As we begin a national conversation about gun rights after the Newtown slaughter, editorial pages around the country are filling with letters advocating gun ownership. The Dec. 28 “Gun ownership is my right” letter by Jason Burleigh to The Bulletin is an excellent example. Unfortunately the letter also shows gun rights advocates’ misunderstanding of the Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court interpretations of the Second Amendment.
The right to own guns, like all other rights set forth in the Constitution, is not absolute. The original purpose of the amendment, ensuring that all adult white males had a rifle in their home, is not a current concern — nor may it ever be again. The only significant Supreme Court ruling on this was penned by Justice Antonin Scalia (a well-known gun advocate) just four years ago. In it he leaves open multiple ways the government can legislate restrictions on the time, manner and place of gun ownership. Semi-automatic assault rifles and high capacity clips certainly can fall under legal regulations based on Scalia’s ruling.
The weapons used in many recent mass killings are machines our founding fathers could not have ever dreamed of. They are the nightmare of law enforcement because they are so quick to kill and reload. Keeping them out of the hands of killers, be they in an alternate reality or not, only makes sense. They may find other means to kill but few, if any, are as accessible, efficient and difficult to defend against.