to change its meaning..
    I asked a group of 5th graders what the sentence “the right of the people to keep and bear arms ” ment… they” ALL” replyed that it ment that the people shold pe prepaired to protect thier self , thier home and thier freedom and country …one ii yr girl said that the constitution was the heart of America and it beat for the feedom of us all even those that were misguided and hated America……. did you get that the consititution is like your heart … take it away and America will die…take your heart away and you die !!

  • john j hall

    Living in New York State my Second Amendment rights are trampled on too much right now without liberal politicians making it any worse.There are no restrictions on carry permits in the penal code,yet liberal judges can issue restrictions based on the locality in which one lives.I live in Orange county and my permit is basically a sporting permit for hunting,fishing,trapping and hiking.Sullivan and Ulster counties,which border Orange county, issue full carry permits as does Dutchess county which is right across the Hudson river.Orange,Rockland and Westchester counties all have restricted permits yet must honor permits issued by other counties so in my opinion it makes no sense for them to issue restricted permits.
    This is just another example of personal liberties being trampled upon by liberal politicians.As in Orwell’s books”BIG BROTHER is watching.

  • William

    I cant understand why the person-Sanford Levinson– has trouble understanding the 2nd. amendment ?? Its written in good old english! Of course when you go to most schools now they try to teach you how to tear things apart to mean something else. (( Whats the meaning of -IS- ? )))) He just needs to settle down and speak plain english— It means exactly what it says. period

  • john j hall

    Re Justice John Paul Steven’s comment “The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.” He should read and UNDERSTAND the second Amendment.To ensure all law abiding citizens the guarantee to the rights of the second Amendment the Framers meant to Prohibit elected officials from infringing upon these rights.
    Elected officials should ENFORCE the laws which already exist and go after the people who own guns illegally and use them for criminal purposes.Since this does not happen I should be able to protect myself.

    Sincerely,
    John J Hall

  • John Augustas

    Without guns there would be no America. The gun by itself is completely useless; SOME-BODY has to load it, aim it and pull the trigger.

  • cmdolly

    I am all for every sane, law abiding american who desires to own a gun be able to do so..
    Hope we never forget Adolph Hitler…Germany’s citizens were disarmed….
    I totally agree with Joe Steiner….also Roger Pervere….Right on gentlemen

  • Roger Pervere

    All I have to say is that people need to study the real American history, not what they are fed in our schools. The second amendment is very understandable if one knows that real history. Without private ownership of firearms we would be ruled by England and we would never have been able to settle the west. Most of our problems today come from people that do not know the true American history! Our schools have been taken over by those that hate America and our children are being taught that they are citizens of the world and all sorts of things that we that love God do not approve of. Worst of all we are looseing our FREEDOMS to those voltures running this country! Militia’s were made up of private citizens that would grab their rifle at a moments notice and be ready to defend their town or village and were not controlled by any local government but by a well known leader among themselves.

  • Gerald G. Jones

    The Founding Fathers were creating a roadmap into unknown country for future generations and their children, many of whom would not know where it came from or why. They had just set out to free themselves from the most powerful nation on earth and were well informed about the consequences when the government owned or controlled all the weapons. They were successful. Now if we can protect ourselves and progeny as successfully we will have arned their thanks.

  • Mike Kitsko, Sr.

    I read this article while reading my new, legally purchased semi-auto AK-47 cleaning manual….seriously.

    Mankind has always found a way to kill is fellow being. Take away our guns and we’ll use bows and arrows. Take them away and we’ll use knives and speers. Take them away and we’ll use baseball bats, and take them away and we’ll use our bare hands.

    We retired to rural Oklahoma from Southern Calif. where home invasions were a way of life (by me preferred over tornados). I slept sound having my M1 carbine and 357 magnum next to my bed….in spite of being burglarized twice while sleeping! The alarm awakened us.

    I found, after moving here, we are the meth lab capitol of the state, and some exist at the end of our 4 mile long road.

    We love our 8 wooded acres of serenity where deer feed nightly, but would never sleep if we had no protection, knowing that some night some meth-heads might feel they deserve what we have more than we do, and pay us a visit.

    Here, kids own guns and never shoot each other. The hype is more political on the East and West Coast than substantive between. Some openly carry guns into Walmart, and I have no problem with that.

    It was once said by?, that to control the people you must first take away their guns…some Communist letter, as I recall….You see, it’s true.
    Mike

  • billy rogers

    I once read where a Russian citizen stated the worst blunder their people made was giving up their guns. The KGB, police, criminals of all sorts could kick your door down and do whatever their black heart desired. There are too many people, many in powerful positions, that would like that immensely. Any one that wants to take away our gun rights is most certainly not our friend, but a calculating enemy.

  • ron richmond

    reading the comments above reaffirms why I seldom comment, in this instance I will make an exception.
    mr Allen stated a purpose in his subtitle that I only see as a sham. He then proceeds to use 2500 -3000 words to expand the problem of discussion by subtly canting this to his real purpose. I read alot on the gun issue mostly trying to find some one that will write without bias. its a shame that no one on either side of this issue can serve their readers/listeners by telling the truth. Iwonder who mr allen is fund raising for? I beleive the first gun control law was past under andrew johnson to protect citizens from exslaves; thats just one omission of a truely honest article

  • Ray Robinson

    @Tom Mcormick, The first ten amendments are the bill of rights.
    @R Moltry, Nice job of reading the amendment the way you want it to be interpreted. Even better job of cherry picking definitions.

    Actually as the article stated the amendment could have been written in a much more clear manner. The Supreme Court has, however stated the right is an individual one, not collective and pertaining only to a military group. If any layman feels he is more knowledgeable on constitutional law than the Supreme Court I guess that is his right.

  • R. Moltry

    As , I read, the2nd amendment states: “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”. “MILITIA” (a) A body of men enrolled for military service and called out periodicaly for drill and exercises but serving full time only in emergencies. (b) A body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers. (c) All able bodied males of each state between 18 and 45 years of age considered eligible for miltary draft. I have never seen or heard of any gun owner being called out periodicaly for drill or exercises or to train as a WELL REGULATED Milita person. Perhaps if gun ownership were Well regulated we might be a better country for it.

  • M. Thompson

    Just going to http://www.nationmaster.com will give you a quick point of reference to interesting statistics.

    Perception of Safety – USA is #3 at 82%
    Murders with Firearms – USA #4 (Thailand, Columbia and South Africa WELL ahead of us)
    Murders per capita – USA doesn’t even rate in the top 37 countries.
    Gun violence – Homicides – per 100,000 population: USA – 3.6 South Africa – 74.6 (rounded off)

    So the sad drivel that we have so many guns and we are a violent country is a complete falsehood perpetrated by the left wing wacko’s to twist statistics. I am a Democrat and I own guns.

    The simple fact is if you take guns away from people who follow the law the only people with guns will be the criminals that don’t follow the law in the first place. Then you would see crime go up – because no criminal would be afraid to break into your house if you are inside because they know YOU don’t have a gun… but THEY DO!

  • Tom McCormick

    Your references to Amendments II and III, are amendments to the US Constitution, NOT the Bill of Rights..

  • Mike Estle

    Nobody has ever been killed by firearms. They are killed by people using guns as the weapon of choice. Were guns not as readily available and effective, those same people would find some other means of killing.
    As for the Second Ammendment, if a person does not understand it, they probably should not own a weapon of any sort. If they do understand it, they are likely capable of responsible gun ownership.

  • Ray Robinson

    Guns are tools. They do not run out and commit atrocities on their own. With technical advancements and the urbanization of society we have situations the founders could not have foreseen. This causes a need for some restrictions on ownership the founders could not have addressed. Strictly speaking ownership of machine guns in an urban area is a constitutional right. There is no constitutional prohibition of ownership by insane people. Both of these things are and should be addressed by laws. The problem in Tucson was a sheriff who is an incompetent political activist. None of this should have and effect on the constitutional right of citizens to keep and use firearms both for personal and national defense. Hunting, while an honored and honorable national tradition, is not the subject of the second amendment.

  • Joe Steiner

    I submit that the current Supreme Court members have little in common with the framers of our constitution, as well as totally different mindsets and goals. Additionally, one must question whether any of them even remotely approaches the wisdom and intent of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, et al. Maybe history can make that call.

    Growing up during WWII, I was exposed to many types of weapons, and even used a few myself. We were a hunting family, and complemented our diet with wild game whenever we could. I have three loaded guns in my house because one never knows when another nutcase might come knocking at our door at 0300. My 10-yr-old grandson knows how to use them, too.

    I am also a US Army (cold war) veteran, but have nothing to brag about because of it.

    If all guns are banned, or even destroyed, will this stop violence and killings? Nope. All one need do is look at Africa and the millions of people who have been slaughtered there during the last 25 years – without guns.

    Has the 30-year War on Drugs stopped or decreased drug use in this country? Yeah, right.

    Will it be any different if guns are banned? Well, as you said, there are already over 20,000 gun laws on the books. Oh well, at least they kept the printers happy.

    “When the first Europeans arrived they found a dangerous wilderness where they had to hunt to eat and always had to be ready to defend themselves in a land without laws.”

    “to defend themselves in a land without laws?”

    C’mon – tell the truth. They needed guns so they could kill Indians and take the land they had been living on for centuries. And they kept on killing them and taking their land for another 200 years. Why no mention of that or of “The Trail of Tears” or of other similar atrocities? Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot. There were no laws back then…..

    Our military and CIA are still killing people, but mostly in foreign countries. It’s what Americans do best – kill people who could be a potential threat to us. We crave this activity, as evidenced by the huge military industrial complex that has evolved during the last 65 years. Why else would we have 700+ bases throughout the world? Why else would we invade Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, et al, but to satisfy our insane hunger to shoot and bomb people? And now we’re killing civilians in Pakistan with drones controlled in Nevada. Why? Are we never satisfied? Are we too busy tweeting and twittering to care?

    Russia dabbled in this craziness in Afghanistan, but after 10 years, they finally decided it was a losing effort. Now, we, too, are out of money and in horrible debt, but you politicians continue to fund these military joyrides. To what end? Welfare for the Military and its hoard of suppliers and the resultant “donations” to your re-election campaigns? Obviously.

    Why do people applaud the Air Force flyovers at sporting events when those are the same planes and pilots who assassinate people in other countries? Are you cheering their deaths or the skill of those pilots in killing innocent people, or do you just like the noise?

    Exactly what is this enthusiasm supposed to mean? Or don’t you think about stuff like that when you hoot and holler and wave the flag or sing God Bless America or The Star Spangled Banner?

    Guns aren’t the problem. People are.

  • Marvin Stokely

    If we passed a law banning all guns, then, only the criminals would have guns! Just think about prohabition! We banned alcohol, yet it was available everywhere and crime became rampant.
    Our crime problem is not about guns.That’s another story!

  • Al Johnson

    I do not agree that the 2nd Amendment is all that difficult to interpret. Not only did the people have a distrust of the thought of a ‘standing army’, but also of a ‘standing militia’. Therefore, a militia was usually ‘called up’ from its citizens and was not a permanent entity. So, it only makes sense that most citizens would own a firearm in the understanding that they might be called on or asked to join the militia. You would not wait until then to acquire your firearm.
    The amendment could just as well been written as ‘In case you are asked to join or form a militia, you should already possess or you have the right to possess a firearm’.

  • Jeffrey Turner

    In 2001, ten times as many people in this country were killed by firearms as by terrorists. Since then, the aggregate is 100 times as many. Even if you count all the dead in the so-called “War on Terror,” the ratio is still over 30 to one. Why isn’t there a war on guns?

    I’m amazed at how Swami Scalia could discern the original intent of the right to hunting that is so much more obscure than the need for a well-regulated militia that it remained hidden for 220 years.

    If they insist that people with severe mental illness should be allowed to own guns, why shouldn’t we call them gun nuts? Heck, they insist anyone can buy a gun from a private dealer at a gun show.

  • Al Willis

    I think it is moderate.

  • Al Willis

    The Second Amendment was passed in 1791. America was definitely a rural society at that time. Most people relied on a firearm to help feed themselves and/or their family. Surely the writers of the amendment knew this. How can anyone believe that they would intend to deny the individual the right to keep and bear arms.

    Surely most people (most seniors anyway) have heard of Anne Oakley. In the late 1800′s she was one of the best shots in the world. Why? When she was 12 years old (or there abouts) her father passed and she took up his rifle and fed the family.

    Today people may not hunt that much out of necessity but they still have the right to defend themselves.