It is now more than evident that it is very dangerous for a society to allow for the widespread distribution and ownership of weapons whose sole purpose is to destroy human life.
There is no mention in the Second Amendment about an individual right to own and bear arms. The purpose of the Second Amendment was to placate those former colonies (and soon to be States), who feared the potential of a federal government acting like the King they just overthrew. The bulk of the military that fought the Revolutionary War was state militias (the modern equivalent of which is the National Guard) acting under the command of federal forces.
This is not dissimilar from the current structure of our military forces. Recent interpretations of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court are simply mental gymnastics designed to achieve a political end desired by a very vocal but small minority.
The single common factor in all the recent mass shootings was the use of semi-automatic weapons (fully automatic weapons have been banned for many years). All semi-automatic weapons, both rifles and handguns, must be banned on a national basis. It is self-evident that these weapons are not needed for either personal protection or for hunting. Restrictions on the private ownership of weapons are not prohibited by the Constitution. With the elimination of semi-automatic weapons, there should also be a ban on high-capacity magazines.
These prohibitions should be coupled with a national buy-back program of semi-automatic weapons, but the refusal to sell these weapons or magazines to the government would not itself be a crime. Rather, if a crime is committed using a prohibited weapon or magazine, the owner or immediate seller of such a weapon or magazine would be equally liable for any crime committed with such weapon or magazine, regardless of who pulled the trigger. Simple, if you keep these weapons, keep them safe and locked up.
This criminal liability should be expanded to include any crime committed by a weapon whose owner failed to safely store and lock their guns. Think of all the guns that are stolen from unlocked cars! Ownership of a weapon designed to maim and kill another person should require the same level of responsibility as ownership of other property that can cause serious injury or death, like an automobile.
There will be those who strongly disagree with this approach. Those individuals should ask themselves what price is too high to pay for human life? Does a human life not mean anything? Is it really alright to hold onto extreme ideas of personal freedom when the result of such ideas leads directly to the mass destruction of human life? What kind of society do we want to live in?
The Constitution expressly allows Congress the right and authority to dictate the jurisdiction of the federal courts. To make sure the will of a majority of U.S. citizens are implemented, Congress could remove from the jurisdiction of the federal courts the ability to rule on the constitutionality of a ban of semi-automatic weapons (similar to the removal of jurisdiction over habeas corpus during the Civil War).
The only way to avoid minority rule is for the majority to support and vote for those representatives, at all levels of government, local, state and federal, who also share the same view of society. The foundation of our society rests on all aspects of our lives, including our right to live a peaceful life while being responsible for our actions. Based on polling data, we believe we know what that majority wants.
Now is the time to make clear what kind of society we really want. It is time to speak up now by voting in November, our future depends on it. Putting the Genie back is the bottle will be a long process, but we must start sometime.
Bob Reid has been a practicing attorney for over 46 years and has been a resident of Tallahassee since 1989. Reid’s practice has involved, among other matters, both state and federal constitutional issues.
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