I feel Stephen Belcher’s letter deserves a response. He is correct that the people have a right to amend the Constitution. This has happened several times in our history. But what he is suggesting with gun control is to simply ignore the Constitution rather than attempting to amend it. This is highly dangerous because if the government can ignore (via clever reinterpretation) one portion of the Bill of Rights, it can do the same with any other portion and the effect is that we have no rights at all.
The Supreme Court held in its Heller decision in 2008, that all arms in common use are protected by the Second Amendment. Justices Thomas and Scalia specifically mentioned the AR-15 by name, stating the following in a dissent when the court did not hear the Friedman v City of Highland Park case: “Roughly 5 million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles. The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting. Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”
This country is as divided as it was in the 1850s. Both sides of the political divide are guilty of pushing legislation not to better the country but to antagonize and attack cherished rights of the other side of the divide. That is certainly how the recent and ongoing gun control push in Vermont feels to thousands, particularly in light of the lack of gun violence in this state as compared to most.
A nation can’t exist in which large segments of the population continually feel their rights are being attacked with state-endorsed violence via legislative warfare. Every law carries with it the threat of deadly force against those who do not recognize it. Officers of the state will use force against those they find ignore the law. Sometimes this is certainly justified, but at other times it is not. Our nation, if it continues on its current path, is at extreme risk of seeing another civil war. We have rural counties in Virginia even saying they will form militias to fight the state over gun control there. I don’t believe this sort of thing has happened since the Civil War. It is entirely avoidable and we should attempt to avoid it instead of ignoring the lessons from our distant history that are directly in front of us.
Both sides of the political divide need to take a step back away from these hot-button issues and consider if getting a small legislative “victory” for themselves is worth what this is leading towards. I would say everyone who throws more gasoline onto the fires of hate in this country are responsible for what might happen if it continues. To suggest a gun owner in Vermont who owns an AR for hunting or target shooting or self-defense in rural areas lacking effective police coverage is responsible for mass killings in another state by a deranged killer, is not only absurd but is an example of the sort of hateful rhetoric that has gotten this country to this point.
Having a peaceful and prosperous future as a country requires everyone recognizes and respects the rights and liberties of everyone else, even if we ourselves have some reservations about some.
Casey Jennings lives in Rutland.