Hello All,

I wrote this after the massacre in Aurora. Now Newtown. We need to take action.

We need to reinstate the assault weapons ban and eliminate loopholes in background checks for private sellers.

Please see below.

Thanks,

Jim

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Dear Friends,

Like many of you, I carry my license, credit cards, health insurance card, with me each day. I do not carry a wallet, but rather put these cards in my front pocket, along with my money, so that when I need to get to my license for instance it is easily accessible. I also think it helps to guard against pickpockets. Amongst these items I carry my American Civil Liberties Union membership card and a miniature copy of the Bill of Rights provided by the ACLU. To some of you this may sound a bit odd, but being a lawyer and loving my job, it is important for me to remember why I do what I do. Very little of my practice is now devoted to criminal law, however the rights afforded to us through the Bill of Rights are fundamental to our whole system of government and laws.

And now that you know I am literally a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I should also tell you, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I am also a member of the National Rifle Association. Although I do not own a gun, I believe that the right to bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment and vehemently defended by the NRA, is an important right. The horrific massacre in Colorado brings the issue of gun laws once again to the forefront of our ongoing national discourse. I want to share with you my thoughts. I invite you to share yours if you wish.

The Second Amendment reads in its entirety as follows:

“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.”

As you can see the right to bear arms is predicated upon the need for a militia which was the security (military and police) force of each of the States at the time of the drafting of the Constitution. The right to bear arms was never unconditional. It has however become so in the minds of many. In my opinion the beauty of our Constitution and the wisdom of our ancestors, allows this prophetic document to continue to be the framework under which we govern ourselves. As a result we can still own guns and not have to be a member of the militia. The vast majority of those who own guns in America today are law abiding wonderful citizens most of whom use their guns for hunting or sport. Although I am not a hunter, it is a sport which many people thoroughly enjoy, but it has absolutely nothing to do with a well regulated Militia. Fortunately our Constitution is a living document.

The right to own a gun, like all rights guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights has reasonable limitations. For example the Right to Free Speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment has limitations. This right, which is more widely exercised than the right guaranteed in the Second Amendment, does not allow people to, in the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ,Jr. ..” yell fire in a crowded theater.” Justice Holmes wrote this opinion in Schenck vs. United States in 1919. The quote is often used as an example of speech which serves no conceivable purpose other than to create an imminently dangerous situation. Assault weapons are much the same. It is eerily ironic that the Colorado massacre took place in a theatre, but like the right to free speech, the right to bear arms and specifically certain types of arms, should have some limitations. It should not include the right to own and posses semiautomatic and automatic weapons unless those weapons are being used by a well -regulated Militia i.e. the military or the police.

My experience with firearms was as an operator of an M-60 machine gun as a member of the United States Navy Seabees. These types of weapons are powerful and are solely designed to kill other people. They are weapons of war and are designed to and do create widespread destruction. I am glad we had such a weapon but I cannot in any way justify why any ordinary citizen needs to own an assault rifle or why these weapons are made available to the public. We need to prohibit the sale of these guns to the public. Companies should be able to continue to manufacture these weapons for military or police use only.

I disagree with those who would suggest that America does not need to ban these types of weapons. The question arises as to why we do not have such laws on the books and the answer is quite clear– politics and money. Those who produce these weapons are making lots of money and the politicians who want the backing of the NRA are simply afraid to stand up for what is quite clear. The latest example of this being played out in the political arena is presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent statement saying that he does not believe America needs new gun laws. However in 2004 as Governor of Massachusetts Mr. Romney signed a ban on assault weapons, such as the AR-15 which was used in the Colorado massacre, saying that “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense… they are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people”. (Page 1, Boston Globe 7/26/12).

Enactment of a ban on assault weapons will not prohibit nuts like James Holmes of Colorado from doing what he did, but it will certainly decrease the possibility and the occurrence of such terrible acts in the months and years ahead.

It’s time for politicians to become leaders and gun manufactures to be held responsible.

What are your thoughts?

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Federal Assault Weapons Ban
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