Sunday, December 6, 2015

Our Answer to Terror: Do Nothing on Guns

On December 9, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments concerning how far the Fourteenth Amendment goes towards protecting diversity programs in university admissions.

On October 5, the Court decided that a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights to counsel were not violated and a Maryland Court's decision was overturned.

Last June, the Court ruled in a case that questioned just how far the Environmental Protection Agency can go when it tries to regulate and issue rules concerning clean air and water requirements.

In each of these cases, and the overwhelming majority of others, the Court has, or will, rule based upon the Justices' interpretation of the laws. History has shown that the Constitution is a fluid document that can be applied in many ways and that the text and amendments are not absolutes.

Except for guns. To hear the debate now and over the past 25 years, you would think that the Second Amendment was the most important, most sacrosanct, indeed, the most sacred of all amendments and that it must not ever be changed because having a gun to protect yourself against the most liberal, most open, most democratic state ever invented by man must never be violated. This thinking is a testament to people's fears and the rather warped assumption that our number one enemy is the government created by those fairly wise men back in the 18th century.

I say fairly wise because aside from protecting and allowing slavery to survive, they included the amendment about having guns as a right tied to a militia. They never saw the NRA coming and now that it has, I'm certain they are ruing the day that they were not crystal clear with the amendment's language. What's worse is that the same five guys who stick together when it comes to unsettling interpretations of the constitution were the same five votes that led to the Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that the pesky clause about the militia meant nothing and that having a gun is a personal right.

I know some people who are Second Amendment absolutists and the first thing they'll say when they read this is that I want to take their guns away. I do not. If people want to arm themselves, then go ahead (and they are, if news reports are accurate). What I want is for the states and the national government to know who has a legal gun and a license to use it, since 40% of gun sales come from unlicensed dealers that don't require a background check. I want a limit on how many bullets one person can purchase overall, not in singular purchases. I want the same kind of background checks on guns that many legislators--Democrats and Republicans--voted on when it comes to refugees. If you're good, you get your gun. Mazel tov. If not, tough. We don't have an absolute right to speech or religion or assembly. We also don't have an unfettered right to a gun under any circumstance.

It continues to boggle my mind that people who are on the federal terrorist watch list can still legally purchase a gun. And there are other instances where legislators in states have gone out of their way to protect the right to a gun above safety issues.

The terrorist massacre in San Bernardino was a scary tragedy and there has to be a way that we can address both terrorism and our rights at the same time. Many politicians and those running for president will no doubt tell us that since we at war with ISIS, we will need to give up some freedoms in an effort to defeat our foe. That was certainly true after September 11 and we are still subject to surveillance despite Edward Snowden's efforts. But to say that everything is on the table except for gun legislation is foolish and blind.

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