Message To NRA: Guns Kill And How To Fight The Rampages

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The Courts for decades rejected the notion that the Second Amendment provided individuals a constitutional right to possess firearms.

[The View From Washington]

Just after midnight on Friday, July 20th James Holmes strode to the front of a crowded multiplex theatre in Aurora, CO.

As patrons sat pensively in the darken theater anxiously awaiting the beginning of the film, Holmes opened fire on the crowd killing 12 and wounding 58.

Six days after this senseless tragedy President Obama delivered a speech to the National Urban League.  He told the crowd that common sense tells us that assault weapons belong in the hands of soldiers not criminals and on the battlefield not American streets: “I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily.  These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense.”

The President is correct. Common sense tells us that we should be doing everything possible to prevent criminals from purchasing weapons. The problem is that common sense is not all that common.  Remember, there was a ban on access to military style assault weapons.  


The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. There were two major problems with the law, first, the ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment.  Second, it was allowed to expire on September 13, 2004, as part of the law's sunset provision.

America has a recent and tragic history of people accessing military style assault weapons that were designed for one purpose, the efficient elimination of human beings on the battlefield, and turning them on their unsuspecting fellow citizens. On April 16, 2007 Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.

Aurora, CO is just 20 miles from Columbine High School, scene of the 1999 student massacre. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, embarked on a shooting spree with assault style and other weapons in which a total of 12 students and 1 teacher were murdered. They also injured 21 other students directly, with three further people being injured while attempting to escape the school.

Two days before the tragedy in Aurora, Nathan Van Wilkins is alleged to have used an assault weapon to open fire on a crowded bar in Tuscaloosa, AL wounding 17.  It is also alleged that he shot another innocent man earlier that same evening.  Van Wilkins stands charged with 18 counts of attempted murder and other felonies. 

On July 26th police in Prince George’s Cty. MD arrested Neil Prescott after he allegedly threatened to shoot co-workers. “I am a joker and I’m gonna’ load my guns and blow everybody up,” he allegedly said, according to documents and
reports. Investigators say a search of Prescott's home turned up more than 20 guns, including assault rifles and handguns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition -- all legally purchased.

Common sense and recent history tell us that a ban on the purchase and ownership of assault weapons and tighter restrictions on purchasing other firearms is necessary. In spite of all of this senseless death, tragedy, and mayhem the NRA, their paid lobbying henchmen, and others continue to oppose reasonable, responsible, and necessary gun laws. 

They base their argument on a misguided reading of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. “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.”

It is important to recognize that the right of the people to keep and bear Arms is in the context of a “well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State.” As America developed a standing army and a National Guard, the need for a well-regulated Militia went away and with it the right to keep and bear Arms.

Even if that argument does not withstand challenge, assault weapons --those designed specifically for military use, that is, the killing of other human beings-- and extended clips have no social redeeming value and should be banned. They contribute nothing towards the national objective of establishing Justice and insuring domestic Tranquility as called for in the Constitution.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a gun.  Justice Scalia, a gun owner, wrote; “self-defense is a 'central' constitutional right that requires the ownership of guns (specifically handguns) be permitted so that it can be fully exercised.”  What is important about Justice Scalia’s statement is there’s nothing in the Articles of Confederation, the minutes of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, or the United States Constitution itself that supports this position.

In fact, the Heller decision disregards the precedent established in the 1939 case, United States v. Miller.  As the Honorable Judge Reggie B. Walton wrote in 2004, “For more than sixty years following the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller, there was little judicial debate regarding the scope of the Second Amendment, as almost every circuit court interpreted Miller as rejecting the notion that the Second Amendment provided individuals a constitutional right to possess firearms.”

Over the past 30 years and longer Americans have endured the threats of people like Holmes, Harris and Klebold, Cho, and Van Wilkins.  It’s time for a peace loving enlightened society to do away with the public’s ability to purchase assault weapons and extended clips for handguns. 

Common sense tells us that hunters don’t need assault weapons and they serve no socially redeeming value. Unfortunately, common sense is not all that common.


© 2012 InfoWave Communications, LLC Dr. Wilmer Leon is a political scientist at Howard University and host of the nationally broadcast call in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” on Sirius/XM channel 128. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or Dr. Leon’s Prescription @ Facebook.com or www.twitter.com/drwleon


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