The Des Moines Register, Sunday, January 11, 1998, Page 7AA


Gun-debate (cont'd): A ban legal?

    Count me among those in favor of stringent gun controls.
    D. J. Schachtner (Jan. 4 letter) claims that the right to bear arms is inalienable.  Wrong.  There are many countries that rigorously restrict the right to bear arms.  The question is whether our country will do it, not whether owing weapons is a divine right.
    Every human being on the planet submits to social controls.  We give up some freedoms in order to enjoy other freedoms.
    Our society can and does regulate individual behavior for the safety of everyone.  The majority of us would not want to indulge in habits that result in the deaths of other people.  I realize that some persons have symbolic and emotional attachments to their guns.  But when I measure this against the lives lost and the dangers that loom in our streets, homes and workplaces, I conclude that the right to bear arms cannot be worth the price we all are paying for it.
    I don't believe that a constitutional amendment is required to restrict gun ownership, but if it is I would gladly support it.
    - Deborah Fink,
    222 S. Russell, Ames.

    Does the Second Amendment just apply to the National Guard or does it also apply to common citizens?
    The Second Amendment states, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
    The militia has evolved into today's National Guard.  The word "state" in the amendment not only refers to individual states but also to the country as a whole.
    If "of the people" in the Second Amendment refers only to government then all our constitutional amendments are worthless.  The First Amendment would allow only government-sponsored protest.  Under the Fourth Amendment, people could be searched at will.
    To illustrate that "of the people" is meant for all of us, read the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
    - Jeff Hergert,
    Box 591, Ogden.

    Gun-control advocates assert that the Supreme Court in U.S. vs. Miller (1939) restricted Second Amendment rights to the National Guard.   This is false.
    Miller, a moonshiner convicted of failing to pay a prohibitively high federal tax on a short-barreled shotgun, was freed by a federal judge on Second Amendment grounds.  The U.S. Supreme Court agreed that a weapon must be useful to a militia to be protected under the Second Amendment and supported the prosecution's appeal simply because the federal judge had taken it under judicial notice that a short-barreled shotgun qualified, rather than requiring expert testimony to that effect.  (One implication of this argument is that fully automatic rifles, as the basic military firearm, should have more protection than other guns, not less.)
    The decision did state that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to protect the "effectiveness of the militia," but by this the court clearly did not mean the National Guard.  If it had, it would have said simply that Miller, as an ordinary citizen, had no right to appeal based on the Second Amendment.
    In fact, the Miller decision does provide a definition of the militia, which is worth quoting: "These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. ...  And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."
    - Wendy L. Applequist,
    801 Crawford, Ames.

    Gun-control laws are largely ineffective in preventing crime.  If they were successful, America would be the safest country on the planet with over 10,000 laws currently on the books regulating the sale, transport and possession of firearms.  We have seen recent crime rates fall in America by being tough on criminals and allowing citizens to protect themselves through the greater availability of concealed-weapons permits.
    Further restrictive gun-control measures have not become law in this country because the National Rifle Association has successfully educated the public and has, therefore, seen huge success at the polls.  Initiative 676, which called for restrictive gun licensing in Washington state, was soundly defeated with 71 percent of the vote.  And NRA-endorsed candidates won 88 percent of the elections in 1997.
    This success by the NRA comes from an erudite electorate continuing to tell lawmakers to attack criminals, not the freedom of law-abiding citizens.
    - Jeff Siewert,
    224 South St., Pella.

    If Ivan Webber's opinion in the Dec.23 Register ("Gun Control: Repeal 2nd Amendment") was a fair sample of how lawyers think these days, I really missed a bet by not going to law school.
    For starters, we have gun control already, something like 20,000 victim-disarmament laws.  If you think we can have a gun-free society by banning guns, well it's too late.  You can't "un-invent" something, and merely banning it works about as well as the laws banning drugs.  Besides, why should the 99-plus percent of gun owners who do not misuse their firearms suffer so that we can feel like we're punishing the tiny minority that does misuse them.
    I get very, very sick and tired of being characterized as a brainless yahoo just because I don't think that gun-control laws would work or do what they're intended to.  Argumentum ad hominem was something my father, a lawyer himself, cured me of years ago.  It's a shame that whatever law school Webber attended didn't do as much for him.
    - Eric Oppen,
    1015 Main St., Iowa Falls.

    The Jan. 4 letter by the state coordinator for Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence, who argued that the Second Amendment guarantees only the right of armed National Guards to bear arms, demonstrates the type of attitude that ultimately undermines all of our personal freedoms.
    It would be inconsistent to suppose that the Bill of Rights are proscriptions on the power of the national government, and at the same time somehow also granted additional powers to the national government.
    Using the logic of Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence, it could be argued that the benefits of illegal searches and seizures out-weigh the minor inconvenience of the Constitution.  It could be argued that only religions registered and sanctioned by the government be allowed to protect the people from being victimized by cults.  It could be argued that the media should be required to register articles with the government before publications so that accuracy could be verified.
    To suggest that laws can be passed to nullify sections of the Constitution is foolish and dangerous to all our liberties, as all our freedoms are interdependent.  If one is disturbed, they all fall like dominoes.
    - Edward A. Mearden,
    9291 100th St., Ottumwa.

The Des Moines Register, Sunday, January 11, 1998, Page 7AA
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