Gun control is constitutional — just ask the Supreme Court

In the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller case, the one in which the Court decided that the 2nd Amendment protected the right to have guns, the following was said:

“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions … possessions of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing condition and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

And the Court supported the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

{mosads}Assault rifles with large clips are “dangerous and unusual” and thus can be outlawed. Clearly many other proposed regulations of guns such as background checks, prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, restricting firearms in certain places, and regulation of all sales, would not violate the 2nd Amendment.

The NRA effectively claims that any gun control is a violation of the 2nd Amendment. And so a false interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights is being used to prevent government from protecting a very basic right — the right to life.

Another argument used to justify not controlling guns is the “freedom” argument.  It says that people should be free to use their prized possessions without government interference.  

Another prized possession that people have is their automobile. Let us suppose that the AAA took the “absolutely no regulation” stance that the NRA uses. No speed limits, no inspections, no driver’s licenses, no traffic lights, and no parking restrictions. Drivers would be free to go as fast as their car could go. There might be some very serious crashes, but so what?

Without periodic  inspections (which most states require), your car or another driver’s car could have poor brakes, or be unseen at night when lights were out — unsafe conditions. With no tests to get driver’s licenses, one would be driving among untrained drivers, ignorant of the good driving practices. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t have to wait for red lights — what an annoyance. Without traffic lights, there may be crashes at intersections all the time. And why restrict parking? The handicapped and trucks needing loading zones would just have to get along somehow.  

We have restrictions on driving to provide for safety and to have orderly, free flowing traffic. We have had these restrictions on cars for a long time, yet the government has not come and confiscated our cars. There is this ridiculous notion, propounded by the NRA, that any regulation of guns will lead to confiscation.

Also, whenever our people are in danger of being killed by violent acts, measures are taken by government to protect them. For example, we now have to put up with the annoyance of arriving early and having our possessions and bodies searched before boarding a plane. We put up with it because it provides safety for ourselves and others.  But the NRA will not put up with any restriction, thus disregarding the safety of others.  

It is said that gun control may not have stopped an horrendous killing such as the Sandy Hook school, Orlando, or Las Vegas. Yes, controls will not stop every shooting any more than automobile regulations have stopped speeding, or prevented car accidents.  But think how dangerous it would be without them — a great many more accidents and deaths on the highway.  Without gun controls, we now have a constant string of mass killings.  

In summary, the NRA cannot justify rejecting gun control on the basis of 2nd Amendment rights, nor can they invoke the “freedom” argument unless they want to be the sole dissenter in a nation that regulates most things, such as cars and air travel, in consideration of everyone’s safety.  There is no valid rationalization or excuse for not having gun control.

That leaves just one reason for a congressman or senator to reject gun control — fear of the electoral power of the NRA. How many lives must be sacrificed so they can keep their seat in Congress? There should be a Wall of Grief erected in Washington, similar to the Vietnam Memorial, with the names of all those who have been killed in mass shootings. Next to it should be a Wall of Shame etched with the names of the congressmen and senators who have voted against gun control legislation that would have kept the Wall of Grief from expanding so rapidly.  

David RePass is professor emeritus, University of Connecticut, who specializes in elections and electoral behavior. He has published in The American Political Science Review, the online journal The Forum and an op-ed in The New York Times.


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