In Newtown Debate, Put Everything on the Table

All rights – including the Second Amendment – come with caveats.


In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the gun control advocates are calling for restrictions on firearms and some on the pro-gun side are citing the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

So here’s the thing: Let’s go with the constitutional framers original intent and allow every American to own a musket.

But first, let’s stop pretending that the Bill of Rights grants rights – including gun ownership -- that are absolute. We have free speech, but you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. We have freedom of assembly but you’re not allowed to riot.

So when gun advocates say they have the right to bear arms, all but the most extreme will acknowledge that like all freedoms in the Bill of Rights, it comes with caveats. For a fascinating look at the history of gun control, read this story in Atlantic magazine. 

When we have the national discussion on how to stem the numbers of mass shootings, every serious solution should be part of the conversation, including possible firearms restrictions and changes in the mental health system.  

And the two questions we should ask ourselves about any potential action: Is there evidence it would succeed in stemming the killing? And, if it does, is it worth the loss of freedom?  

Here are some ideas that are worth discussing:

-- New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out that Canada requires a 28-day waiting period to purchase a handgun and requires that gun buyers have two people vouch for them.

-- Kristof and Will Oremus of Slate.com wrote about Australia’s restrictions on semi-automatic shotguns and rifles put in place after a gunman killed 35 people and injured 23 more at a resort in Tasmania. Since then Australia has seen a huge drop in gun-related suicides and homicides with “no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides,” according to Oremus.

“In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country,” Oremus said. “There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.”

-- Writer Jane Smiley talks about the high cost of gun violence – some $4.7 billion for deaths and injuries – and suggests that we should treat gun ownership like car ownership.

“Every gun needs to be like every car -- you can't use it unless you have liability insurance,” she writes. “Attached to every gun, there must be a policy that the purchaser has to sign, acknowledging the dangers of his purchase and paying for them up front. I suggest the same for high volume clips.”

I don’t know whether any of these ideas would work in this country or whether they could pass constitutional muster. But if we don’t have serious, civil debates about such policies, we are acquiescing to the acts of madmen. 

As for the families of these little Newtown children, I pray they can find the strength to keep from sinking into a black hole of despair. As Bruce Springsteen sang after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks: “Tell me how do you live broken-hearted?”

There are no words. There are no words.

Nazaretti December 20, 2012 at 11:49 PM
No one has proposed making ownership of all guns illegal, so your "sake of the argument" is irrelevant. I agree that there will always be mentally ill people. I would like to make it harder for them to get access to semi-automatic weapons, so that the scale of carnage any one of them can commit is greatly reduced.
Chris Miller December 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Let's get back to the basics. Our Founding Fathers believed we would succeed if we were both a religious and moral people. We are no longer that. We need to clean up our ways. Why do we have adult tv on our TV options? Can we get back to kids coming home to a parent and not go cavorting into trouble. Can we get history, not social studies, into our classrooms? Can we get rid of the junk video games? Can we know our neighbors and can the neighborhood help in the rearing of our children. Can we stop giving every kid a trophy? We are a shallow people today and have grown into that. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Take a look at how our kids are attierd and at the same time if you are a parent look at how you are attired. People are still dressing for success. As to guns, I have been around them since I found my dad's gallery gun in .22 caliber. I love hunting and shooting. I am an NRA instructor in Basic Pistol, rifle, shotgun, reloading, and home defense. I teach several times a year at my home club Hellertown Sportman's Association. Great place with great facilities. Guns are not the problem if you learn what to do.,.Guns are an inanimate object, like your car, an iron, and countless other things that are in your home and have a use. As to preventing these tragedies, until the changes are made, and I do support personel to be trained and armed in the school, Likewise get riid of the drug and school zone signs. They are a joke and serve no purpose. Merry Christmas to you.
Maynard G Krebs December 21, 2012 at 01:47 AM
It's hard, or at least harder, to murder 26 people with baseball bat, but it's easy with an AR-15 or similar WMD. A little sensible gun control does not destroy the 2nd Amendment. And, no, Obama is not going to take away everyone's guns so he can turn the country over to the UN & impose Sharia law.
AnonymousGunOwner December 21, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Yes, Let's put EVERYTHING on the table. You put tired, disproven gun control measures (for example, the Columbine Massacre was in the middle of the last Assault Weapons ban...and the Violent Crime rates have been going UP in countries such as the UK and Australia after their complete bans..Australia had it's Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel fire where a mass murderer used fire to kill many people). We'll put on the Table better Mental health coverage and inpatient facilities for individuals like the Newtown shooter, limitations on the Media to prevent glorification of the shooters (and further copycat attacks), and finally universal Concealed Carry (with training) even into schools...which has stopped more attacks than you realize....here's a very brief summary of only a few of them: http://www.naturalnews.com/038404_massacres_gun_owners_defense.html
Michele K December 21, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Amen. I'm really getting tired of the gun lobbyist mantra of how making something illegal doesn't keep it from criminals. What they're really saying is, "can't win, so don't try." Is that really the best we can offer the next school or daycare shot up by someone using a semiautomatic weapon with an extended clip?
AnonymousGunOwner December 21, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Ms. Peterson...the citations you use in your article cherry pick (as they proclaim others do) statistics to prove their point. Here's a study comparing violent crimes (and the reduction in Homicides is about the same in the US (no ban) as in Australia (ban). http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=17847 One interesting fact...Australian women are now 3 times more likely to be raped than their US counterparts. The articles mention 'no mass shootings'...yet ignore the Childers Hostel Fire (mass murder using fire as the weapon of choice) as a mass attack. Another disingenuous mention...the 28 day waiting period in Canada. That is to apply for the Firearms "License", & take the safety class...not to purchase the handgun. Once you have the license (renewed every 5 years) you can purchase a long gun (rifle of shotgun) instantly and 'buy' the handgun instantly...but the purchase has to wait for the registration process to occur (time depends on government processing of the paperwork). So there is no 'waiting period' as he claims. Finally...let's look at the Sandy Hook shootings in relation to the existing laws. The shooter stole the guns after killing his own mother. Took them into a 'no gun zone' (the school) and committed a horrible atrocity. Did the Connecticut requirement for a pistol permit stop him? Did the 2 week waiting period for a long gun stop him?
H smith December 21, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I get very frustrated when people cite the Columbine tragedy as accruing during assault weapons ban. That part is true, but one of the MAJOR flaws of that legislation and our current background check legislation, is that the laws do not apply to private sales. That is how the perpetrators of Columbine were able to get their hands on an assault weapon - the ban was on manufacturers not existing guns sold by private citizens. Our current background checks do not apply to private sales as well. That combined with the fact that data about people suffering from mental illness is woefully incomplete as we saw after the Virginia Tech shootings. http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-victims-2012
Jonathan Gerard December 21, 2012 at 02:01 PM
The Constitution was written to "promote the general welfare" of the people. At the time, gun ownership served this purpose. It no longer does. In fact, it threatens the general welfare. It is time to repeal the second amendment. Owning a gun should no longer be a "right" of citizenship. It should be a "privilege" of law enforcement. The government should buy back guns and let the rest rust. Perhaps the next generation will be free of the scourge of gun violence. And for those legislators who believe that more guns, not fewer, will protect us: follow the plaint of Larry Womack and remove the metal detectors from the entrances to Congress. The self-serving logic of people who put the pleasure of firing bullets at pieces of paper over the protection of little children violates a core principle of every religion I know. And finally, pointing to mental health care and video game violence is a distraction. Other nations have video games and mentally ill people. But they do not have the murder rate we have. It is the proliferation of guns that makes living in America so relatively unsafe. That is the problem and that is what a solution must address. Repeal the Second Amendment.
New World Orphan December 21, 2012 at 02:18 PM
You sir; are a moron and thank god you have no power because your ignorance is unacceptable. The constitution was about guaranteeing freedom for all! including gun owners... I recommend reading up on what people have died for over 200 years because you have no idea the sacrifices people have made for you in the name of liberty.
Jonathan Gerard December 21, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Oh, so we're now into name calling as a form of argument? OK--YOU, sir, have the moral sensitivity and insight of a slug. You put the "freedom" to own a gun above the need to protect little babies from being murdered in their classrooms. The Constitution did not come from God--illustrated by the fact that it has been amended more than once. But you have turned it into an idol--holding it sacred, more sacred than human life. Shame on you and your selfish priorities.
Jonathan Gerard December 21, 2012 at 02:44 PM
And since you've endorsed name-calling, you'll understand why I'm also calling you a coward for calling me a moron without saying who you are. It's a bit like shooting a gun into a crowd of people, isn't it?--No one knows where the attack came from. You cannot attack someone with a knife or a rock anonymously. But you can shoot someone without their knowing who did it. Congratulations, gun defender. You even believe in using the violence of language. How does it feel to be the victim of it? Are you happy I'm using my freedom of speech? Does this firing of (verbal) attacks make the world a better place? Or are you only interested in your own immature need to justify owning a device whose sole purpose is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible?
Andrew Wilt December 21, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Rabbi Gerard - "On November 11, 1938, the German Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick, passed Regulations Against Jews' Possession of Weapons. This regulation effectively deprived all Jews of the right to possess firearms or other weapons." - from Wikipedia. It is unthinkable that you would propose to take guns out of the hands of citizens.
John Fox December 21, 2012 at 03:21 PM
It is easy to defend freedom and liberty when everything is going great, it is what you do in the difficult times that shows your true character. You ask if people like freedom of speech when it is used to attack them... while at that moment the person you are speaking most likely does not like it, if that person were to say that right should no longer be allowed because of it. That would be exactly the same knee jerk reaction that you espouse with the 2nd Amendment. SCOTUS has already ruled on cases about the 2nd Amendment and affirmed that citizens of the US have a legal right to own guns separate and apart from membership of a militia, and that all guns that are "in common use" are protected by the 2nd Amendment. With there being millions of AR style guns that are legally used and in possession by US citizens, I think it is safe to assume that this style of firearm is in common use. Therefore any law that bans AR style rifles would go against the Supreme Court Ruling and would therefore be found to be unconstitutional. See: District of Columbia vs Heller and McDonald v. Chicago if you don't believe me
ron December 21, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Without the second amendment the government could take that freedom of speech and other freedoms away so fast you would'nt know what hit you. It has happend many times in many countries. There are probaly millions of people on earth right now living under dictators suffering government oppression that would do anything to have our rights and freedoms. Lets not give ours away.
Jonathan Gerard December 21, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Mr. Wilt--Do I understand you correctly to be saying that if Jews had been allowed to own guns in pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany, then the Nazis would not have been able to exterminate the Jews of Europe? You bring Waco immediately to mind. The United States government is far more benign than the Nazi government, yet when a violently armed cult in Waco chose to defy the US government they learned quickly and tragically that the government wins. We no longer live in the 18th century when ordinary citizens had the same weapons as an army. Look at Syria and the death a government can rein on a rebellious people. Compare this to Gandhi's India. Look at how violent rebellion has hurt, not helped, Palestinian national aspirations. I am a religious person and believe that it is the moral argument that ultimately wins. The pen is mightier than the sword. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit," says the Eternal." The Nazis won their war against the Jews, even as they lost their other war against the Allies, because good people remained silent in the face of evil. Jews with guns? You're kidding, right? The first person they'd shoot would be their husbands. Then they'd shoot other Jews who disagreed with them over when the Sabbath officially ends or how long you have to wait after eating meat before you can eat dairy.
ron December 21, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Jonathan i wholeheartedly disagree with you on this issue but your definitely not a moron. Your probably smarter than me buy i still disagree. Thanks for the humor and intelligent debate.
Andrew Wilt December 21, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Rabbi Gerard - Yes, my point was that if Jews had guns, things might have gone differently for them. With respect to your other assertions: 1 - "The United States government is far more benign than the Nazi government..." - I suspect the Iraqs and Afghans might disagree. Drones? 2 - "Look at Syria and the death a government can rein on a rebellious people." - It is now believed that the "rebellious people" will prevail. 3 - "I am a religious person and believe that it is the moral argument that ultimately wins." - Perhaps. But how many have to die unnecessarily before the win? 4 - I can't respond as to how Jews interact with each other, but I have a link for you which you should find interesting: http://jpfo.org/
AnonymousGunOwner December 21, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Jonathan, One fatal flaw in your arguement...do you KNOW how much training in firearms the average police office gets in the US? The average hobbiest shooter (not the guy that only fires a few rounds at a paper target before hunting season) in the US shoots MORE rounds (in many cases 10x more) in practice than a Police Officer in many forces. Many only require a few rounds to re-qualify each year. Those same police officers were 2.3 miles (look up the distance from the police station in Newtown, CT to the school) from Sandy Hook...and couldn't stop the murders of 26 people.
AnonymousGunOwner December 21, 2012 at 04:37 PM
An additional point....the Constitution wasn't written to promote the 'general welfare'....it was written to protect them from a tyranical government. The colonies had just rebelled (using their 'militia'...able bodied individuals who provided their own arms in many cases).
Jonathan Gerard December 21, 2012 at 05:24 PM
OMG. Thanks for that link, Mr. Wilt. I shall never have a peaceful night of sleep again. Someone, knowing that Einstein was not an "observant" Jews, asked the physicist what in fact was it about Judaism that distinguished him from others. Einstein thought for a moment and then replied, "Jews don't hunt." Your link demonstrates another point about Jews--there is nothing that we all agree upon. Nothing.
Michael December 28, 2012 at 07:19 PM
understanding the 2nd amendment to the constitution: http://tinyurl.com/crobvbf The preamble, above and before any amendments (or articles), is the “mission statement” of the constitution. The preamble of the U.S. Constitution sets forth the six 'purposes' for creating the constitution, and, presumably, it's priorities. All articles to the constitution must, by definition, serve the purpose(s) of the preamble. 1. "form a more perfect Union" 2. "establish Justice" 3. "insure domestic Tranquility" 4. "provide for the common defense" 5. "promote the general Welfare" 6. "secure the Blessings of Liberty" Any adopted article or amendment which over time no longer serves to support the six objectives of the preamble becomes unconstitutional. Had the framers of the constitution not intended for the constitution to be changed with the times, as need to support its purpose, they would have not provided the means by which to make amendments.
Chris Miller December 30, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Jonathan You need to read a tad bit further into the 2nd Amendment. And tell me when the bad guy pulls a gun on you what are you going to do? If you want to do something to stop "gun problems" I sugget you work to impeach and remove Eric Holder.
Robert Trotner January 14, 2013 at 04:23 PM
We at the Lehigh Valley Coffee Party have noticed that three major polls have established that there is an almost unanimous consensus for creating a really working federal background security check system, as was intended by the Brady Bill but savaged and systematically gutted by the NRA's sabotage work. The national check system is most apparent by an absence rather than a presence of safeguards against undesirables getting guns as easily as going top a gun show and picking up 15-20 weapons with potential for unbelievable tragedy in in their hands a five minute transaction.
Chris Miller January 14, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Mr. Trotner You might want to check Governor Corbett's get move to get tthe "straw purchasers", those who buy a gun for another person who cannot buy one. If you truly check the operation of the NICS check you will find that bad guys will be picked up by the local police in the community so it is not real easy to try to obtain a gun legally. As to someone picking up 15-20 guns at a gun show I would ask if you have pictures verifying this action. More importantly, was it illegal to purchase 15-20 guns? If someone has three cars, the car being a deadly weapon, to we take this weapon away from the individual or maybe we take all of his cars. How many of the boys and girls in you liberal democrat group have ever shot a gun.More importantly, how do the ladies in your group feel about the woman who shot a guy 5 times because a bad guy broke into her home. A gun allowed her to protect herself and her family
athyniah elaine s. March 21, 2013 at 06:14 AM
but thts over doining it..come on 5 times is a little too much ..u wanna shoot were he cnt move anymre not kill the guy..bt then again did she go to jail murder is still murder ,u tke ones life u owe urs isnt tht how it works??????
Chris Miller March 21, 2013 at 11:26 AM
H-smith. If i recall correctly there are people on the watch list that should not have been on that list one reason being that he had the same name as a real terrorist. In some cases that did not stop the searchers to go about molesting people. As to purchasing a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and 500 rounds, a rifle check is done on the person who purchases the gun. A from must be filled out and phoned into the instant check devised by the FBI. You do not get the gun if you come up with a record and if you are wanted the police will be on the way.
Chris Miller March 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Nazaretti Gee would you like to provide some facts to those words. Here we are in the middle of the worst economy we have ever seen. On top of the the crime rate is up with bad guys going so far as to invade you home while you are still in it. I know, you are going to put a pile of rocks in you house to protect you and your family. You are the reason no one pays attention to things like gun bans. just ask Senator Feinstein
Chris Miller March 21, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Nazaretti Ok let's start with getting drugs like ritlind out of our schools and out of our boys who are jsut to busy. We use to have a good mental health system but we decided we could put mentally ill people, many of them homeless, on the street so we tore down the mental health facility. As to many "semi-automatic guns with no legitimate purposes" the AR is used to kill predators like coyotes. They are in are area and are devastating our deer herd. There are those who have League shooting for AR's no different then any other gun league. And keep this in mind that the vast majority of these guns are owned by veterans of our wars where the AR 15 was a real favorite. On top of that it is not your business what I own just as it is not my business what you own. Then let's add to that the militarization of our police forces across the nation that goes back to the 1960's and is gettng worse with each passing day. Read the Express-Times and see how many stories are in there daily about the problems with some police.
Chris Miller March 21, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Ms. Peterson Our problems are not tied to any inanimatel object. We are a nation that makes laws but I would ask you what good are the laws if we have no morals. We are engaging in a discussion on people being killed by other people who used a gun to kill someone. There is no discussion on people who have killed others with a knife, poison or automobile. Most importanly there is no discussion here on the used of a scaple to kill an unborn child or a needle to assist an older person in hospis along the way to their demise. How about a blog issue on that. We could start with abortion. I think there is going to be some serious changes in our actions. I am going to keep an eye on Allentown's School District when they put into place uniforms for the students. and they will have a lower budget. I am also watching another trend--working women appear to be returning home to be with their children.
Chris Miller March 21, 2013 at 12:04 PM
athyniah With all due respect you do not know anyting pertain to guns. If you are threatened you need to make sure that the bad guy does not survive so he can kill you


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