To the Editor,
President Joe Biden has once again falsely claimed, “You couldn’t buy a canon when the Second Amendment was passed”. Even the left-leaning PolitiFact has …
To the Editor,
President Joe Biden has once again falsely claimed, “You couldn’t buy a canon when the Second Amendment was passed”. Even the left-leaning PolitiFact has repeatedly ruled it false and said that Biden, “…needs to stop making this claim.”
Private citizens could indeed, and did, buy canons during the Revolutionary War period; and when the Second Amendment was passed, there were no laws prohibiting citizens from continuing to purchase canons. The Founders apparently believed that private citizens should have firepower somewhat equal to the government’s in case—like King George’s—government became tyrannical. The Founders even wrote into the Declaration of Independence that in such cases, “…it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”
But how do we reconcile this constitutional right with our need to stop mass shootings in our country?
Most Americans agree that we should have robust background checks and red flag laws. Federal law already requires background checks for all gun purchases at gun stores, or 78 percent of all guns sales. Rhode Island and 20 other states have enacted laws that require further checks on people attempting to buy a gun privately or at a gun show. 19 states, to include Rhode Island, have red flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from those a judge rules a danger to themselves or others. Other states are looking at passing similar laws. And that’s where such legislative decisions constitutionally belong, with the states—not with the federal government.
As semi-automatic rifle ownership has gone up in recent decades, our country’s violent crime rate has declined by 54 percent. Less than 2 percent of gun deaths are caused by those wielding semi-automatic rifles.
87 percent of mass shooters have used legally purchased weapons. Almost all mass shooters had undergone background checks and had not been the subjects of complaints that would have triggered red flag laws. While these relatively non-intrusive laws should be strengthened and widened, history shows they will not stop mass shootings.
So, what’s to be done? We can certainly do more to protect our most vulnerable—our school children—with security-supervised, single-point access and with hardened classrooms. We can also devote more financial and social resources toward improved mental health. Even raising to 21 the minimum age to purchase a gun, the same age required to purchase alcohol, seems reasonable.
If such changes are made and mass shootings continue in non-school settings, will most politicians and anti-Second Amendment groups then decide, as many already have, that the only way to completely stop mass shootings is to confiscate all semi-automatic firearms from all Americans—to include all pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles, target sports rifles, home defense firearms, and all other guns that have the capability to fire successive rounds without cycling a bolt or cocking a hammer?
Beware the slippery slope of weakening constitutional rights. Paraphrasing Martin Niemöller’s famous Holocaust poem, “First They Came,” future Americans may say: “First they came for the Second Amendment and I did not speak out, because I was not a gun owner. Then they came for the First Amendment’s free press and I did not speak out, because I didn’t trust most news sources anyway. Then they came for freedom of religion and I did not speak out, because I’m not a regular church-goer. Then they came for citizens’ freedom of speech and I did not speak out, because I am a quiet person who stays to myself. But finally, they came for the Fourth Amendment, to arrest me without cause—but there was no one left with constitutional protections to speak out for me.”`
Barham is a retired Army colonel and former civilian police officer
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