Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

June 5, 2013

Right to bear arms not without limits

Editor, Townsman:

In response to Steve Leet’s letter (”Constitution must be enforced,” May 30):

1. The Second Amendment begins, “A well-regulated militia” and, historically and jurisprudentially, has never been interpreted as granting the right to bear arms primarily to check government excesses.

2. The original intent of the founding fathers, even if Mr. Leet’s view of it is accepted — I join Justice Stevens and many others in rejecting it — arose in a largely rural country in which muskets and flintlocks, and not 100-round magazines and automatic weapons, were available.

3. Justice Scalia, hardly a wild-eyed liberal, in District of Columbia v. Heller, speaking for a five-vote majority over a four-vote minority, allowed for government regulation of guns: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on long-standing 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. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.” (District of Columbia v. Heller, 478 F. 3d 370 2008). A four-vote minority suggests that constitutional issues remain deeply unsettled, contrary to Mr. Leet’s assertion.

4. Equating liberty with the right to acquire weapons capable of mass murder is utterly insane and totally unacceptable. Advancing that view in response to a maniac’s use of them to gun down a roomful of schoolchildren is utterly insane and totally unacceptable.

Michael P. Kempster, MD, JD

132 Holt Road

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