Tag Archives: Second Amendment

Parsing the founders’ language in the 2nd Amendment

Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution — all 27 of them — the one that gives me the most serious case of heartburn is the Second Amendment.

Here is what this amendment says. It’s brief, but it’s so damn confusing in my humble view: 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.

Americans are talking yet again about this amendment. Events in Las Vegas over the weekend have thrust this issue to the top of our minds once more. We’re talking about gun violence, gun control. We’re even debating whether we should be debating this issue at this time. I believe we should.

But I want to look at the Second Amendment’s sentence construction. I’ve read it thousands of times over my many years on this good Earth. I don’t understand what it’s saying.

The founders were smart men. They did a good job of developing a fairly cogent and concise bill of rights that are contained in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Second Amendment, though, seems to make two points that are not connected to each other.

Indeed, the first 12 words preceding the comma seem to be lacking an ending. It refers only to a “well-regulated” militia and the necessity to have one to maintain “the security of a free State.” That’s it!

The following clause could stand as a complete sentence in that it contains a subject, some verbs and a predicate.

Those who favor stricter controls on firearms point to the first clause as their rationale. Those who oppose such controls look to the clause after the comma as their rationale.

My sense is that here is where the debate over this amendment seems to break down. Those on opposing sides of this mammoth chasm place their emphases on separate clauses. One means something different from the other one.

I know that courts have ruled countless times that the amendment means that Americans can own firearms, that it’s protected in the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights was ratified Dec. 15, 1791 and thus, the Constitution was established to form a framework for our representative democracy.

The founders got it mostly right when they crafted that framework. They wrote the Bill of Rights almost without exception with sentences that make sense; nine of the 10 amendments comprising the Bill of Rights were constructed in ways that make sense to laypeople such as yours truly.

The Second Amendment, though, gives me heartburn.

By all means, let’s talk about guns

Part of the debate in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre has spun into a discussion about the timing of a debate over gun violence and whether we need more laws to control the ownership of firearms.

Donald Trump believes it’s premature to talk about such matters.

The White House echoes the president’s view on the timing of that discussion.

Others, meanwhile, have kicked that debate into first gear and are shifting into higher gears quickly.

To be honest, I am with those who want to start the discussion now.

I am not dishonoring the victims of the gunman’s horrific act. I pray daily for the 59 people killed and for the 500-plus victims who were injured. I pray for our country and hope we can return to some semblance of sanity.

Moreover, I do believe we can enact some additional controls on the flow of firearms without dismembering the Second Amendment guarantees of firearm ownership. I won’t engage in that debate here.

I do want to deal briefly with the notion that we can have that discussion while mourning the loss of life in Las Vegas. It’s not too early. I am mystified at the idea that it is inappropriate to seek measures to protect us against this kind of heinous act.

TV talking heads are grilling politicians about gun control. Some of them are hedging. Others are willing to engage — right now — in that discussion.

The carnage that spilled on the floor in Las Vegas has prompted yet another national debate over how — or if — we can ever protect humanity from gun madness.

Do I have confidence that this moment will produce any action? Consider this: If the deaths of those 20 innocent children and six of their teachers, who were slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., couldn’t get politicians to budge, does anyone believe they’ll move as a result of the Las Vegas massacre?

Their likely refusal does not make a national discussion any less important.

‘Even the loons’ deserve to have guns?

Bill O’Reilly isn’t on TV much these days but he still has quite a following around the nation.

I feel the need, therefore, to challenge an assertion that the former TV host made in a blog post he wrote about the Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of Americans to “keep and bear arms.” He said the Las Vegas massacre this weekend is the “price of freedom” and said the “Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”

Even the loons?

No, Bill. The loons might have that right currently, but they do not deserve the same rights to own firearms for protection.

This cuts pretty close to the heart of a debate that’s going to rage across the nation in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre that killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others. The gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel onto a floor filled with concert goers who were listening to a concert performance by country music star Jason Aldean.

The debate over the Second Amendment has commenced, despite what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said today about it being “too early” to have this national discussion.

Price of freedom?

I have no specific answers to the changing the status quo. I do believe in the Second Amendment. I believe Americans’ right to own firearms should remain. However, I continue to believe that there must be some additional controls placed on those who purchase firearms to do something to keep them out of the hands of people like the Las Vegas gunman.

There are limits on certain elements of the First Amendment; you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater, nor can you slander or libel someone. Yet, there are those who contend that the Second Amendment must remain untouched from what the founders wrote in the 18th century. 

I won’t accept that notion. Surely there can be a way to craft reasonable restrictions on the purchase of firearms that seek to keep them from nut jobs like the guy who opened fire in Las Vegas.

And, no, I am acutely aware that no additional law is going to deter every single monster from obtaining a weapon, just as laws against murder haven’t eliminated that crime from occurring.

As we move forward with this discussion, my hope is that we can find a way to keep this debate as calm as possible and look as dispassionately as we can at alternatives to the status quo.

Another tragedy likely to ignite another debate on guns

Americans awoke this morning to horrifying news.

At least 58 people are dead, hundreds more injured and a nation is shaken to its core because of gun violence. This time is occurred from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

A gunman opened fire with a fully automatic rifle from high over the ground floor where revelers were enjoying a country music festival.

What in the name of all that is supposed to make sense do we think about this?

The shooter is dead; he reportedly took his own life as police were closing in on the room where he was holed up. The FBI is assisting local police in investigating what drove this monster to do what he did. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, called this an act of “pure evil,” which it most certainly is.

Somehow, in a macabre sort of way, any discussion of what to call this dastardly act seems pointless so early as we have become consumed by our national grief. I’ll call it what I believe it is: an act of domestic terrorism. I will let others debate how this should be labeled; I won’t join that debate.

Make no mistake, too, that this act is going to spawn yet another “national conversation” about gun violence and how — or if — we can ever enact reasonable, tighter gun control laws that do not infringe on people’s constitutional guarantees to the ownership of firearms.

I’ve long believed the Second Amendment is not wholly sacrosanct. I believe there can be restrictions placed on weapons of the type used in the Mandalay Bay massacre. That debate will be joined in due course.

Meanwhile, I am going to collect my breath and say my prayers for a nation that has been thrust into mourning once again by the insane act of a gun-toting madman.

Make ‘homosexual activity illegal’? How?

The man whom Alabama Republican primary voters have nominated for the U.S. Senate is truly a frightening individual.

He is Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Just the other day he talked at a campaign rally about his support of the Second Amendment — and then pulled a pistol out of his pocket to prove his point.

That’s not the particular point of this blog post, however.

This one-time jurist believes that “homosexual activity” should be made illegal. I’ll take a leap here and presume he believes that gay couples must not be permitted to engage in any form of intimacy.

I’m now wondering: How does one enforce such a law?

It reminds of me a terrible “anti-sodomy law” that once was on the books in Texas. That law gave license, as I read it, for law enforcement officials to raid people’s bedrooms to enforce the prohibition against intimacy involving gay men. It’s no longer on the books.

So, what is Roy Moore suggesting? That law enforcement authorities barge into people’s homes to make sure they’re not engaging in “homosexual activity”?

This is the fellow who was stripped of his judgeship for (a) refusing to remove a Ten Commandments display from public property and (b) encouraged county clerks in Alabama to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Now Alabama’s Republican voters have just nominated someone who believes that gay people cannot engage in certain “activities.”

Alabama is a deeply Republican state. This fellow stands a good chance of being elected to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate after Jeff Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

If it comes to pass, I believe Capitol Hill is going to become a significantly loonier place.

Scary, man. Scary.

That’s the way to sound ‘presidential,’ Mr. President

So … this is how Donald J. Trump plans to sound “presidential.”

The president flew today to Atlanta to speak to the National Rifle Association’s national convention.

He stood behind the podium and told the conventioneers about how he intends to fight for their rights as gun owners.

He said, this, too: “It could be Pocahontas. Remember that. And she is not big on the NRA, that I can tell you.”

Who is “Pocahontas” and in what context was he making that reference?

It happens to be a duly elected U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has said over the years that she has a bit of Native American heritage. Trump has challenged Warren’s assertion and has chosen to ridicule her Native American claim by referring to her as Pocahontas.

She also might run for president in 2020. Thus, he is warning the NRA that she favors stricter controls on guns, which the NRA of course opposes.

Presidents usually don’t stoop to the kind of goofy name-calling we keep hearing from the guy who occupies that post.

Still, he keeps telling us of his intention to be more “presidential.”

I’m still waiting, Mr. President.

We still have our guns … imagine that

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Plenty of doomsday scenarios were put forward by Barack Obama’s enemies when he became president in 2009. Most of them made no sense. One of them was particularly absurd.

I refer to politically active groups, such as the National Rifle Association, which fomented fear among the ranks of gun owners that the president was going to order federal agents to disarm us all. He would flout the Second Amendment and push legislation through Congress that would deprive of us of our constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” … they said.

Do you remember all that crap? I do.

It was all meant to scare the daylights out of us, to suggest that this president — who really isn’t one of “us,” if you’ll recall that other “birther” baloney as well — was hell bent on coming after our guns.

One of the social media themes that made the rounds not long ago was that the president had endorsed the Australia law that essentially took away everyone’s gun. The result of that law was a precipitous decline in gun violence Down Under; Obama thought that was a good result.

That never happened. It won’t happen, either, as long as we have a Constitution that includes the Second Amendment.

What the gun-owner-rights fearmongers ignored, too, was that the president lacks absolute power to impose his will over the nation. I hope the new president understands that, too. The president has that other co-equal government arm with which he must deal: Congress, which is populated by members who get lots of campaign dough from the gun lobby.

I mention this — as we draw closer to the end of President Obama’s time in office — to remind us all of the fearmongering that at times can overcome reasonable discussion of serious public policy issues.

Still waiting to see guns on hips

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Texas became the latest state to allow residents to carry their guns in the open.

I’m going to make an admission that won’t surprise readers of this blog: I don’t like the new law. I dislike the idea of making loaded weapons more visible on our city streets, at the grocery store.

The law took effect on Aug. 1; the irony was rich, given that the effective date fell 50 years to the day after the gunman opened fire from the University of Texas Tower in Austin, killing 16 people.

I dislike the idea of requiring public colleges and universities to allow students to carry guns into the classroom.

No, I do not oppose the Second Amendment. I just happen to believe there are ways to restrict gun ownership while remaining faithful to the amendment.

All that said, I’m frankly surprised — and pleasantly so — that I haven’t seen anyone packing a gun on his or hip.

The open-carry law is restricted only to those who are licensed to carry weapons concealed. So, perhaps the concealed-carry licensees are still packing heat under their jackets or in their purses.

That suits me all right. What I cannot see doesn’t bother me as much as it would if I were to walk into a crowd with those who are showing off their guns.

I don’t expect this absence of guns in plain sight to continue.

I’m just grateful that, so far, I haven’t been forced to see them.

Presidents should speak precisely … and with clarity

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I am not going to ascribe some nefarious motive behind what Donald J. Trump said about the Second Amendment and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I do not know what he meant when he said “Second Amendment people” might take care of Clinton if she’s elected president and appoints judges who might be unfriendly to gun owners’ rights.

The Republican presidential nominee has come under withering criticism for seemingly — according to some folks — suggesting someone should actually harm the Democratic presidential nominee.

The troubling aspect up front for me is the lack of clarity and precision that keeps pouring out of Trump’s pie hole when he makes statements such as his latest stumble-bum utterance.

He wants to be president of the United States, allegedly.

That means he must follow a number of rules associated with being head of state and government.

One of them has to be to speak with absolute clarity all the time.

I’m trying to imagine Trump letting slip some ridiculous assertion about a world leader or an international trouble spot that gets lost in the translation. These things do happen, you know.

What if, for example, he repeats his belief that Japan and South Korea should be able to develop nukes as a defense against North Korea? How is that tinhorn despot Kim Jong Un going to interpret it? Would he then, on a whim, decide to attack South Korea believing that his peninsula neighbors are about to explode a nuclear device?

The kind of loose and careless talk — which is what he exhibited with his Second Amendment remarks in North Carolina — cannot be tolerated in someone who presents himself as a serious candidate for the U.S. presidency.

Trump steps in it … again

BBvrUog

Donald J. Trump has shown a remarkable ability to say things that those who hear them can interpret in ways that he may not have intended.

He did it again today at a North Carolina campaign rally.

The Republican presidential nominee fired up his crowd by declaring that Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton “essentially” intends to dismantle the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

He said: “By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Though the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/pence-defends-trump-he-was-rallying-gun-owners-to-vote/ar-BBvrMFw?li=BBnb7Kz

Unlike many folks who blog or pontificate on politics, I am not a mind-reader. Therefore, I am not going to presume what Trump meant to say.

Some suggest he meant that “Second Amendment people” could do serious harm to Clinton if she appoints judges to the federal judiciary who will gut gun owners’ rights.

Others, such as GOP vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, said that he meant only to encourage those “Second Amendment people” to vote for president this fall.

Hmmm.

Trump, to no one’s surprise, hasn’t yet clarified his own remarks. He has chosen, I suppose, to leave it to others to parse his statement.

There is a pattern here. Trump says things with little appreciation for the consequences of what he utters.

It’s interesting to me that at the moment he spoke about the “Second Amendment people,” he never offered any detail, such as, oh: “There’s nothing you can do, folks, although the Second Amendment people can be sure to get out and vote for me, because I will protect the rights of gun owners.”

He didn’t do that.

Now we’re left to wonder what this guy actually means.

Mr. Trump, allow me to be among the many who’ve warned you already: Words have consequences.