The Second Amendment

January 23, 2013

It is true: The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is part of our U.S. Bill of Rights.

Historians tell us that our Second Amendment was adopted in December 1791 along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The text of the Second Amendment is very simple: “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 so simple that it has caused 200+ years of discussion, debate and diatribe.

It is widely accepted that our Second Amendment was informed by the English Bill of Rights (1689).

Each seems to illuminate and continue an existing right at the time they were adopted.

The English Bill of Rights is slightly more expansive and specific than our Second Amendment.

One phrase from England jumps out as they describe a definition of “Arms”: “…That the Subjects …may have Arms for their Defence (sic) suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.”

Our friends from across the pond may have been prescient.

However, it is unlikely they knew back in the 17th Century that the category of Arms would expand in the future to include: Gatling Guns; Machine Guns; Nuclear Arms; Howitzers; Bazookas; Anti-Tank and Anti-Aircraft guns; Sawed-off shotguns; Military Assault Weapons; and Semi-Automatic Hand Guns.

It would seem that in their effort to be brief and succinct, our U.S. Fore Fathers may have sold us short.

Now, let the Walrus be first to acknowledge: We do have rules and laws in the U.S. which generally prohibit ownership of some of these categories by people for home defense, target shooting and hunting.– including Nuclear Arms, Howitzers and Bazookas.

In 2013, those of us who feel the need to keep and bear arms are currently limited by some regulations on the types of arms which we are able to own, possess and use.

New York State recently passed some regulations which limit possession, ownership and use of certain semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines.

The hue and cry from the margin is huge. What has been categorized as “passionate opposition” to defining which weapons and accessories are inappropriate appears to be emotionally informed.

In a January 16, 2013 poll by Sienna College, banning assault weapons and magazine clips of more than seven bullets in NYS was supported by a margin of 73% to 26%.

Did NYS Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature violate the purpose and intent of our Second Amendment?

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More on: Gun Control

January 14, 2013

I’m a New York State resident, and I’ve been following the recent activities of our legislators in Albany.

I applaud the bi-partisan work of the members of our New York State Assembly; the members of our New York State Senate; and NYD Governor Andrew Cuomo, to act swiftly and deliberately to negotiate and pass comprehensive gun control legislation in January 2013.

Assault weapons have no place in civilian hands in a civilized society. High capacity magazines are a necessary evil for law-enforcement and military purposes; they have no place in any civilian application.

No different than ownership and/or operation of a motor vehicle; possession, ownership and/or operation of a firearm should be predicated by background and identity checks; testing; registration and licensing; plus proof of liability insurance.

The frequently heard argument that the Second Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is an emotionally charged and incomplete line of reasoning.

There is nothing stated or implied in the Second Amendment which tells us possession, ownership and or use of firearms should be unfettered and outside the purview of laws and regulations carefully designed to protect the interests of the greater public good.

It is unfortunate that the immediate reaction to any talk of ‘gun control’ emanates from (often overzealous) Second Amendment advocates.

The basis of our Second Amendment — which was adopted in 1791 — likely had very clear and relevant context to the 18th century, and to the events which preceded the Revolutionary War.

Now, more than 2 centuries later, it would seem to be helpful to have a rational, detached and thoughtful public discourse to include all facets of a 21st century centric debate on firearms and what makes the most sense for the majority of our fellow citizens today.

I have not met or communicated with any balanced and rational individuals who want to deprive any responsible American adult of their right to own and use firearms.

Nor, have I met or communicated with any balanced and rational individuals who want to deprive any responsible American adult of their right to own and operate motor vehicles.

It seems that through careful analysis and regulation, we have been relatively successful keeping unqualified and/or irresponsible individuals from operating motor vehicles.

I wonder: Why would any responsible and/or qualified American adult believe that we couldn’t accomplish the same outcomes with firearms?

Most gun crimes in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley involve weapons illegally brought into our state. Do we want to continue the illegal trafficking of guns into New York?

History tells us that — in 1791 — gang violence, assault weapons and drug trafficking had not yet been invented. Multi-shot hand guns did not appear until the early 19th century, and did not become commercially viable until 1856 when Smith and Wesson produced the first cartridge revolver.

Laws and regulations developed and designed around the technology, society and economy of the 18th century no doubt have some validity for our current society, yet may need to be carefully examined to see how and where some ‘tweaks’ might make them more relevant for today.

Thank you to Governor Cuomo and our New York State Legislators for taking some bold first steps to bring our state gun laws into compliance with the Information Age. There is more to be done, but you have accomplished some solid reform in January 2013.

Bravo!

It seems to be time for honest and productive discussion about firearms in New York State and across the U.S.

Although I do not currently own a firearm, I have in the past, and may do so in the future. 

I occasionally enjoy shooting at targets and at clay birds.  I know I don’t need an assault weapon, high capacity magazines or semi-automatic handguns to enjoy the sport of shooting.  In fact, these seem to be the weapons of choice for the military and law enforcement, and unfortunately, for criminals and ‘gang bangers’, not for any hunters or sport shooters I’ve talked with recently.

I was recently in a conversation with some Alaskans who regularly hunt for meat. 

Their reaction to using a handgun for hunting?  “You’d have to be crazy or really stupid.”

Semi-automatic long guns with high-capacity magazines?  “If you can’t hit the target with a couple of shots, you have no business being out in the field with a gun.”

Gun control doesn’t have to mean no guns.  I’m not suggesting we take guns away from those who wish to own them and use them responsibly.  

There just seem to be way too many gaps and loopholes in our current controls on acquiring and owning weapons, accessories and ammunition.

Gun show loopholes make no sense at all.  Selling ammunition online seems to be a very controversial issue worthy of serious examination.

When we allow special interest groups to use emotional arguments which have dubious merit to enrage and inflame their ‘base’, we end up with non-productive and potentially destructive dialogue.

Driving an automobile is considered an American right, yet there are a number of steps required before a driver license is issued to an individual, along with regular oversight and renewal requirements.  We require proof of insurance before we allow a motor vehicle to be registered.  Why should firearms be any different?

It makes sense to me that possession and/or ownership of a weapon – particularly in densely populated urban areas – ought to come with a license requirement that includes mandatory background checks; psychological and medical evaluations; character references; and some sort of proof of insurance.  Training and testing should be mandatory, and a license renewal process ought to be defined which ensures periodic re-evaluation of key variables.

If we want to preserve the right to responsible American citizens to own, possess and use firearms, a critical issue seems to be creating an environment which closes out the proliferation of possession and/or ownership by criminals and those others who don’t meet mutually acceptable criteria.

It would seem that if gun owners and non-gun owners could come together and agree on regulations that protect the right for responsible adults to own firearms while keeping them out of the hands of criminals and those who may be mentally unstable, we would end up with a much better, stronger and responsible outcome than we have today.

On December 14, 2012, one individual — who apparently obtained by force several semi-automatic firearms from a family member — shot and killed 26 innocent victims at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT. 

The firearms included one rifle – the controversial .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 — which by several definitions has been categorized as an assault weapon. 

The other semi-automatic weapons were hand guns – one was a 10 mm Glock which can accommodate a 15 round magazine. The other was a Sig Sauer 9 mm, which can accommodate a maximum capacity of 20 bullets.

 Following this tragic event, a nearby regional newspaper – The Journal News — filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request with Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in NYS seeking the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in these counties.

 By New York State law, the name and address of individual permit holders licensed to own a handgun — a pistol or revolver – is public record.

 Owners of ‘long guns’ — rifles or shotguns which can be purchased without a permit — are not subject to public record disclosure.

 I just listened to a radio interview with NYS Senator Gregory Ball on the controversial ‘outing’ of the names and addresses of hand gun permit holders by The Journal News.

 In the interview, Senator Ball was adamant in his opposition to releasing information (which is required under NYS law) based on his personal values and opinions.

 Senator Ball has held elected office in New York State since 2007. Several times, he has taken an oath of office to “…support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York…”

 The Journal News published names and addresses of hand gun permit holders from public record information obtained from Rockland and Westchester counties, which is both legal and appropriate in New York State.

 Officials in Putnam County have refused to release the gun permit information to The Journal News.

 Senator Ball has joined with other elected and appointed public officials in Putnam County to oppose the FOIA request from The Journal News.

 This FOIA request seems to follow the laws of the State of New York; thus is fully in compliance with the Constitution of the State of New York.

 It is my belief that NYS Senator Gregory Ball has violated his oath of office and thus should be sanctioned and removed from public office and further subject to any civil or criminal penalties which are available and appropriate for elected officials in New York State who flagrantly and blatantly violate their oath of office.

 It is time for honest and productive discussion about firearms in New York State and across the U.S.

Firearms

January 4, 2013

On December 14, 2012, one individual — who apparently obtained by force several semi-automatic firearms from a family member — shot and killed 26 innocent victims at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT.

The firearms included one rifle – the controversial .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 — which by several definitions has been categorized as an assault weapon.

The other semi-automatic weapons were hand guns – one was a 10 mm Glock which can accommodate a 15 round magazine. The other was a Sig Sauer 9 mm, which can accommodate a maximum capacity of 20 bullets.

Following this tragic event, a nearby regional newspaper – The Journal News — filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request with Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in NYS seeking the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in these counties.

By New York State law, the name and address of individual permit holders licensed to own a handgun — a pistol or revolver – is public record.

Owners of ‘long guns’ — rifles or shotguns, which can be purchased without a permit — are not subject to public record disclosure in New York State.

Earlier today, I istened to a radio interview with NYS Senator Gregory Ball on the controversial ‘outing’ of the names and addresses of hand gun permit holders by The Journal News.

In the interview, Senator Ball was adamant in his opposition to releasing information (which is required under NYS law) based on his personal values and opinions.

Senator Ball has held elected office in New York State since 2007. Several times, he has taken an oath of office to “…support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York…”

The Journal News published names and addresses of hand gun permit holders from public record information obtained from Rockland and Westchester counties, which is both legal and appropriate in New York State.

Officials in Putnam County have refused to release the gun permit information to The Journal News.

Senator Ball has joined with other elected and appointed public officials in Putnam County to oppose the FOIA request from The Journal News.

Whether it is religiously or morally right or wrong, this FOIA request seems to follow the laws of the State of New York; thus is fully in compliance with the Constitution of the State of New York.

It is my belief that NYS Senator Gregory Ball has violated his oath of office and thus should be sanctioned and removed from public office and further subject to any civil or criminal penalties which are available and appropriate for elected officials in New York State who flagrantly and blatantly violate their oath of office.

Hopefully, there is a procedure in the NYS Constitution to sanction Senator Ball, and the appropriate officals will step in to rescue my fellow residents, voters and taxpayers in NYS from clearly unconstitutional behavior by our elected officials.