Letter at Length

Constitutional rights are not absolute

In Saturday's paper there was a letter titled "Gun restrictions don't make us safer" by David Qotsaisaw. Mr. Q. asserts that studies show "there is no correlation between reduced gun violence and increased gun control laws." However, a quick Google search shows much contradictory information on this subject.

In the March 2013 issue of JAMA, Harvard doctors conclude, "A higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state." Despite Mr. Q.'s assertions, this debate is far from over. And common sense tells us that attempting to restrict gun ownership to those who would use the guns wisely will limit the number of gun-related deaths and injuries.

Mr. Q. also asserts that gun ownership is a "basic and unalienable right". He appears to be suggesting that gun ownership is an absolute right, however we all know that nothing is an absolute right.

Hopefully Mr. Q. would agree that it is desirable to keep "arms" out of certain people's hands, e.g., children, the severely mentally ill, convicted violent criminals and demented individuals. Also, I'm hopeful that Mr. Q. would deem it wise to restrict the type of "arms" which private individuals can possess, e.g., hand grenades, howitzers and rockets have no place in our communities.

Thus, common sense tells us there must be some restrictions on individual gun ownership. And the Supreme Court has, in numerous rulings, confirmed that gun ownership is not an absolute right. What we need to be discussing is not whether guns should be controlled, but rather what kinds of controls result in the greatest benefit to the community, while preserving individual liberty.

The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ..." Gun ownership advocates frequently mis-attribute this phrase to the Constitution, emphasizing their own nonexistent "Constitutional rights" to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Even as we honor these historic, but not legal, "unalienable rights", as moral human beings, we must admit that the greatest right is to life. Every year approximately 11,000 people in the U.S. lose their lives to guns in someone else's hands. Surely, as a civilized nation, we can do better. The right to own a gun cannot trump another's right to life.

Mr. Q. goes on to state, "We also are constitutionally guaranteed that we are not forced to live a life defined by others." Mr. Q. needs to read the Constitution — it contains no such guarantee! Quite the contrary, the Constitution guarantees that all of us will have to live our lives with certain restrictions.

Yes, you have to pay your taxes, drive on the right side of the street, not shoot your obnoxious neighbor, and send your children to school. It's the law.

David Lane


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