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Interpreting the 2nd Amendment

August 04, 2007

Re "Gun control under fire," editorial, July 30

Although gun violence is a deplorable aspect of our society, a narrow reading of the 2nd Amendment that would allow gun bans would not prevent even a fraction of the crime or injuries caused by guns, despite assertions to that effect in your editorial. For the clearest evidence to the contrary, simply take a look at the effectiveness of the law at issue: Gun crime is no less a danger in Washington now than it was before the law. This should not surprise anyone. Criminals who would be willing to use guns to commit crimes would pay just as little respect to laws about gun ownership as they do to the other laws they break.

Richard Schwartz


Your editorial endorsing the collective interpretation of the 2nd Amendment appears to be sound, because the word "people" is not plural for "person" but refers to a collective body of persons. The authors of the Bill of Rights understood this syntactic distinction because they used "persons" in the 4th Amendment when referring to individual citizens. But the 2nd Amendment does not limit how the "people" may keep and bear arms, just as the 1st Amendment does not limit "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Advocating the collective interpretation to limit gun ownership means the same argument could be made to limit peaceable assembly to organized groups sanctioned by the state. I would not own a gun now, but I would like access to remain open to my fellow "persons" and me, should the government ever become tyrannical. We pay a price in public safety for our gun rights, but perhaps our legal ability to arm ourselves quickly is what has helped us to remain "free" thus far.

Kathy Harty


It's hardly a radical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to strike down the District of Columbia's draconian gun laws when more than 40 states have adopted shall-issue or may-issue concealed weapons permits, which give nonfelons and mentally healthy individuals the right to protect family or property. It is intellectually dishonest to state that the dominant interpretation of "people" is collective. If The Times doesn't like guns, why doesn't it advocate amending the Constitution? There are clear procedures to do just that.

Michael C. Rost


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