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Debate

Dear Editor:

One essential question in the debate over gun control is whether there can be limitations on the Second Amendment. It is instructive to attend to the Supreme Court on this matter. Speaking for the majority in the District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Scalia wrote: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited … nothing in our decision should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Further, “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and bear arms … prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’” (www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/07-290.pdf, pp. 54-55)

It is likewise instructive to understand the case before the court. The District of Columbia banned the registration of handguns. Dick Heller, a D.C. special police officer, sought to register a handgun that he wished to keep at home for self-defense. The court ruled that insofar as the ban prohibited the use of a handgun in the home for self-defense, it did not pass Constitutional muster vis-a-vis the Second Amendment. The issue at hand turned on the possession of hand guns in the home as the chosen weapon for self-defense. In short, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm (handgun) unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. (Syllabus, p. 1)

So, let us continue our debate, respectfully, perhaps with a bit of poetry, and certainly with an absence of malice. And let us do so in the spirit and letter of the Heller decision.

Terry Pickett

This story was posted on April 18, 2013.