It’s time for gun controls

There is no reason anyone needs an automatic rifle

Constitution reads as follows:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

It does not say, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” What it says, rather, is “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State …”

In 1789, when the Bill of Rights was drafted, the means of protecting the country was people keeping their muskets in their homes and coming out to form “a well-regulated militia” – the early version of our National Guard and Reserves. It was not the need for personal weapons that the amendment was drafted.

The recent killing of 17 innocent high school students in Florida has once again raised the debate over gun control, this time with a new twist. Those proponents are the teenagers themselves, and there promises to be a nationwide movement of young people to get the attention of legislators and the public to enact reasonable gun control measures.

Whether the young people can prevail will be an interesting test of political might.

The position of gun proponents has become increasingly extreme over the years, defending the ownership of almost all kinds of weapons, most notably automatic weapons such as the AR-15 used in the Florida massacre by a mentally ill former student.

Until recently, weapons such as the AR-15 were illegal, but that national law expired a few years ago, and the power of the National Rifle Association kept it from being re-enacted. Clearly, it is not unconstitutional to enact such restrictions, or the prior law would have been struck down.

The arguments of the NRA and its supporters often are reduced to bumper stickers. Two stand out.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” misses the basic point. If the “people” who “kill people” do not have access to automatic weapons, if bump stocks are banned, if the weapons available to deranged and criminal elements are less dangerous, chances are there will be less killing.

Obviously, people kill people with automobiles, fertilizer, knives and other things, and evil cannot be eliminated by legislation. But that is no reason not to try to minimize the effect.

Also obvious is the need to increase mental health efforts, require background checks, cross-referencing, lists of criminals and others who should not own weapons, and age limits for those buying dangerous weapons. If we can keep people under 16 or 17 from driving automobiles because they are dangerous, why cannot we keep them from owning guns?

Another bumper sticker says, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” That’s the point! If we make certain weapons illegal, and prohibit people from owning them, then the people who own them would not be able to walk around with these things and claim they have them legally, because they would be illegal.

When I was a lieutenant in the National Guard, I had to run the rifle range on occasion. Watching M-16s and even M-1 rifles (yes I am that old) persuaded me that these things are extraordinarily dangerous. There is no reason anyone needs an automatic rifle.

In the recent debate, the inevitable claim by some, including Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, was that if “only there were more concealed weapons in schools, there would be less violence.” What utter nonsense. The idea that there should be guns in schools to prevent other guns from schools misses the point that there should be no guns in schools, ever.

A cartoon circulating on the internet shows a mother with a young daughter, heading off to school.

The mother says, “Dear, I hope you do well on your math test. And if you are killed in school by a gunman today, just remember, you live in a great country that values the Second Amendment more than the lives of schoolchildren.”

Let’s hope that’s not true. Otherwise, the question to ask is, “Are we insane?”

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups.

Categories: Cook on Concord