The National Rifle Association, right wing conservatives and gun collectors like to consider the rights granted by the 2nd Amendment as absolute. Even during testimony by a parent of one of the children slaughtered in Newtown, a heckler shouted “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Of course, people like this (and, unfortunately, there are many of them) neglect to mention the first clause of the amendment which states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”
They also overlook the fact that none of the constitutional amendments are absolute.
For example, it’s illegal to slander, libel or defame others despite the 1st amendment’s guarantee of free speech. And, as I’ve previously mentioned, it is also illegal to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater.
Our nation has also placed some restrictions on our right to free assembly.
Moreover, in recent years, we have created exceptions to the constitutional limits on search and seizure. The Bush administration played fast and loose with the limits on imprisonment. And we’ve modified the Constitution in many ways to abolish slavery, to give women the right to vote, to expand civil rights, to ban poll taxes, and to prohibit then later legalize the sale of alcohol.
It’s clear the Founders never intended the Constitution to be absolute. Supreme Court rulings have acknowledged that fact. So if other constitutional guarantees are not absolute, why should the guarantee of the 2nd amendment be any different?
We can and should place limits on military-style weapons of mass destruction. We should limit the size of magazines. We really should prohibit the sale of all semi-automatic firearms. We most certainly should conduct thorough background checks before the transfer of any firearm. We should place limits on the sale of ammunition. And we should require safety courses for everyone who purchases a gun.
Without changes in our gun laws, we can expect more mass shootings, more murders of children, and more random violence. Isn’t continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result a definition of insanity?