The Norman Transcript

February 9, 2013

Americans aren’t trying to repeal rights

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

Despite what you may be reading or hearing, Americans are not trying to repeal the Second Amendment. Americans revere the Constitution, and even the most anti-gun person knows that tampering with the Bill of Rights would lead to open season on the Constitution. Not a prospect anyone would relish.

Nevertheless, there is a major discussion going on in this nation about how best to handle the recurring problem of gun violence and particularly gun massacres. The Supreme Court has ruled over the years that the Second Amendment does allow individuals the right to bear arms for personal use and protection.

On the other hand, they have also ruled that that right can be subject to reasonable limitations. For instance, bans on machine guns and grenades, instituted back in the 1930s, have been upheld.

Similarly, we accept reasonable limitations on the right of free speech: It doesn’t give you the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. Therefore, there is considerable room for intelligent discussion about what can be done, both legally and practically, to reduce the scourge of gun violence in the United States.

I wish Congressmen Cole would reconsider his stated opposition to President Obama’s comprehensive approach to the problem. Cole has been quoted as saying that he represents “tens of thousands of responsible gun owners” whose freedom he does not want to restrict.

I would like to remind Rep. Cole that those of us who do not own weapons are also taxpaying, law-abiding citizens, and you represent thousands of us as well. And, indeed, surveys show that nationwide, gun owners and non-owners alike support reasonable restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, while enforcing background checks of all those who wish to purchase firearms.

As the law now stands, the private sale loophole enables anybody to buy a gun without passing a background check. Obviously, if you have criminal intent, that’s where you would go. Why must we make it so easy for them?

Of course, there are those who complain that they have a right to unlimited ammunition and to horde unlimited numbers of assault weapons. But I have heard not one person come forward to offer one legitimate purpose for doing so. My mother used to say that just because you have a right to stuff peas up your nose doesn’t make it a good idea.

Do not talk of the right of Americans to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as though only wielders of assault weapons are entitled to those rights. For most Americans, liberty means being able to go about their daily lives, to work, to church, to school, to the mall or to the movie theater without fear of being massacred. The idea that we can best protect ourselves by also being armed is nonsense.

If guns really kept us safe, the United States would have a very low homicide rate. But the reality is that individual nations like Germany, Canada and Japan each have fewer than 200 gun homicides a year, while we endure 30,000.

It is, of course, true, that people can be killed in car crashes, stabbed by knives or even hit over the head by baseball bats, as one writer to The Transcript would have it. But those gadgets exist for purposes other than killing and maiming. Nor can they kill as many people as quickly as can high-caliber assault weapons.

What makes guns so startingly effective is also what makes them so dangerous. How many of the more than 30,000 Americans killed by guns every year would be alive if their attacker had had nothing more than a knife or a baseball bat? How many of the suicides?

Wayne LaPierre of the NRA has complained that Americans are blaming gun owners and his organization, in particular, for massacres like that in Newtown, Conn. But it is not about “blame.” It is about prevention. Americans citizens and our leaders are trying to figure out what measures are most likely to reduce this kind of gun violence.

Most Americans seem to think that separating the deranged and the predatory from their guns is a good idea. But how to do that, without violating patient confidentiality and without discouraging the mentally ill from seeking help, is not easy to figure out.

Nor is it always easy to figure out how to enable honest, law-abiding sportsmen and those who genuinely need guns for their personal protection to be able to do so while still protecting innocents from being gunned down by the crazy, the paranoid and the deluded. But that is what we need to do.

Digging in your heels, screaming about the government taking away your guns or taking up arms to defend the Second Amendment is not a healthy or useful way of contributing to this discussion.

Passing legislation in Oklahoma, as reportedly offered by Rep. Dahm, of Broken Arrow, that nullifies any proposed federal legislation and imprisons federal officials who try to enforce the law (What? Without trial? Without the presumption of innocence?) is unconstitutional on the face of it and can only make matters worse.

Oklahoma, we can do better. And if we don’t, the discussion takes place without us.

Judy Lewis


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