Our Opinion: Turn down the volume; there are things we can do together

While there are many vocal people who would like to scrap all guns in the United States, in a country with anywhere between 270 million and 310 million firearms in private hands, it's just not going to happen. Let's just, for a moment, set aside the alarmist rhetoric from the National Rifle Association and various "Sons of Liberty" types of groups that Americans need unregistered firearms to protect them from a tyrannical government; even if the government did pass a law to confiscate all firearms, that would mean SWAT teams going from house to house kicking in doors. Not only would that be mayhem, but do you really think enough people would agree to be those thugs? (OK, if you look at ICE right now, you just might find enough people, so maybe we need to re-evaluate that conclusion).

The nonsense that sprouts up after every mass shooting that the liberal elite, or the communists, or the government or anyone else is coming to confiscate anyone's guns is just a red herring, a distraction, meant to keep us squabbling instead of discussing real, common-sense measures, such as waiting periods to purchase a firearm, limits on the number of guns and the amount of ammunition you can purchase at any one time, minimum age restrictions, training and certification for concealed carry or for any sort of gun possession, and restricting abusers, felons and those with serious mental health issues from owning firearms.

"If we are to stop this mindless homicidal carnage, is it unreasonable: to provide that, to acquire a firearm, an application be made reciting age, residence, employment and any prior criminal convictions? To required that this application lie on the table for 10 days (absent a showing for urgent need) before the license would be issued? That the transfer of a firearm be made essentially as with that of a motor vehicle? To have a 'ballistic fingerprint' of the firearm made by the manufacturer and filed with the license record so that, if a bullet is found in a victim's body, law enforcement might be helped in finding the culprit? These are the kind of questions the American people must answer if we are to preserve the 'domestic tranquillity' promised in the Constitution."

So wrote Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States from 1969 to 1986, in "The Right to Bear Arms," for Parade Magazine. He wrote these common sense suggestions in 1990 and we are still arguing today about how to address "this mindless homicidal carnage."

Burger wrote, and the Supreme Court affirmed in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller (by a sharply divided 5-4 margin), that Americans have a Constitutional right to defend their homes. The majority decision, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, hinged on the prefatory clause, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," in the Second Amendment. Scalia wrote that the operative clause, "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," should be read to "guarantee an individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

The minority dissented in this reading of the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment. Despite the differences in court opinion, the Supreme Court has ruled time and time again that certain aspects of gun acquisition and possession can be regulated, especially when it comes to what type of firearm and who can possess them. Most recently, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal that leaves in place a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period to purchase firearms. The appeal was of a ruling issued by the 9th Circuit Court that called the waiting period a "reasonable safety precaution" and one that does not violate the constitutional right to own a gun.

"While the court has ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, the justices have repeatedly refused to go further by blocking strict gun regulations, including state bans on the sale of semi-automatic weapons or limits on who can carry a weapon in public," wrote David Savage for the Los Angeles Times.

And last June, the Supreme Court refused to hear another appeal of a 9th Circuit Court decision that affirmed ordinances in San Diego and Los Angeles which strictly limit concealed carry permits. "While gun owners may obtain a permit from a county sheriff if they can show 'good cause,' many California counties set a very high bar for who qualifies under this standard," wrote Savage. "In upholding the restrictions, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said 'the 2nd Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.'"

With these rulings, and the continual "mindless homicidal carnage" of not only mass shootings but homicides in metropolitan and rural America, it would behoove us to listen to the children of Parkland, Fla., the survivors of our latest school massacre.

"Please, take action," said student David Hogg. "Ideas are great ... But what's more important is actual action (and) saving thousands of children's lives. Please, take action."



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