Editorial: Second Amendment worth keeping


Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville



The ongoing debate over guns in America has led some to vociferously call for abolishing the Second Amendment.

That’s just not wise thinking.

There are common-sense restrictions on guns that fall within the scope of the Second Amendment.

So there’s no need to even consider abolishing it.

Nevertheless, calls for abolishing the Second Amendment are coming from such respected figures like retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

And a new poll shows that about 20 percent of Americans favor repealing the Second Amendment.

In reality, that probably shouldn’t be a surprising statistic.

There are actually Americans, after all, who regularly support restrictions on speech that would not be allowed under the First Amendment.

So, of course, there will always be a fringe minority out there yapping for scrapping the Second Amendment.

Or the Third Amendment.

Or the Fourth Amendment.

Or the …

You get the point.

Fortunately, the anti-Second Amendment extremists have little support in Washington; even blue-state Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California have made clear they support gun ownership for self-defense and hunting.

What’s even more striking is that noted, liberal-leaning Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has also dismissed the campaign to abolish the Second Amendment.

In a piece for The Washington Post, Tribe wrote that the Second Amendment isn’t the problem; in fact, Tribe declared, repealing the Second Amendment would not limit a single gun or enact a single regulation.

The fact is abolishing the Second Amendment isn’t necessary because the Supreme Court has already set some reasonable parameters.

In the Supreme Court’s historic 2008 Heller decision that underlined an individual’s right to bear arms, the court also noted that right wasn’t unlimited — and that certain classes of “dangerous and unusual” weapons could be limited.

The court has also allowed limits on assault weapons, large magazines and the number of weapons that can be stockpiled.

That’s why instead of abolishing the Second Amendment, the focus should be on reducing the ability of Americans to use military-style weapons to kill innocent fellow citizens.

The focus should also be on restricting the ability of mentally ill people — and those with histories of domestic violence — to have easy access to firearms; clearly more safeguards must be built in to immediately “red-flag” such Americans whenever they try to purchase weapons.

There is certainly widespread support for that kind of proactive approach.

In a recent poll, 85 percent even voiced support for letting the police take guns away from people deemed dangerous — and at least five states have such laws in place.

Gun advocates like to criticize the 1994 ban on assault weapons for its emphasis on cosmetic features; they deride it as a naive and unrealistic law designed by people who know nothing about guns.

For example, the 1994 law defined assault weapons based on such features as pistol grips.

In an opinion piece, Palm Beach County criminologist Thomas Gabor said such poor standards of definition have undermined attempts to strictly regulate assault weapons because “the gun industry can easily make cosmetic modifications to skirt the regulation.”

Gabor has proposed a more realistic definition of assault weapons that takes an objective, scientific approach based on lethality — as well as relevant factors like caliber, muzzle velocity, rate of fire, capacity and design flexibility.

That’s a reasonable idea.

And it’s a far more palatable idea than the harebrained suggestion that it’s time for America to abolish the Second Amendment.

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Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville

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