Tag Archives: Second Amendment

Why not just ‘mend’ the 2nd Amendment?

President Gerald R. Ford thought he was appointing a conservative jurist to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975 when nominated John Paul Stevens.

Wrong, Mr. President. The justice turned out to be a liberal icon on the court. The retired justice has ignited a wildfire. He writes in a New York Times essay that it’s time to — gulp! — repeal the Second Amendment.

Justice Stevens is 97 years of age but he still has a razor-sharp mind. He’s a learned and brilliant man.

That all said, I happen to disagree with him on the need to repeal the amendment that says the “right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Stevens writes, in part: Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “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.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.

Read the entire essay here.

I don’t intend to suggest I can match Justice Stevens’s intellectual wattage. I just want to offer the view that the Second Amendment contains no language that I can identify that says it must remain sacrosanct.

With the March For Our Lives emboldening literally millions of young Americans to seek legislative remedies to the spasm of gun violence, I am going to cling tightly to the view that those remedies exist somewhere in the legislative sausage grinder. And those remedies can be enacted without repealing the Second Amendment.

I know what the amendment says and nowhere does it ban any reasonable controls on the purchase, sale or the possession of firearms. Gun-rights proponents keep insisting that any legislation that seeks to impose tighter controls on gun purchases launches us down some mysterious “slippery slope.” They fill Americans with the fear that the government is coming for their guns; they’ll be disarmed and made vulnerable to governmental overreach.

That is the worst form of demagoguery imaginable.

Surely there can be some way to allow “law-abiding Americans” to purchase firearms while keeping these weapons out of the hands of lunatics. This can be done under the guise of a Second Amendment guarantee that Americans can “keep and bear Arms.”

Bump stocks banned: it’s a start

The U.S. Justice Department has acted — finally! — on a measure that well could start us down a more rational, sane world regarding firearm regulation.

DOJ announced it is going to implement a ban on bump stocks, those devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic killing machines.

While the nation has been fixated since Valentine’s Day on the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre, let us remember an earlier slaughter.

A lunatic opened fire in Las Vegas with a semi-auto rifle he had converted into a machine gun, killing 59 people attending a music festival at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. He eventually killed himself.

The debate over bump stocks was joined immediately.

Is this measure going to strip legitimate firearm owners of their right to “keep and bear arms”? Not in the least. It is going to potentially deter future madmen from doing what the Las Vegas shooter did, which is turn a semi-automatic rifle into a virtual weapon of war.

In announcing the Justice Department directive, though, we had to leave it to Donald Trump to lay blame on his made-up nemesis, Barack Obama, for “approving” bump stocks.

Trump’s tweet is sort of correct, at a certain level. The decision to allow bump stocks was done at an administrative mid-level at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The president or the attorney general, Eric Holder, had no direct input on the deliberations being undertaken.

Leave it to Obama’s successor, though, to forgo a forward-looking statement and to assess blame on someone else on a problem that needed to be fixed.

So, the Justice Department has acted. It will ban bump stocks. It will seek to prevent gun owners from creating machine guns.

This is by no stretch of anyone’s imagination a decision that launches us down any sort of slippery slope. It makes sense.

‘March’ could signal a turning point for Panhandle

A lot of Texas Panhandle students, teachers, parents and just plain folks — and that includes yours truly — are hoping for a big weekend.

They’re going to gather around noon Saturday at Ellwood Park in downtown Amarillo. They’ll troop a few blocks east and a bit north to the Potter County Courthouse, where some of them are going to speak to what I hope is a large crowd of marchers and supporters.

It will be part of a national movement called “March For Our Lives.” Students all over America are organizing this event in their respective communities. Amarillo has joined them. Caprock High School students are taking the lead in organizing the local event.

Why is this potentially a big day? It could signal a serious turn in community attitudes about gun violence.

The “March” has been spurred by the Valentine’s Day slaughter in Parkland, Fla., of 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff members. The gunman is a former student who got expelled for bad behavior. Police arrested him and the local district attorney has charged him with 17 counts of murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty — even if the shooter pleads guilty in an effort to avoid a death sentence.

The Texas Panhandle isn’t known as a hotbed of progressive political thought. The majority of residents here make different political decisions; they support candidates who adhere to a more conservative view.

The “March” on Saturday well might produce a counter-demonstration or two. The marchers are going to lift their voices to seek legislative remedies in the Texas Legislature and in Congress that they hope could restrict the purchase of firearms.

I think it’s important to note that, as one of the Caprock HS student organizers said, this march isn’t intended to be an “anti-gun” protest. I am not hearing any organizers calling for repealing or a serious watering down of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. I am sure that pro-gun rights activists certainly see any change in gun laws as an erosion of Second Amendment rights.

The “March” is sure to embolden young people here and across this vast nation with a sense that their voices are being heard on an issue in which they have a direct stake. Indeed, they see themselves and their school-age brethren as being thrust in harm’s way.

They need to be heard. Let’s hope the rest of us hear them when they march through downtown Amarillo and plead for an end to the national scourge of gun violence.

Texas pols stay quiet about Trump gun talk

Barack Obama sought to legislate some remedy to the senseless slaughter of school children and other innocent victims.

The Texas Republican political leadership’s response then? They went apoplectic! They accused the president of seeking to repeal the Second Amendment, disarm law-abiding Americans and toss their firearms into the ocean … if you get my drift.

Donald Trump has just pitched an aggressive set of proposals to regulate gun purchases, make it more difficult to purchase assault weapons and raise the minimum wage for those who can buy these weapons.

The Texas GOP response? Nothing, man! Zip. Zero. Nada.

Hey, what gives here? Isn’t the president a Second Amendment champion? Doesn’t he believe its words are sacred, that they shouldn’t be tinkered with?

The president has gotten the attention of gun enthusiasts, although it’s not at all clear that the president is going to hold firm to what he is pitching. I am struck by the silence of key GOP politicians on this matter.

I happen to believe the president has presented a reasonable start to a serious discussion. I want to offer a full-throated endorsement of what he is pitching — except, of course, for the nutty notion of arming school teachers with firearms.

It is fascinating in the extreme to watch politicians from within the president’s own party remain silent as he fires off these proposals. If they had come from former President Obama, why, they’d be going nuts.

Do they stand behind a principle, or do they stand behind the man … who doesn’t seem to have any consistent political philosophy?

As long as we’re talking about guns …

I understand people’s fascination with firearms. I get that many Americans get a form of “enjoyment” out of shooting them.

What I do not get — nor will I ever understand, more than likely — is the fascination with assault rifles, killing machines that shoot large amounts of ordnance in very little time.

I now will explain why I get the fascination part.

I’ll begin by boasting — just a little — that I have a certain proficiency with firearms. I discovered my rifle proficiency while serving in the U.S. Army. I completed my basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash., in 1968 while toting an M-14 semi-automatic rifle. It used a 20-round magazine full of 7.62-mm rounds and I earned a “sharpshooter” rating with the rifle.

I flew from Fort Lewis to Fort Eustis, Va., for my AIT (advanced individual training). Even though I trained as an OV-1 Mohawk aircraft mechanic, we were issued M-16 rifles, on which we had to qualify. The M-16 was much lighter than the M-14, but it, too, used a 20-round magazine, firing a much smaller caliber round: a .223, barely bigger than the .22-caliber bullet my rifle at home shot. The M-16 is a deadly weapon of war, however. I qualified well on that weapon, too.

I was issued an M-16 when I reported for duty in Vietnam in the spring of 1969 and, thank goodness, I never had to fire it in combat.

But my exposure to those weapons never brought discomfort to me. I felt quite comfortable firing them during training exercises.

Fast-forward to 2003. I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas. I received an invitation to take part in the Amarillo Police Department Citizens Academy. Its aim is to acquaint civilians to myriad aspects of police work. It’s an educational tool that APD uses to give citizens — such as yours truly — a better understanding of the complexities associated with law enforcement.

One aspect of the academy was to spend some time at the firing range. We got to shoot a .38-caliber revolver — a six-shooter; a 9-mm Glock pistol; and an AR-15 rifle (yes, the weapon used in the Parkland, Fla., school massacre on Valentine’s Day).

I am not as familiar with handguns as I am with rifles. But I made a rather startling discovery about myself that day: I’m a pretty good shot with a handgun. I was able to shoot the six-gun well; I was able to handle the more powerful Glock with proficiency; and the AR-15 felt much like the M-16 I was issued in Vietnam.

I came away from the APD Citizens Academy shooting range understanding fully the fascination with shooting weapons at targets.

However, and this interesting, as well, as much “fun” as I had shooting those weapons at the APD range, I didn’t get bitten by the shooting “bug.” I haven’t fired a handgun since that day 15 years ago.

As we continue this national discussion about guns, though, I remain opposed to the idea of allowing the relatively easy purchase of weapons such as the AR-15 that can be used to kill lots of people in no time at all.

They, in effect, are weapons of war, where they and other such weaponry do what they are designed to do. On the streets — or in school classrooms, for crying out loud! — they have no place.

Condi Rice: Squishy liberal? Hardly

Can we add Condoleezza Rice to the ranks of those who are thinking aloud about how the Second Amendment applies to the real world of today, compared to when it was written?

Let’s start by dismissing the notion that the former secretary of state, national security adviser to President George W. Bush and all-round brainiac is some squishy liberal. She isn’t.

The Parkland, Fla., school slaughter has Rice thinking about the Second Amendment. According to The Hill: “I think it is time for us to have a conversation about what the right to bear arms means in the modern world,” Rice told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I don’t understand why civilians need to have access to military weapons.”

“We wouldn’t, we wouldn’t say you can go out and buy a tank,” she continued. “So I do think we need to have that conversation.”

Could the authors of the Second Amendment in the 18th century envision a time when weapons such as the AR-15 that the Parkland shooter used would be available? I doubt it, folks.

So, let’s have that discussion. Shall we? Can we have it without going apoplectic?

Maybe someone as distinguished and admired as Condoleezza Rice can lead it.

Dear Mac: Step up on gun violence

Congressman Mac Thornberry:

I’m not one to write “open letters” to public officials, but I’m making an exception with this note. A lot of your supporters read this blog regularly and my sincere hope is that one or more of them will forward it to you.

Congressman, I want to join millions of other Americans who are calling for some action from you and your congressional colleagues on this sickening, maddening and tragic issue of gun violence.

I won’t belabor what you already know about the latest spasm of violence that erupted on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla.

But you’re a big hitter in the U.S. House of Representatives these days. You no longer are a back-bencher. Your high profile as chairman of the Armed Services Committee gives you a louder voice than some chump who’s been in Congress for far less time than you.

Hey, we go back a ways together … you and I. I started my job at the Amarillo Globe-News the same week you took office after your stunning election in 1994. I’ve supported you while working for the Globe-News. I also have opposed you on occasion.

I am acutely aware of the constituency you represent. You are elected to one of the nation’s most reliably Republican congressional districts, even though it’s been redrawn considerably since you took office. Your constituents by and large are big Second Amendment proponents. They don’t much like any idea that monkeys around with the gun amendment.

Surely, though, you must understand that slaughtering school children and their educators is not normal. This is not how a civilized society should behave. Civilized societies should tolerate this carnage. Not for an instant! But, for God’s sake, we do!

Tougher background checks? Yes. End of those “bump stocks” that turn semi-automatic rifles into fully auto killing machines? By all means. How about a ban on assault rifles? Yes, I know many of your constituents are hunters, but who needs an assault rifle to shoot deer, turkeys or feral hogs in the Texas Panhandle?

Just for the record, though, I oppose arming teachers. My thought is this: More guns do not create a safer environment.

Given that you are now a member of the congressional leadership team, I want you to speak out clearly about what you think should be done to prevent recurrences of these tragedy.

I am tired of the canard that “no legislation would prevent” a madman from shooting someone. I will not tolerate a lame notion that there is nothing to be done that doesn’t tear the guts out of the Second Amendment. You can find a solution and you must communicate your ideas to those you represent in the halls of power.

Silence won’t do it for me, congressman. It shouldn’t do it for your other constituents, either.

Seize the moment, Rep. Thornberry.

Remember when Obama was going to disarm us?

All this hubbub over gun control, gun violence and whether Donald Trump would inject the power of the presidency into this debate sparked a memory.

It involves former President Barack H. Obama. You see, Obama faced crises similar to what we’re facing now. Shooters opened fire in public schools, in movie theaters and shopping malls. The president would speak to the nation about the need to curb gun violence.

After the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six educators, Obama was moved to tears. He spoke of the innocent children who died along the teacher heroes who fought to spare them from the carnage. He demanded legislation that would curb gun violence.

Then the gun lobby kicked into high gear. It asserted that the president intended to disarm Americans. Obama didn’t respect the Second Amendment, they said.

Despite all the rhetoric we heard from Obama and those of his allies, the Second Amendment remains untouched from the day it was written by the Founding Fathers.

Then just today we hear that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, wants the Justice Department to propose regulations banning bump stocks, the devices used to turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. A bump stock isn’t the issue with regard to the Parkland, Fla., school massacre, but it does speak to the issue of gun regulation.

I am waiting now for the gun lobby to rise up against Donald Trump. Will the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, accuse the president of seeking to disarm the “law-abiding” public that cherishes firearm ownership?

I doubt we’ll hear it this time. I mean, this president says he favors gun ownership and he favors the Second Amendment.

However, I also believe President Obama sought to assure Americans he also supported the Second Amendment. Yes, I know he said something about following the Australia model, which called for confiscation of firearms after a massacre there in 1996.

The result, though, is that nothing happened. We are as armed today as we ever have been.

I’ll continue to assert that there are ways to tighten regulations without subverting the Second Amendment. I have no solutions. I do have hope — although it is diminishing rapidly — that we can find one.

Bump stocks on the way out … it’s a start

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Donald Trump today announced plans to get rid of bump stocks, devices used on semi-automatic weapons to turn them into fully automatic weapons.

To that I can say only: good show, Mr. President!

Bump stocks came to the fore after the Las Vegas massacre that killed 59 people attending a country music festival. The shooter killed himself after he had turned his rifle into a machine gun that he unloaded on festival attendees.

The latest tragedy involves high school students who were mowed down in Parkland, Fla. According to The Hill: “We can do more to protect our children. We must do more to protect our children,” Trump said during the announcement at the White House.

Yes, we can — and we must protect our children.

Trump has been a bit slow to call attention to ways we can seek solutions to this crisis. The president has directed the Justice Department to propose regulations that would eliminate bump stocks.

Oh, how I hope that members of Congress are now frightened by threats delivered by gun lobbyists who see bump-stock elimination would somehow run counter to the Second Amendment’s guarantee of firearm ownership.

Who in the world needs a device that turns semi-auto weapons into killing machines? I have the answer: killers.

The founders never envisioned this perversion of the amendment that they wrote into the U.S. Constitution.

Repeal the Second Amendment? Hey, let’s talk

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.

— Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

I’ve got some idle time and I am wondering about a congressional proposal that would move Mother Earth, about an idea that would trigger a political earthquake like we’ve never seen in this country.

Have you wondered — as I have — whether anyone in Congress has the nerve to propose repealing the Second Amendment?

Mass shootings in schools, churches, movie theaters, at music festivals or shopping malls so far has failed to move anyone to propose such a thing on Capitol Hill. Seventeen more people died this week in Parkland, Fla., when a lunatic opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle that he had purchased legally.

I’ve heard a bit of chatter from young Americans that maybe they would be the generation to get our politicians to do something truly dramatic to curb gun violence.

Repealing the Second Amendment would be, um, a seriously dramatic notion.

We all know this reality: It won’t happen. The Second Amendment is one of our Bill of Rights. It isn’t going to be repealed. Sure, we’ve repealed amendments before. The 18th Amendment calling for Prohibition was pulled back years later when it became clear that it wasn’t prohibiting Americans from swilling alcoholic beverages; Congress enacted the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th. So, the precedent for repealing a constitutional amendment has been set.

Do I believe we should repeal the Second Amendment? Full repeal isn’t possible, as near as I can tell. I do believe that there must be a legislative solution that allows Congress to enact laws that control the purchase and ownership of firearms without violating the principle behind the Second Amendment.

I don’t want the government to storm into my house and force me to surrender the two weapons I own: an heirloom 30.06 rifle and a .22-caliber single-shot rifle my father gave me when I was 11 years of age.

You see, I am not a nut job. I don’t have pent-up anger. I will never do harm with either of these weapons. That’s just me. I cannot speak for the actual nut jobs out there who possess far deadlier weapons and do intend to inflict maximum horror and misery.

It is long past time our elected representatives do something constructive about the individuals who purchase assault rifles and then unleash them against children or other innocent victims.

So, why not kick the discussion squarely in the a** by suggesting out loud that it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment?

Surely there must be a member of Congress — among the 535 individuals serving there — who has the stones to do such a thing.