Demonstrations are not a debate. Rather I suspect that New York’s ban on “assault weapons” and its gun registry requirements will ultimately lead to the United States Supreme Court again addressing the issue of gun control and the Second Amendment. Gun rights activists, including the NRA, are already branding the NY law unconstitutional, arguing that it takes Constitution-granted rights away. On the other side of the aisle, the anti-gun activists simply ignore Second Amendment rights. As always, the sheep on each side follow their shepherd and demonstrate.
But how many know that when the United States Supreme Court struck down Washington DC’s hand gun law in 2008, it did not confer on gun owners unlimited Second Amendment rights. On the contrary, the Court said “like most rights, the right secured by the Second amendment is not unlimited” citing as examples possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, prohibitions on carrying of firearms in schools, and conditions and qualifications imposed on commercial sale of arms. And the Court went even further, “[w]e also recognize another important limitation . . . that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time’.”
But struggling with interpretations of the Second Amendment is not the only basis for imposing limitations. The founding fathers emphasized an authority that overrules even the Constitution. On July 4th 1776, the then Continental Congress signed a Declaration that stated that, not only are all men created equal, but also they are endowed “by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Why unalienable? Because these rights are incapable of being altered, and therefore, no Constitutional Amendment can abridge these rights. The right to Life is greater than the right to bear arms. Being subordinated, the right to bear arms must of necessity always be reasonable as it relates to the right of everyone to Life. Assault weapons serve no purpose other than to kill and therefore Second Amendment protection is unreasonable and must yield.
Finally, there is the most rational basis for banning assault weapons, or any weapon whose sole purpose is to kill. In my book, the hero poses a question to his mentor: “How do you stop killing.” Before providing the difficult answer, the mentor responds: “Has killing ever brought any change for the good?”
A people still divided on the issue of gun control in the face of the Newtown killings brings no change for the good. One would hope that the two sides could see that the question is not about Second Amendment rights but about stopping the killing in any and every reasonable way possible. How better it would be if the two sides could come together at least on the issue of banning assault weapons rather than be further divided by demonstrations or even another Supreme Court decision. That would be the right start of a real change for the good.
[If you want the answer to how to stop killing, you’ll find it in my book, A Promise Kept, but you may not like the answer.]