Vail Daily column: A call for limits to the Second Amendment
Ryan Summerlin December 18, 2012
How many dead school kids would you like for Christmas? Is 20 enough?Columbine. Virginia Tech. Aurora. And now Sandy Hook. An elementary school forgodsake. Where and when will it end? Not, apparently, until our leaders have the courage to, well… lead.The Second Amendment provides in its entirety:”A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”Let’s dissect this for a moment.The first part of this single sentence is modified by the second. Simply, the right of the people to “keep and bear arms” is for the clear and express purpose of arming a militia.Yes, I am aware of what the Supreme Court has said on this issue. I know all about Cruikshank, Presser, Miller, and Robertson v. Baldwin, each in their own way affirming the right of an individual to bear arms. Yes, I know that in 2008, in the District of Columbia v. Heller, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia. I respectfully disagree.What then is a “militia”?It may be defined as an irregular army, generally comprised of ordinary citizens to provide defense in times of emergency. A militia is intended to defend a community, county, state or nation from external threat.And now a bit of context.The Second Amendment was adopted into law, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, on December 15, 1791. Two hundred twenty-one years ago, almost to the day. It was a time when our nation was newborn from its violent parturition from Great Britain and, in effect, had no standing army. National security was in the hands of the citizenry. In order for the nation to provide for its defense, the various militias needed to be armed. And since the militias were comprised of ordinary citizens, the citizens themselves had arms.State of the art weaponry in 1791 consisted of muzzle-loaded muskets, flintlock pistols, swords and sabers. Not an AK-47 to be found.Now let’s knit the desperate pieces into an integral whole.In a time of muzzle-loading muskets, a new nation without a standing army determined that in order to defend itself, the citizenry who would fight for it if an emergency arose and, accordingly, would have to arm itself. If and when, one day, the need arose, the citizens would fight for the “free state.” Nowhere in the Constitution is it stated, suggested or inferred that the citizenry could bear arms for any purpose beyond defense of the state. Nor could the founders have any more imagined an AK-47 or a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 than they could have conceived of the Large Hadron Collider, the Internet, or the Mars Explorer. To pretend otherwise is fantasy or fabrication.While defenders of unlimited gun rights often trot out the hackneyed line that “guns don’t kill people, people do,” that’s shallow sleight of hand. The simple, irrefutable fact is that unstable would-be killers would kill far fewer people with a flintlock than with a modern assault rifle, far fewer with a revolver or a carbine than an automatic weapon.Our leaders can continue to stall, duck and delay. They can kowtow to the gun lobby. Or, maybe, they can grow a pair and help protect our children from the next madman.A homeowner’s right to own a gun or two to protect his castle? Sure. A hunter’s right to hunt? Absolutely. But dead schoolchildren by the bushel-full at the wrong end of a madman’s Bushmaster .223? It’s time for reasonable controls.How many dead 6- and 7-year olds do you want under your tree this season? How much more innocent blood?There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine. Is this the math we want to teach our kids?A survivor of Sandy Hook, a little girl whose childhood is lost, said, “I felt a little sick to my tummy.” Ah… yeah. That we all should feel the same.Collectively, roughly 2,000 years of life were stolen at Sandy Hook. Is that trade off worth the right of any citizen to collect a machine whose only purpose is mass human slaughter?I’m not talking about crazy stuff here: Ban assault weapons, limit magazine size, screen gun purchasers for the soundness of their mental health, close private gun sale loopholes, ban guns at schools (all schools, including colleges), and enforce stricter requirements for concealed carry.I’m with Gov. Hickenlooper. Let Colorado lead the way.I, for one, am sick of it. Heartsick, actually.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) and seen on ECOTV 18 as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his e-mail addresses, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.