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Thursday, May 16, 2013
Contrary to the claims central to much of the argument of the pro-gun lobby, the right to bear arms, as provided by the Constitution’s Second Amendment, is not absolute in the sense of disallowing any regulating or limiting conditions.
With any right, limitations apply at the point where one right meets competing demands of another right.
For example, the right of free speech, another guarantee of the Constitution, is limited in several well-known ways, such as when speech creates willful or heedless harm or injury, as in (falsely) yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater or in libeling or slandering a fellow citizen, and in instances involving sedition, obscenity and disclosure of classified information.
When the pro-gun lobby insists that no regulation or limitation be placed on citizens’ gun rights, it is, in effect, claiming that all other rights are subordinate.
If the no-regulation, no-limits notion were applied, for example, to the right of free speech, then slander, libel, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater and disclosing classified information could not be restricted or forbidden. It works the same way with gun rights: If no limits are applied in who has guns or how the guns may be used, the right of citizens to be secure in their persons is lost.
The coexistence of multiple rights depends upon limits and boundaries between them.
When the limiting or boundary conditions between two rights are denied, one of the rights disappears. Thus, limits and boundaries are essential to the mutual coexistence of rights rather than being destructive of them.
Can we assume the pro-gun lobby leaders are unaware when they publicly claim that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms allows no limits? In a word: No.
When those individuals press their no-limits argument — and with their claim that the Second Amendment calls for that — they apparently hope their listeners will not connect the dots and recognize that presently established legal limits on personally arming oneself do exist, yet have not voided the right to bear arms.
Among those limits (some federal, some state) are regulations on carrying a concealed gun and restrictions on having personal surface-to-air missiles and launchers, armed attack helicopters, nuclear arms and so on through the catalog of military-only hardware.
Because these existing restrictions or limits are well-known, it appears dishonest to argue that passing any further regulation on guns, such as closing the exceptions to background checks, would deny the Second Amendment’s guarantees.
For individuals and the public to have the right of a reasonable expectation of freedom from heedless or wanton harm from others so they may go about their daily lives responsibly and confidently, gun regulation is as necessary as is regulation of vehicle use, and for precisely the same reasons.
No sane person would advocate unregulated vehicle operation. It is obvious that reckless or otherwise unsafe use of either a car or a gun presents a serious danger to others, which is why responsible gun owners advocate reasonable controls, as does nearly 90 percent of the public, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released on May 1 showing 88 percent of Americans in support of background checks for all gun buyers.
The arguments and urgings of the gun lobby appear to be disconnected from any interest other than the commercial interests of the gun industry.
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