Durham News: Opinion

May 27, 2014

Ellie Kinnaird: 2nd Amendment never said right to bear arms was absolute

Is the U.S. Supreme Court ever wrong? You bet.

Is the U.S. Supreme Court ever wrong? You bet.

Start with the 1857 Dred Scott decision that affirmed slavery. Or Plessy v. Ferguson, 1895, that affirmed separate but equal treatment of blacks constitutional. Or Lochner, 1905, that found employers could exploit their workers, requiring them to work unlimited hours, even up to 80 hours a week. And in 2007, denying Lilly Ledbetter the right to continue her gender discrimination suit against Goodyear Tire for paying men more than her, even those she trained, for no legitimate reason.

And they got it wrong in the 2008 Heller gun decision that gun advocates so sanctimoniously love to quote, greatly expanding gun accessibility. The Court overturned long-settled law dating from 1875 that the Second Amendment applies to the government, not an individual gun owner.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Got that? A well regulated Militia?

Let’s see, is a Chicago ghetto kid armed with a handgun using it for the security of our country? Or the drug gang member with his assault weapon terrorizing rival gangs and drive-by shootings, really going to take it with him in the unlikely event he joins the National Guard, which many regard as the successor to the Militia of the 18th century. Are people willy-nilly carrying guns necessary “for the security a free State?” Guns in restaurants, and play grounds, and college campuses for our nation’s security?

The Militia is cited three times in our Constitution, and always with other military forces. Congress shall have the Power “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions, ... To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining, the Militia and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States.” Art 1, Sec. 8. Art. II, sec. 2 says, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy . . . and of the Militia.”

How the Supreme Court made the jump to allowing guns to be carried by individuals for their own purpose, is hard to fathom.

What advocates also neglect to understand, is that the Court clearly said that the Second Amendment right, like all rights, are not unlimited.

“Nothing in our opinion 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.” I conclude that many of the advocates who contact (and excoriate me) have not even read the opinion.

Over 30,000 people are killed by guns each year, two-third of them suicides. I keep a daily gun tally from newspapers. Mass killings are not even on the front page anymore. Nor are children who accidentally kill other children. Parents who accidentally kill children and children who accidentally kill parents. Or domestic violence gun deaths.

So, how many children slaughtered, how many needless accidents, how many children left without parents, parents without children, husbands and wives lost? Police officers, firefighters, school teachers, killed? How many people walking down their street, children sitting on their front door stoop? How many candle light vigils, before we rise up as a nation and say, no more?

We can’t count on our Supreme Court to protect us, so where do we go from here?

Ellie Kinnaird is a former state senator and Carrboro mayor. You can reach her at ekinnaird2@gmail.com

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