Vail Daily column: Fighting for gun control
In the 163 days since Jan. 1, there have been 176 mass shootings in the United States. For the record, I believe that hunters and adults should have the ability to own some types of guns. What I am not blind to is that the National Rifle Association wants people to think that the 2nd Amendment was written to protect their rights.
The amendment is only 27 words: “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.” While the NRA emphasizes only the last 14 words, the U.S. Supreme Court and appeals courts have focused on “well-regulated militia” and “security of a free state” to rule that Second Amendment rights are reserved to states and their militias — nowadays, the National Guard.
As with all discussions about the Constitution, it is important to understand the historical context. In June of 1788, four states did not want to ratify the Constitution of the United States based on the Second Amendment. Arguing for the Federalist was James Madison, and George Mansion and Patrick Henry for the anti-Federalist. The founders decided to leave it up to Congress. The militia was discredited in the Revolutionary War. Washington wanted a professional army. Due to the large number of slaves in the Southern states, there was fear of a revolt. The anti-Federalists raised the point that the Constitution does not give the federal government the right to eliminate slavery, but it did give Congress the exclusive power to arm the militia. The states only get to call up the militia if there is an invasion. Congress gets to call up the militia for an insurrection.
The Second Amendment has roots in protecting states from losing a militia to protect itself against a revolt of slaves, not individual rights to form a militia to arm themselves against government. The problem is that modern day interpretation is deciding what is legal. For example, you cannot carry a gun into government, but a terrorist can buy one. You can carry a concealed weapon in some states, but not others. You cannot own a machine gun, but you can own a semi-automatic. There is no way anyone can claim that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to bear arms. The correct interpretation is that those rights are given to states. Until 1990, there had not been a federal Supreme Court case about individual rights to bear arms. It is always based on a collective right not an individual right.
The truth, which one would hardly know from the mass media, is that since the Supreme Court’s unanimous Miller decision in 1939, all federal appeals courts, whether dominated by liberals or conservatives, have agreed that the Second Amendment does not confer gun rights on individuals. The NRA view, opposed even by such right-wing judges as Robert Bork, is consistently rejected.
I want to see sensible gun laws with seven main points. One, require background checks on all gun purchasers. Two, license all firearm owners. Three, gun owners will register their firearms. Four, regulate firearms dealers and ammunition sellers. Five, require that all lost or stolen firearms be reported. Six, impose a waiting period before the sale of a firearm. Seven, limit firearm purchases to one per person every 90 days.
Support for background checks spans all partisan and demographic groups, and both households that own guns and those that do not in the United States. Background checks must be required on all prospective firearm purchasers, closing a loophole in federal law that allows private firearm sellers to sell guns without conducting background checks. Firearms dealers should be required to obtain a local permit, conduct employee background checks and obtain liability insurance.
This issue spans beyond gun control, going into money in politics and even access to mental healthcare. The NRA spent more than $3 million on lobbying in both 2013 and 2014, and $984,152 on campaign contributions during the 2014 election cycle. America does not have a gun problem; it has a leadership problem. I will lead the fight for gun control.
Arn Menconi is a U.S. Senate candidate for the Green Party and a former Eagle County commissioner.
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