Letter: Let's be reasonable when discussing guns

Posted 8/28/22

To the editor:

I want to thank Mr. Clyne and Mr. Crosby (August 11 and 18 editions) for replying to my article on gun control (August 3-4 editions); I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this …

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Letter: Let's be reasonable when discussing guns


To the editor:

I want to thank Mr. Clyne and Mr. Crosby (August 11 and 18 editions) for replying to my article on gun control (August 3-4 editions); I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this critical topic.

The Founders wrote the 2nd amendment out of fear of the possibility of a future tyrannical government.

How would it be possible to maintain a “check” on a tyrannical government if the ability to own firearms was contingent on the government, state, or federal? Fox guarding the hen house? Like it or not, the Supreme Court has ruled the 2nd amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. Participation in any type of “militia” is not a qualifying condition.

Furthermore, in many state constitutions, including Rhode Island’s, there is no “militia” language whatsoever related to the right to bear arms; it simply reads: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Courts have ruled there are limits on the types of firearms people can legally own. They rely on the “common use” standard to decide on which kind to allow. Those firearms that are in “common use for lawful purposes” are protected.

The AR-15, with its 30-round magazine, is the most popular rifle in America. It is hard to get more common than that. As a result, many, if not most, believe such bans will be ruled unconstitutional. We tried this before. The assault weapons ban lasted from 1994-2003. Afterward, a thorough study by the Department of Justice concluded: “...there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.” Contrary to what many think, an AR-15 (and no, the “AR” doesn’t stand for “Assault Rifle,” but rather “Armalite,” the company that developed the firearm) is not a fully automatic machine gun; it is a semi-automatic rifle - you squeeze the trigger, and a round is fired.

This is the same for any semi-automatic handgun as well. Both firearms will fire a round as fast as you can squeeze the trigger. Each year, roughly 50 percent of firearm deaths are suicides, a tragic problem but not one that will be solved by banning AR-15’s and large capacity magazines.

Furthermore, of the remaining 50 percent of deaths, “rifles” were known to be used in only 2-3 percent of the cases. Given these facts, why is there such a disproportionate focus on “assault rifles”?

Some people had trouble with my drunk driving analogy, so I will clarify. If people violate the law and drive drunk, society does not respond by banning cars for everyone; instead, they prohibit their use for those who break the law. Yet when one violates the law with a certain kind of firearm, many react by trying to take them away from everyone. This is wrong. Punish the lawbreakers, not the law-abiding.

The reason why the U.S. and Mississippi have more homicides than Europe and R.I. respectively, has more to do with the culture and society than it has to do with the prevalence of firearms. The question should not be - “How many firearms are there in a certain county/state/country?” But rather, it should be - “Who is in possession of such firearms?” Are they violent criminals? Or law-abiding citizens?

If it is the latter, there will be little trouble, e.g., Montana, Idaho, Switzerland, Sweden, etc. If it is the former, there will be trouble, e.g., Louisiana, Mississippi, St. Louis, Detroit, etc.

In closing, perhaps we can at least agree that instead of instituting ineffective bans, we should strive to get guns out of the hands of violent criminals. Since, after all, it is not the type of gun that matters but the type of person with a gun.

Matthew Fletcher

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