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Constitution: Guns and the 2nd Amendment

March 03, 1994

There is little doubt that law-abiding citizens may have the right to buy, own and use firearms. But do you think that the framers of our Constitution could have imagined the havoc guns are now wreaking on our society?

What is more important, the safety of our citizens or the right of anyone to purchase unlimited quantities of weapons? Do you think that the authors of the 2nd Amendment could anticipate the kind of powerful, lethal weapons that are now widely available to sociopathic thugs?

In January, a Manhattan Beach police officer was murdered in cold blood; in Inglewood, five people were killed in one day--one, a baby only 2 years old. When will it stop?

Is one of the principal obligations of any government to do all that it can to enhance public safety? The gun lobby maintains that the 2nd Amendment is under fire. They do not acknowledge that not only are many thousand innocent Americans under fire, but that thousands are being killed by these guns.

Let them look at the record. The death rate from firearms leaped 14% between 1985 and 1991. According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1991 California and five other large states had more deaths from firearms than from motor vehicle accidents.

The vast majority of Americans are fed up with this carnage and demand there be more effective controls on the distribution of hand guns. Murder and armed robbery are the most feared felonies. According to FBI statistics, firearms are used in 55% of the murders and 40% of the robberies.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but that right may be controlled. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1939 that the right to keep and bear handguns is not guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.

The gun lobby attempts to perpetuate the myth that gun control laws are ineffective. Let them look at the record of other freedom-loving countries. In 1990, handguns killed 22 in Britain, 68 in Canada, and 87 in Japan. In the same year, 10,567 people were murdered by handguns in the United States. Hundreds of police officers have been slain in line of duty by handguns.

The gun lobby insists that proposed control over guns will disarm law-abiding citizens, leaving them the helpless prey of criminals unaffected by these controls. Responsible law enforcement offices state that weapons in the private sector are ineffective in combatting crime. A recent study reports that the mere presence of a gun in a home is linked to a threefold increase in the risk of homicide for members of the household.

In conclusion, the least we can do as a nation is to make sure that those who buy or possess a handgun meet minimum qualifications, that they have been trained, sane, and without a criminal record.

If these deadly weapons are to be tolerated in our society, more has to be done to protect our citizens.

I stand second to none in my reverence of the Constitution. I will not be passive in defending the 2nd Amendment. One way to preserve it is to diminish the number of gun casualties that is tearing the fabric of our nation. Responsible policies should seek to preserve life and the 2nd Amendment.

JOHN WOLCOTT

Torrance

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