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Thu, May 23

Letter: We can't ignore part of Second Amendment


"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."

A momentous decision by the United States Supreme Court in 2008 in the definitive case of District of Columbia vs. Heller resulted in a 5-4 majority opinion written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that divided the Amendment into two distinct but related clauses, the operative clause and the prefatory clause. The operative clause in the opinion affirmed the right for individuals not necessarily connected to a militia to keep and bear arms.

Quoting Justice Scalia, "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self defense within the home."

The court qualified its position by adding the following provision, "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 or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools or government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. 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."

Added Justice Scalia, "The District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home."

The foregoing suggests considerable acceptance of most existing gun laws by the Court, even the possibility of required weapons registration. In his majority supported opinion in Heller, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia announced that a broad range of America's gun laws remain "presumptively legal."

Your readers should be encouraged to consider America's 29,500 gunfire deaths each year (more than 880,000 during the past 30 years).

Then they should decide if guns are already well-regulated or if there is a greater need to respect that portion of the Second Amendment called the prefatory clause. They may choose to simply ignore that part of the amendment.

Donald Huard, Ph.D.

Prescott Valley


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