Something to write home about

Dear Editor,

No surprise, I’ve been inundated with citizen communications about guns, some demanding strict gun control, some demanding laissez faire gun rights, and everything in between. Some have been personally insulting, accusing legislators of being afraid of the NRA, or indulging in a politically correct knee jerk reaction. Some threaten political consequences. No doubt these folks speak for many others who haven’t gotten in touch. I want to respond.

The murder of children, perceived threats to freedom, inaction or over reaching by politicians, all inspire powerful emotions; fear, anger, sadness. While these emotions are appropriate, they mustn’t govern by themselves. Things that warrant deep feeling warrant clear thinking. But “clear thinking” can become a smug distraction from real gut issues. We ought to feel deeply and think clearly about murdered children, and about freedom.

Nowhere does the Second Amendment say that “the right of deranged people to keep and bear 21st century high powered, high speed military weapons shall not be infringed.” So there is no plain language argument for a Second Amendment ban on all gun regulation. Yet the right may still be implied. Such an analysis begins with original intent. Obviously, the founders never imagined 21st century weaponry. The arms to which they referred were muskets. So, there is no original intent argument to be made.

Does the right exist by logical implication? By definition the words “shall not be infringed” seem to prohibit any interference, however slight. But that interpretation ignores the amendment’s (in fact the same sentence’s) reference to a “well-regulated militia.” Clearly some reasonable regulation is not an infringement under the Second Amendment. The case law, the record of judicial interpretation, agrees. This is not an argument between pro Second Amendment and anti Second Amendment positions.

I know many folks consider political strategizing immoral, and would rather “(darn) the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” They have clearer logic and more beautiful souls than do most legislators. They probably sleep better. But legislation is an ongoing negotiation within the Legislature and between each legislator and his/her constituents. Whatever a legislator’s personal beliefs, s/he can achieve only what can get a majority of votes in both houses and will be accepted by the public.

For many years, noting Vermont’s low crime rate and traditional rural culture, I chose not to engage the controversial issue of gun regulation, but Sandy Hook put a spotlight on how irresponsible and unrealistic that position was. Now, recent terrible events have changed the mood of the public and the Legislature. They’ve apparently affected the governor.

What now? I support background checks and the removal of guns from volatile situations. I also support a ban on high-speed, high-powered military weapons. I only control my own one vote but all of these ideas enjoy some support among my colleagues, especially removing guns from volatile situations.

No one wants to disarm the public. Hunters will remain free and armed to hunt. Citizens retain the right to protect themselves, their families, and their property.

Keep in touch. My email is rmccormack@leg.state.vt.us, and my phone is 802-793-6417.

Sincerely,

Senator Dick McCormack

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