Letter to the editor: Second amendment ‘not absolute’
Laws of 1934, 1938 and two in 1968 led to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a 10-year federal ban on the manufacture of new semi-automatic assault weapons or of weapons that have features of assault rifles, the AR-15 among them. It also banned large-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds. This 1994 law required renewal 10-years later, but Congress failed to do so, thus lifting the proscription against AR-15 weapons.
Within these and similar laws came a general recognition that persons with particular limitations create an exception to these broad rulings. Indeed, that’s one of the bases of existing laws that require certain sorts of “approval” before certain persons may purchase guns. “Second Amendment rights” are not absolute.
In 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right under the Second Amendment to possess firearms “for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” Even so, laws continue to exist that limit what particular firearms even the ordinary citizen may possess. For example, an amendment to a 1986 law banned civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986, making it either impossible or at least very expensive to own one.
Such restrictions, however, do not essentially threaten our constitutional guarantee under the Second Amendment, rights we continue to enjoy. Hence, it is utterly false to claim willy-nilly that restricting us from the AR-15 would be a threat to our Second Amendment rights.
Few legislators are willing to talk about this. It’s more tempting to “shut up” and to accept political donations from pro-gun groups who thus “buy” votes in houses of legislation and who seek to hood-wink us by false accusations.
The moral issues here are far more difficult:
1. The wealthy gun-lobby “buys” votes in Congress to the partial, de facto disenfranchisement of many ordinary citizens. A list in the Feb. 21 New York Times reported $222,736 to the 2016 election cycle campaign committee of Lloyd Smucker. By comparison, other Pennsylvania 2016 candidates for Congress received NRA support from $5,500 to $82,150.
The NRA virtually “owns” those members of Congress who too often represent the gun lobby instead of their constituents on gun control. Many citizens’ “equal rights” to be heard thus get trampled under foot. Why do we think many citizens feel so helpless vis-à-vis Congress?
2. That opening line in the Second Amendment about “A well regulated Militia…” implies firing one’s weapon in combat when so commanded. In a well-regulated militia, one does not kill someone simply because he dislikes that person. That’s murder.
3. Using a firearm for self-defense offends Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 5:38-39) about “turning the other cheek.” Part of the Sermon On the Mount, it reverses Old Testament teaching such as in Deut. 19:21. We still have not taken Jesus seriously on this teaching, nor the witness of the Amish thereto following the school murders at the West Nickel Mines School on Oct. 2, 2006.
4. Once a utilitarian process for gathering food, hunting has evolved into a sporting pursuit. Sports usually involve activity, often competitive, within some degree of limitation. You do not go running down the court or the field with the basketball or the soccer ball in your hands; you must dribble it. Sport hunting also has rules that limit us. It’s part of what makes it a sport and thus makes us “sportsmen.” Rapid-fire rifles are for combat but have no place in hunting. That isn’t more sportsmanship; it’s materialism!
5. Not all horrific acts result from mental health. Some reflect human sin! The ease with which we have come to confuse the two leads to yet more anti-personnel immorality, of which sexual misconduct is just one example. We do not deal well discussing sin, as though that is somehow quaint. It’s easier to blame “things beyond our control” than to confess our disobedience against, say, the Sixth Commandment.
6. Finally, the Second Amendment does not specify to which arms we have rights. However, the courts have established that, when the safety of the citizenry is unduly endangered because of firearm misuse, a restriction against a particular firearm does not constitute a threat to the Second Amendment.
The NRA recommends placing guns in schools. As though the schools have the money needed to do this and the teachers need yet another chore in solving society’s problems.
We citizens should address this problem on Election Day. We should insist on commitments from candidates seeking public office to address this problem within existing laws and legal precedent, along with new legislation that reduces public danger from firearms more appropriate to military than to civilian use.
Karl E. Moyer
Editor’s note: The writer, a part-time Vermonter, describes himself as “a frustrated Republican who awaits the ‘cleansing’ of his party.”
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