Vail Daily letter: Attorney wrong about Second Amendment
Ryan Summerlin December 23, 2012
Rohn Robbins did a column about limiting the Second Amendment. He did a flawed dissection of its language.
One of his lines was “What then, is a ‘militia’?” He then offered a suggestion without citation to law, dictionary or other source.
I covered this issue in a letter to the Vail Daily last month. “Militia” is a term defined by federal statute and the Colorado Constitution. I won’t repeat the details here. My letter, dated Nov. 14, is still available on the Daily’s website.
The same applies to how the last sentence of the Second Amendment is to be interpreted. Robbins doesn’t agree with recent U.S. Supreme Court cases about it. See if you think my letter makes a better point.
In U.S. vs Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 US 259 (1990), Chief Justice Rehnquist analyzed what “the people” means in the federal Constitution. Citing the ACLU’s brief, he determined that this is a term of art found in numerous places – the preamble, Article. I, Sec. 2, cl. 1; as well as the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth and 10th amendments. It has the same meaning each time it is used. Just as our right to free speech is an individual right, so is the right to keep and bear arms.
Robbins also sets up a straw man argument, referring to “defenders of unlimited gun rights.” To whom is he referring, outside the fevered imaginations of some in the anti-gun lobby? Certainly not the NRA, which has endorsed reasonable limits on who may possess firearms and what kind should be available.
Robbins supports “a homeowner’s right to own a gun or two to protect his castle.” Why only one or two? Exactly what kind would pass his test?
Robbins calls for a ban on guns at schools. The recent mass shootings have occurred at actual or proposed gun-free zones, such as schools, malls and theaters. Would such a restriction deter someone like Adam Lanza?
As David Kopel has pointed out, it appears that perpetrators such as Lanza are deterred by prompt armed opposition. Based on present information, it appears he killed himself when he perceived that police had arrived.
An armed bystander at the Oregon mall incident said he aimed his weapon at the shooter, who then committed suicide. We’ll have to see if the final story supports these claims, but this concept could be instructive about what will work.
Robbins also calls for stricter conditions on concealed carry permits. How this relates to Sandy Point and similar incidents is unclear. Or what additional requirements he believes are advisable, and why.
Robbins wants to ban “assault weapons” without defining that term. Also limits on magazine size. Again, no details.
Perhaps a test should be conducted, to determine whether carnage like that in Sandy Hook could be accomplished without a semi-automatic rifle or pistols with high-capacity magazines. Such as with a 12 gauge pump shotgun and a pistol with a 10-round magazine, which is legal in California. If so, what is the point to banning AR-15-type firearms or high capacity magazines?
I believe the focus is better made on excessive violence in movies, video games and other media aimed at young people. Also on mental health.
Gov. Hickenlooper has made some proposals that are worth considering. They are described in the Dec. 19 Denver Post.