Bearing Arms and Controlling Crime
US Constitution, Amendment II
"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."
I'm always intrigued when I see an academic endorse the nonsense that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is the one amendment in the Bill of Rights in which the word "people" refers to a collective right of the states ("Door No. 1: Muskets? Or Door No. 2: Free Speech?," Sept. 19, Opinion page).
The author of that article, Robert J. Spitzer, cites a list of organizations that "pose a threat" to liberty. But in an age of Abner Louimas and Wacos, it's hard to forget that the major perpetrator of violence is our government, and that the Second Amendment was intended to provide us a means of defense against state power. Finally, I agree that the Second Amendment is not necessarily "more essential," as Charlton Heston is quoted, than the First Amendment. I, for one, would happily bear arms to defend the author's right to speak nonsense.
I was greatly saddened to read yet another totally incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment. Many constitutional scholars have written extensively on this amendment and overwhelmingly agree that it refers to individuals, not militias.
The writers of the Bill of Rights knew exactly why citizens should never be denied the right to "bear arms." An armed citizenry is the only guarantee against tyranny. I doubt if throwing our PCs and swatting with a copy of the Monitor at oppressive government troops would do much good. Ask any Cuban or German. They lost their right to own firearms just before they lost the rest of their rights. A dictator knows which rights to remove first. The rest fall easily.
Don't forget, the first shot of the Revolution was fired in response to the Redcoats marching into Trenton and Concord to confiscate citizens' weapons. The colonists knew that confiscation would lead to their demise. If anyone believes that our own government can't ever do that to us, remember, we had a government that did just that - England.
The Second Amendment is about the right to defend yourself, your wife, and your children against deadly force - whether its the Michigan Militia, KKK, white supremacists, carjackers, thugs, or any others who think they have a right to trample the weak.
Vincent Schiraldi's opinion essay "Youthful Arms Race: Lawmakers Don't Get it" (Sept. 15) draws erroneous conclusions about the causes of teen gun-related crimes, and proposes simplistic legislation that doesn't address the real problems.
Police on the streets know that we can't create a mythical society where illegal guns do not exist, where criminals can't commit crimes even if they want to. The police know that any teenager who is brash enough to steal or illegally purchase a gun can legally purchase a hack saw and remove the trigger lock within five minutes.
The article assumes the cause of teen gun violence is guns - "It's the guns, stupid!" But people who work with gang members feel differently. It's greed, materialism, poverty, and lovelessness. It's the breakdown of the family. It's a need to belong. It's a constant barrage of violence from TV.
We don't need simplistic legislation that only affects law-abiding adults (e.g., trigger lock laws). We need tough gun-control laws directed at criminals - such as no plea bargaining for violent crimes, and one-strike-you're-out for gun crimes. We need to address the real causes of violent gun-related crime among teenagers. We need to ask why one teen shoots another for his $90 sneakers. We need to address violence in schools, and we need to work with gang members to save them before they become career criminals.
It's not the guns, stupid. It's the children.
North Bend, Wash.
Your letters are welcome. Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org