Letter: Public safety limits gun rights
Editor of the Reformer,
As I confront the sickening news of two more horrific mass shootings in less than a week, I feel compelled to address the underpinning argument that those who argue against gun control use: The point that restrictions on gun ownership and usage is a violation of our Second Amendment Constitutional right to "bear arms."
The fatal flaw in the argument is that it equates a simple right with the idea that there should be no restrictions, given it is a "right." This presupposes that any limitation on that privilege is an infringement on that right. It also ignores the fact that in a civilized democratic society public safety is a necessarily limiting factor on rights and privileges of individuals.
There are numerous examples in our democracy. Take for example the right to free speech. That is not an absolute. A person can be charged with slander for telling lies that damages someone's reputation. If some people are screaming at each other in public they can be charged with disturbing the peace. I could go on with quite a few other examples. The right of free speech is not an absolute. There are limitations dictated by the need for a certain baseline of public safety and individual accountability.
There are probably very few people in our country who would state that individuals should have access to nuclear weaponry. It's safe to say that the great majority of people in the U.S would favor such a limit. In other words, they would agree to some sort of limit on weapons of mass destruction. This is sanity.
In order to maintain a free and democratic society there needs to be a certain baseline of order, civility, and safety. The ongoing onslaught of mass shootings, over 200 in the past year alone (about one a day), is undermining that order and safety. Imagine the horror and trauma of the victims, witnesses, and first responders, the gut-wrenching anger and grief of family and friends, the traumatizing of schools, places of worship, and other gathering places that have been attacked. The effects ripple out into neighborhoods, communities, states, nationwide.
It's hard to fathom the cumulative effects of these massacres on our collective psyches. The fear knowing it can happen anywhere and knowing how easy it is to get guns that can be easily used in mass shootings. Imagine the nationwide feelings of despair, despondency, helplessness, and overwhelming individual and collective grief. Outrage. That would be an appropriate emotional response at the power of the few to block the will of the great majority regarding sensible regulations and restrictions on gun usage.
Nations have recognized the need for worldwide limits of nuclear weapons. They have agreed that the more weapons individual nations have and the more nations that have nuclear weapons, the less safe we are.
All cars are registered, and there are limits on their usage for safety sake. All guns and rifles should be registered and require a background check. Simple safety precautions to protect Americans, to protect our democracy.
It's time for our leadership to face up to the premise that weapons of war should not be in the hands of individuals. Period.
Brattleboro, August 7
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