Letter: 'Shall not be misled' … on guns in America

Posted 8/10/22

I’m writing in response to a letter dated Aug. 3, entitled “Shall not be infringed.”

I appreciate that the author took the time to reference some American history, specifically …

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Letter: 'Shall not be misled' … on guns in America

Posted

I’m writing in response to a letter dated Aug. 3, entitled “Shall not be infringed.

I appreciate that the author took the time to reference some American history, specifically the Battle of Concord and Lexington of April 18, 1775. This battle that birthed our nation relied solely on an unorganized group of men dedicated to protecting their freedoms from an overpowering empire. I would like to fill in some of the history that may give context to the words “a well-regulated militia …”

During and immediately after the Revolutionary War, there was no organized army. General Washington had to rely on volunteers from different communities and nascent states to form the revolutionary army. There was a great debate among statesmen like Alexander Hamilton, who stressed the need for a federal army, and Thomas Jefferson, who feared the power of a federal army.

Consequently, there was no federal or state organized army when the Second Amendment was written into the Bill of Rights in December of 1791. It was therefore true by default that our “army” consisted of local militias.

It was not actually until 1903, establishing the National Guard, and 1908-1916, preparing an army for the First World War, that there was actually federal control of “militias” that formed a funded and dedicated United States military. Up until that time, a militia consisted of all “able bodied men of a certain age.” The need for a “militia” came to an end.

It is understandable, then, that the term “militia” in the 2nd amendment of 1791 could not have anticipated the transition of the word “militia” from a group of men in a community to an organized fighting force —but that is what happened with the establishment of the National Guard and the U.S. military.

Until 2008, the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” was mostly limited to the military and police departments. In 2008, after 200 years of precedent, the Supreme Court changed the interpretation of the Second Amendment, extending this right to the individual for the first time.

It is important to note, however, that this opinion was not without some limits:

Justice Scalia made it very clear that state and local authorities had the privilege and the responsibility to regulate who could own a weapon, what kind of weapon, and for what purpose.

In support of unfettered access to guns, the author suggests that some counties where guns are prevalent have no homicides. He questions how this can be if guns kill people (“people do”) — as if the rarity of wildfires in Greenland is evidence that wildfires don’t exist. 

These statements have nothing to do with the 45,000 lives lost to gun violence annually (Pew research, 2020). They have nothing to do with the fact that an AR 15 can deliver a 30-round clip in under 10 seconds, killing all in its path. It is irrelevant to the issue of gun control that 11,000 people died at the hands of drunk drivers.

There are many things that need to be done to protect life and liberty — but limiting the sale and distribution of killing machines like the AR 15 seems like low hanging fruit.

Identifying unrelated problems that may need fixing is simply misleading. Let’s stick to the issue and support reasonable gun control — like the banning of the AR 15 and high capacity magazines.

Many law enforcement officers, including my late father, a retired New York City policeman for 35 years, hold the same view.

Chris Clyne
Barrington

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