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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gun Control: Respect and Support for Alison and Andy Parker

"Andy Parker's resolve to fight for gun control formed in the hours after his daughter Alison, a promising journalist killed while doing what she loved, was shot and killed on live television.

"'This will be my mission,' he told reporters. 'I've got to do something going forward that makes her life meaningful and will always be with me. And this is the way to do it.'

"'There are too many guns in America and there are clearly too many guns in the wrong hands. So we're going to continue to do what we can.'

"While his articulate Southern voice renews a push for gun restrictions, winning such measures has proved nearly impossible in the U.S., even after other high-profile tragedies garnered sympathy across the country and elicited similar pledges of activism from victim's relatives."

(Jonathan Drew. "After TV slaying, reporter's dad finds voice on gun control."
Associated Press.
I believe we all must respect this father's impassioned mission. No, I must go even further in my belief: I believe we all must demand our lawmakers make an honest and diligent attempt to draft and to pass legislation that will stiffen gun laws representing an acceptable compromise between gun advocates and gun control supporters.

Parker did gain a strong supporter in Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a gun-owner himself, who has promised to help fight for stronger background checks for gun buyers. Small steps will lead to miles of understanding and reform.

Andy Parker, like so many U.S. citizens, said he's not against gun ownership in general, but stricter background checks are needed to keep guns away from mentally ill people. He wants to close loopholes for buying guns at gun shows. He also doesn't see why civilians need assault weapons. He says, "Who the hell needs a machine gun to go hunt?"

The absolute refusal of the gun lobby to consider any kind of much-needed control, particularly opposition by the NRA, one of the most powerful political action groups in the nation, is simply stubborn will based on some shaky arguments. Here are two prominent ones I hear all the time:

* At the most basic tenant of gun advocates is the Second Amendment as written in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. They insist it exists to protect an individual's right to own guns for the purpose of self-defense.

* The mantra of the NRA is their slogan "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." This is an answer to the argument under consideration that clarifies, when it comes to murders, people are the ultimate cause and guns are merely proximate causes -- the end of a causal chain that started with a person deciding to murder.

I believe that simple, absolute thinking is seriously flawed. And, the refusal of gun advocates to consider control because they are convinced that any step to reform opens the door to the government seizing all guns is ludicrous.

It is also logical to consider an opposing view on the Second Amendment, a gun advocate's sacred document to own and to wield a plethora of weapons.

The amendment states:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The ACLU takes the position that he Second Amendment protects a collective right rather than an individual right. What questions are left unanswered, even in the Supreme Court's 1939 United States v. Miller decision that was widely understood to have endorsed that view?

There are many unresolved questions, including what firearms are protected by the Second Amendment, what regulations (short of an outright ban) may be upheld, and how that determination will be made.

The Supreme Court held, in District of Columbia v. Heller (a 5-4 decision in 2008) that the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense. Simple? Not exactly. Since Heller, courts nationwide have found a wide variety of firearms laws constitutional because they can help prevent gun deaths, injuries, and crimes in communities across the country.

The Court's Heller decision included:

"Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons."

And ...

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens stated that the court's judgment was "a strained and unpersuasive reading" which overturned longstanding precedent, and that the court had "bestowed a dramatic upheaval in the law."

The dissent concludes, "The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.... I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice."

(D.C. v. Heller opinion. (at Cornell Legal Information Institute). Also available as *Heller Decision, United States Supreme Court web site)

Since the June 2008 ruling, over 80 different cases have been heard in lower federal courts on the constitutionality of a wide variety of gun control laws. These courts have heard lawsuits in regard to bans of firearm possession by felons, drug addicts, illegal aliens, and individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors.

Also, cases have been heard on the constitutionality of laws prohibiting certain types of weapons, such as machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and/or specific types of weapons attachments. In addition, courts have heard challenges to laws barring guns in post offices and near schools and laws outlawing "straw" purchases, carrying of concealed weapons, types of ammunition and possession of unregistered firearms.

The courts have upheld most of these laws as being constitutional.

(Adam Winkler: The New Second Amendment: A Bark Worse Than Its Right.
Huffington Post.  January 02, 2009)

Consistently since the Heller ruling, the lower federal courts have ruled that almost all gun control measures as presently legislated are lawful and that according to UCLA professor of constitutional law Adam Winkler: "What gun rights advocates are discovering is that the vast majority of gun control laws fit within these categories."

Good Luck, Mr. Parker

Andy Parker has taken on one of the most formidable opponents in the country. The gun lobby is a monstrous force in politics. Yet, Parker is now trying to use his voice to do something about the staggering toll of 88 Americans killed with guns every day and hundreds more injured.

Richard Martinez, who lost his only child, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, in senseless gun violence in May of 2014 -- a well-documented story about a horrific shooting spree near the University of California, wrote Andy Parker a letter about becoming a new member of an awful group no one wants to join.

Christopher, like Alison, was cut down by a disturbed individual who got his hands on a gun -- despite many troubling red flags in his history -- and shot and killed innocent people. Here is part of the text:

"So from one grieving father to another, Andy, I share your grief and mourn your loss. I know what you are feeling. You are not alone. Welcome to the heartbreaking club that no one wants to be a part of.  Christopher was killed I made a pledge that “Not One More” son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister should have to grieve a loved one’s death because of preventable gun violence. I committed my life to sparing other parents the phone call that I got on May 23, 2014. The phone call that you, Andy, received yesterday."

In a short time, Richard has become an important spokesman and a determined activist. He has helped do the following:

* Fought the NRA as they unsuccessfully pushed for bills in New Hampshire and 15 other states to repeal the permit requirement for carrying concealed, loaded handguns in public. And they lost fights to pass bills that would force universities to allow guns onto college campuses in Florida, Nevada, Montana, and a dozen other states.

* Helped to defeat bills that would have repealed the requirement that all handgun sales require a background check in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina.  Sixty gun lobby backed-bills have been defeated in legislatures around the country so far in 2015.

I wish Andy Parker and Richard Martinez good luck and Godspeed. As Martinez said to Parker ...

"Your words will inspire thousands of people to do 'whatever it takes' to make sure that 'Not One More' family has to experience the pain that we have endured. It’s painful to welcome another father into this club, but I know that together we can keep up the momentum. Too many have died. We can save lives."

(Richard Marinez. "Andy Parker, welcome to the parents of children killed by guns club."
USA Today. August 29, 2015.)

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