Tag Archives: Second Amendment

Sen. Seliger thrust into middle of national debate

A Texas state legislator, a fellow I know well — and someone I have supported strongly in this blog — finds himself at “ground zero” of the national debate over how to cure the scourge of gun violence.

State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, whose sprawling Texas Senate district covers Odessa in West Texas, has spoken for many Americans while commenting on this latest spasm of violence, which left seven people dead and dozens more injured.

According to the New York Times: “We’re not nearly past El Paso and then here it happens again,” said … Seliger, a Republican whose district includes Odessa and who is a former mayor of Amarillo, a city four hours north of where the attack unfolded. He said the attack forces people into the position of “not thinking to ourselves, ‘If this is going to happen again?’ but when it’s going to happen again.”

Seliger is not one to run from his political alliances, but I am struck at this moment by the TV ad he ran while seeking re-election in 2018; in the ad, he pulls away in his pickup while sporting a National Rifle Association sticker on the truck’s rear window. Yes, Seliger is proud of his NRA membership and I don’t for a moment believe he is going to renounce the organization in the wake of this latest massacre.

Seven people died in the slaughter in Odessa. Police killed the gunman in a fire fight.

I am wondering about the pressure Seliger is going to feel now as a senator representing a community victimized by this latest gun violence tragedy.

Seliger is my friend. I have tremendous personal affection for him; I also respect the service he has performed on behalf of his Senate district.

However, I do not want him to dig in with the NRA’s traditional mantra of keeping hands off of any effort to legislate a potential remedy to this kind of gun violence insanity.

I want this good man to stand strong in favor of working with legislators and members of Congress who ought to look for those legislative remedies and, yes, remain faithful to the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

I truly believe there’s a way to do this.

2nd Amendment serves as barrier to ‘slippery slope’

Now that we’re talking once again openly and relatively urgently — once again! — about gun control legislation, I want to offer an argument that I believe doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

Nearly 30 people are dead after massacres in El Paso and Dayton. Donald Trump has called for “urgent action” to stem gun violence. The nation once again is horrified at the actions of two individuals motivated apparently by vastly different reasons, but whose actions have brought untold misery and heartache to us all.

I believe in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I have read it zillions of times. Although I believe it is worded awkwardly and can be interpreted in any number of ways, it does say that the right to bear arms is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens.

Does that constitutional guarantee act as a barrier against what some might call a “slippery slope” argument opposing efforts to “register” firearms owners? I believe it does.

I’ve heard a bit of social media chatter about how gun registration necessarily leads to “confiscation” of firearms. I want to shoot that argument down — pun very much intended.

The Second Amendment’s language, in my view, prohibits confiscation. Thus, to allow the government to confiscate firearms would require repealing or amending the Second Amendment. Does anyone with half a brain believe that is going to happen, even in the wake of this deadly back-to-back outburst over the weekend? Of course they do not.

Therefore, I maintain my belief that there are legislative remedies available to help stem this epidemic of gun violence. Universal background checks is a start. There might be a registration component to consider as well.

As for the “slippery slope,” the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment acts as an impenetrable barrier to prevent us from sliding too far down that slope. It doesn’t preclude wise men and women in government from doing what they can to legislate a cure for the scourge that is killing too many innocent people.

How does the NRA defend this?

Here’s a statistic that makes me quake.

The United States of America experienced 288 school shootings since 2009. The punchline? That number is 57 times greater than six other industrialized nations combined.

The other nations measured were the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Canada.

Fifty-seven times greater!

Jaw-dropping, yes?

And yet . . .

Gun-rights groups led by the National Rifle Association continue to tell us that we cannot enact constitutional legislation that would somehow stem that terrible tide. How in the name of good government does the NRA defend this view?

I don’t have a legislative cure in mind. Congress cannot muster up the guts to enact universal background checks for every individual who purchases a firearm. Why? Well, I have concluded that the NRA has bullied members into cowering away from taking any measures that would make it harder to buy a gun.

I will not accept the notion that any legislation would violate the Second Amendment guarantee citizens’ right to “keep and bear arms.”

Yet the demagogues keep yammering about how politicians are intent on “destroying” the Second Amendment, how they are dedicated to “taking your guns away.”

They are wrong.

The statistic about the number of school shootings tells me that we have to stop the bloodbath. I mean, Donald Trump pledged during inaugural speech to stop “this American carnage.”

Yes. It needs to stop. Now!

Bump stocks gone! May they never return!

The Donald Trump administration has banned bump stocks.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of the administration’s decision.

On that small but important score, we’ve made our society a little safer from extreme gun violence.

Bump stocks were thrust into our national conscience when a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas, Nev., killing 59 country music festival attendees. The moron used a weapon that had been turned into a fully automatic machine gun with a bump stock, a device one can attach to these weapons.

There can be only one reason to attack a bump stock on a weapon such as the one used by lunatic who opened fire in Las Vegas: it is to turn that weapon into a killing machine.

The Supreme Court had received an appeal from gun-owner rights groups that wanted the court to overturn the ban that took effect this week. The court said “no” to their appeal.

This is a good thing for Americans who are concerned about the spasm of gun violence that has become all too commonplace in our society.

Does this ban prohibit hunters, target shooters or those who just collect firearms from pursuing their right to “keep and bear arms” in accordance with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Not in the least.

Instead, it allows law enforcement authorities and the courts to sentence individuals to prison terms of as long as 10 years while paying fines of as much as $100,000. No one’s rights are compromised.

It goes to show you that, yes, we can impose reasonable restrictions on these weapons without endangering the Second Amendment.

New Zealand PM acts swiftly, decisively and with passion

National sovereignty is a wonderful thing. It gives nations the ability to enact laws on their own without regard to how other nations handle crises.

Such is the case in New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced a nationwide ban on all assault weapons and a stiffening of penalties for those who break the law regarding firearms possession. The country’s parliament needs to sign off.

Can you hear the grumbling now from here? From the United States of America? Where this kind of swift governmental action regarding firearms is unthinkable?

Ardern’s action is in response to the massacre of 50 people who were gunned down in two Christchurch mosques. A suspect is in custody; he purports to be a white nationalist who detests immigrants.

How does this apply to the discussion of gun violence in this country? Well, we have this Constitution here that guarantees in its Second Amendment the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms.” Our system of government precludes the kind of ultra-rapid response that Prime Minister Ardern has demonstrated.

For the record — once again! — I want to stipulate that I do not want the Second Amendment repealed in this country. I favor it in principle. I believe in the concept of firearm ownership. I have a couple of weapons myself.

That all said, I also believe there are ways to legislate improvements to the Second Amendment that protect the rights of citizens to own guns while increasing the standards for those who want to purchase them. In other words, I favor universal background checks.

I also believe we need to regulate gun shows to ensure that firearms purchased at these events are channeled into the hands of those who deserve to own them.

Our Constitution and our form of government are vastly different from much — if not most — of the rest of the world. Thus, I have no intention of seeking to foist a New Zealand-style response to this tragedy on the United States.

We just need in this country to seek some common ground on this most knotty issue of gun ownership, gun violence and the carnage that keeps erupting.

The slaughter of those worshipers in New Zealand has gotten the world’s attention. It also grabbed that country’s leaders by the throat and created a climate that seeks an immediate remedy.

If only we could get that kind of swift action in the United States of America.

Gun control, gun-owners’ rights: not mutually exclusive

When the shooter blasted his way through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day, the debate over gun control erupted.

When another shooter massacred those worshipers at Tree of Life synagogue just the other day, the gun control debate has barely scored a blip.

What’s up here? Don’t tell me the issue is dead and buried. It’s not.

The Tree of Life loon opened fire with an AR-15 semi-auto rifle, killing 11 Jewish congregants in what’s being called a hate crime. It is similar to an M-16 military rifle, with this exception: The M-16 has a switch that can make it a fully automatic machine gun; the AR-15 doesn’t have it.

I happen to believe in the Second Amendment, the one that says a citizen’s right to “keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” That all said and understood, I do not believe that the right to keep and bear arms precludes reasonable gun control legislation that keeps faith with the Second Amendment.

I few gun control legislation and gun owners’ rights the same way I view the biblical theory of creation and the theory of evolution. Neither the biblical version of Earth’s creation or Charles Darwin’s evolutionary notion are mutually exclusive … if you conclude — as I do — that Earth wasn’t created in six calendar days.

The Second Amendment has wiggle room within it, I believe, to allow for legislation that makes it more difficult for criminals or those with emotional or mental issues to acquire a firearm. Those so-called impediments to “law-abiding citizens'” rights need not apply if the legislation is applied and enforced strictly.

Yet the gun-owners-rights lobby argues that the Second Amendment, as it was written in the late 18th century, is sacrosanct. It is virtually the holy word, much like the Bible. Don’t mess with it in any fashion, they say.

I will argue that if there is a sacrosanct amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it isn’t the Second … it’s the First Amendment. Religious freedom, the right to express one’s views and a free press must not be trifled with.

The Second Amendment doesn’t take into account the evolution of weaponry since the time that the founders wrote it.

I am never going to call for the abolition of the Second Amendment, I continue to believe it can be amended, improved and made more reasonable — while keeping faith with its pledge to permit firearm ownership to U.S. citizens.

Teachers aren’t ‘militia’

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s juxtaposition of “teachers” with “militia” got me thinking a bit today.

So, I looked up the term “militia.” Here is what I found:

A military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency; a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities, typically in opposition to a regular army; all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.

This morning, Patrick — a conservative Republican — said on ABC News’s “This Week” that “teachers are part of a well-run militia.”

Actually, the way I read the definition that I found, they are nothing of the kind. They aren’t military, or paramilitary.

Patrick’s statement was in response to questions about the Santa Fe High School massacre that killed 10 people — eight of whom were students. Patrick wants school teachers to be armed. That is a wrong-headed answer to the scourge of gun violence in our public schools.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment speaks of a “well-regulated militia.” I cannot find — no matter how hard I look — any link whatsoever between the founders’ intent in crafting that clause to the idea that militia includes public school teachers.

Teachers are hired to educate. They aren’t hired to take up arms, even in an emergency. We “regulate” militias because we ask our military reservists, for example, to perform functions for which they are trained. Do we train teachers to set up perimeters around our schools and then stand guard with loaded weapons?

No. Teachers enter their profession exclusively to be positive influences on our children, to educate and occasionally nurture them.

So, let’s stop this loose talk about arming teachers. And for crying out loud, let’s also implore at least one high-profile Texas politician — Lt. Gov. Patrick — to stop equating teachers with militia.

‘Our teachers are part of that well-run militia’

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to put guns in our teachers’ hands.

He thinks a well-armed teacher could have stopped the shooter from slaughtering those 10 victims in Santa Fe, Texas, the other day.

Sure thing, Mr. Patrick. Or … a heat-packing educator could have missed the shooter and wounded — or killed! — other students or fellow educators.

Patrick told ABC News’s “This Week” that teachers “are part of that well-run militia” spelled out in the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Sigh …

In truth, the amendment refers to a “well-regulated militia.” My own view is that teachers are tasked exclusively to educate children; they are not asked to provide armed response to violence in the classroom or in the halls, or the cafeteria or the gymnasium or the school yard.

This notion of arming teachers keeps getting revived every time a gunman opens fire in our public schools. There has been so much of it these days we have become numb — or so it seems — to the news that keeps erupting.

Patrick did say something that rings true while he was on TV this morning: “We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games which now outsell movies and music.”

Yes, this is a societal issue that needs careful examination. However, none of that will be solved merely by putting more guns into our public schools.

Oklahoma governor going out with ‘a bang’ … so to speak

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is a lame duck chief exec who appears to have discovered the joy of not having to face special interest groups as she tries to get re-elected.

Gov. Fallin, a Republican, vetoed a bill that came to her desk that would have allowed Oklahomans to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, meaning they needed no training of any sort to pack heat amongst the rest of us.

Good … for … her!

The only stipulation in the bill she vetoed that was worth a damn was that the heat packers couldn’t have been convicted felons.

To no one’s surprise, the National Rifle Association is mad as hell at Fallin, who is term-limited from seeking another term as governor. The NRA pledges to help elect the next governor who, the organization hopes, will allow this ridiculous piece of legislation to become law.

But do you know who’s happy about it, aside from rank-and-file citizens who opposed this monstrosity? Law enforcement officers! The cops didn’t want Fallin to sign the bill. State and local police associations urged Fallin to keep her signature off the legislation. She listened to them.

Their fears were well-founded. They just believe that concealed carry opportunities must come with some reasonable restrictions. Passing a rudimentary test after taking a basic course on firearms safety hardly constitutes a ham-fisted limitation on the rights of folks to “keep and bear arms.”

And to think the Legislature wanted to remove event that rule. Good grief.

Again … you go, Gov. Fallin!

How do more guns make us safer?

I have been thinking for the past few days about my friend Martin, a journalist in Germany. He’s a family man with three young children.

Martin and I have had some stimulating talks over the years about U.S. politics and government. He knows this country far better than I know his native Germany.

I mention Martin today as the National Rifle Association is having its annual meeting in Dallas, which when you think about it is the perfect venue for the NRA, given that most Texans are flat-out, all-in supportive of the NRA’s political agenda.

Martin cannot grasp the notion that the NRA keeps pitching, which is — essentially — that more guns make us safer. He and I have talked about the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment. I have sought to explain the difficulty in amending an amendment in this country.

Germany has much stricter rules on gun ownership than we do. Martin buys into the German government’s view that the best way to prevent gun violence is to take guns away. It’s a simple proposition, as he sees it … although do not refer to my friend as “simplistic.” He is serious, intelligent and well-educated, as is his wife.

Although my friend and I disagree on the value on the Second Amendment to our national fabric — he thinks we ought to repeal it, while I do not — I do support his notion that more guns do not make us safer. More guns only exacerbate the crisis that has produced this plague of gun violence.

Accordingly, I continue to believe — the NRA’s view on the subject notwithstanding — that we can find a way to legislate tougher controls on gun purchases without emasculating the Second Amendment’s guarantee that the right to “keep and bear shall not be infringed.”

As for the NRA meeting in Dallas, I am quite certain that Donald J. Trump — who’s going to speak at the event — will warn the gun enthusiasts that if Democrats take control of Congress this year, “they’re going to take your guns away.”

Earth to The Donald: Democrats have controlled Congress and the presidency before. The guns haven’t gone anywhere.