Inside Opinion

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Tag: Second Amendment

March
23rd

Lawmakers must revisit sensible gun safeguards

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

So far, the 2013 Legislature hasn’t shown much interest in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerously unbalanced people.

Next year may be another story. Let’s consider a few things an older and wiser set of lawmakers ought to do:

Every gun sale – including those between private parties – should be subject to a federal background check. This safeguard is so stupefyingly reasonable that lawmakers should have approved it by acclamation by now.

Instead, it’s been derailed in the Democratic House by pressure from Second Amendment absolutists. Their chief objection, we gather, is that it will lead to registration and confiscation of all firearms by a future tyranny.

But there’s a disconnect between their rhetoric and existing law. If they’re serious, why aren’t they trying to repeal the existing laws that require all licensed gun dealers to run background checks on all buyers?

Dealers not only run checks but also maintain records of sales subject to review by police. So the dreaded registration already exists – and has existed for many years without jackbooted storm troopers sweeping up citizens’ guns.

What’s more, all applications for concealed pistol permits also go through the system and are kept on record by law enforcement. Again, registration without confiscation.

Those requirements apply to all law-abiding people who keep and bear firearms, and nobody’s raising a stink. Yet when private sales are involved, the very same background checks suddenly become a terrifying step toward dictatorship. Come on.

Here’s another proposition that ought to be even less controversial: People who lack the mental competence to use firearms safely shouldn’t have them.
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June
30th

The African-American Second Amendment

Clarence Thomas – standing alone in a concurring opinion – took the most fascinating position in the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decision this week.

It has to be one of the blackest writings ever to come out of the court, including anything authored by Thurgood Marshall. In arguing that gun ownership is “essential to the preservation of liberty,” Thomas dwells on the long and horrifying history of white massacres of unarmed or poorly armed African Americans in the South, especially after Reconstruction fell apart following the Civil War.

Thomas particularly execrates the United States v. Cruikshank decision of 1876, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal First Amendment and Second Amendment didn’t protect citizens against actions of state and local governments.

The context is important: The case arose from the infamous Colfax Massacre, in which more than 100 blacks were killed by a white militia after they tried to guard the local courthouse against a takeover by pro-slavery Democrats.

Excerpt from his opinion:
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June
29th

An individual right to bear arms – within reason

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s new ruling on the Second Amendment won’t likely shatter this state’s gun regulations.

The decision closely tracks Washington’s equivalent of the Second Amendment. “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired,” says the state constitution.

That “individual citizen” idea has triggered all the furor over the Second Amendment.

Because the amendment also mentions “a well-regulated militia,” opponents of an individual right have argued that the framers intended to guarantee a collective privilege of bearing arms – a privilege that withered away with the old-time militias or perhaps still survives in the hands of the modern National Guard.

In recent years, that argument has taken a beating from historians and respected constitutional scholars.

State charters adopted in the decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified specified that the right was individual in nature. In the rest of the Bill of Rights, the word “people” means individuals. It’s hard to turn around and argue that “people” excludes individuals in the Second Amendment.
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