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June 30, 2008

Standing the Constitution on its Head

I had thought that our system of government was broad and stable enough to stand up to the pressures of any one wing of political factions. Now I must admit that I am amazed at the damage that has been done to the American political system by a small group of dedicated Neo-Cons over the past seven years. Any positive image of the U.S. throughout most of the rest of the world has been thoroughly trashed. The ability of the government to react effectively to crises has been called into question. Our military has been over-burdened and stretched too thin by an expensive and unnecessary foreign military occupation. The executive power has been enhanced to the detriment of our other branches of government.

And now the Supreme Court has overturned over 100 years of judicial precedent and stood the Second Amendment to the Constitution on its head. The 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, written by Reagan appointee Justice Antonin Scalia, holds that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms for self-defense purposes unconnected with service in a well regulated militia.

As Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, recently wrote: “By deliberately omitting what test the Court is using to decide that [the District’s handgun ban and trigger lock requirement] unreasonably burden this newly proclaimed individual right to possess firearms, the Court leaves legislators and lower courts adrift at a time when public health data clearly shows the harm associated with handguns far outweighs any benefit from their use for lawful self defense.”

The decision is a terrible one and complete misreads the Framer’s intent in drafting in the Second Amendment. It is relatively narrow in scope, however, and leaves many critical questions unanswered. More importantly, it does not prevent gun violence prevention organizations from actively pursuing a wide range of legislative initiatives to reduce gun violence. Here at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, we will still be able to pursue all of our goals: pushing to close the Gun Show Loophole, passing microstamping laws to assist law enforcement with crime-solving, and holding gun manufacturers and dealers accountable for their distribution practices.

We will see if the Heller decision ultimately stands the test of time. But it certainly will not stop the work of millions of Americans across our country who are deeply concerned about the 30,000+ lives lost annually to gun violence. We are resolved to fight for sensible controls on the design, manufacture, sale, and distribution of firearms in America and will not stop until the senseless bloodshed in our country ceases.


  1. Funny - anyone claiming to be a member of a militia that drills to adequately perform military practices (thereby becoming "well regulated") would certainly be universally labeled as a right wing extremist.

  2. David HazlehurstJuly 3, 2008 at 12:59 PM

    There are at least two major problems with what is essentially unlimited access to guns in the US, the damage it does to the families of victims and the shooter, and the massive costs it imposes on an already overburdened health care system.

    Beyond that the concept of a militia to prevent an outside nation from taking over any part of the US is at best ludicrous. Our nation is over run with for example immigrants from Britain many of us welcomed with open arms because of the failure of the US education system to train enough scientists.
    Worse yet outsiders, even those from less friendly nations, can sit at home and write a check to buy a major interest in some of our most venerable financial institutions.

    Meanwhile the Bush administration's decision to let
    the assault weapons ban die on the vine years before the Robert's Court made their predicted
    decision can only lead to more lost lives, many of whom are school age children who leave the earth at the rate of two classrooms each week.

  3. Suppose Mike Beard or anyone who's opposed to firearms were to be called to serve in the militia to protect their country or state. How would they defend their country or state if they don't have a firearm(s)? Can you imagine Mike showing up without a firearm? What's he going to use, logic, sticks, rocks, harsh language against an enemy. I can just picture Mike having to ask a gun-toting redneck if he could "borrow" some guns.lol. Individual's, people, make up a militia. The point of serving in a milita is that YOU bring your OWN guns. So by CSGV saying that its a "collective" right with service connected/related in a militia, then individuals DO have the right to own firearms in case they are called to serve in a militia. All this talk about how guns effect the health care system and how it costs millions haven't looked at automotive deaths/injuries, some 13,000 people were killed by guns in 2005, compared to over 47,000 killed in auto related fatalities. How about a Coalition to Stop Auto Violence? Who knows how many more people were injured in auto related injuries compared to gun related injuries. The numbers speak for themselves.

  4. Rudy, the “well regulated [state] Militias” described in the Second Amendment ceased to exist over a century ago. The modern equivalents, National Guard units, do not depend on privately held firearms. These units are armed solely by the federal government. Our modern military is now a volunteer force, but should a draft be enacted in the future, individuals called up would not serve with their private firearms, but rather with a firearm(s) issued by our government.

    Your statistics on gun death are incorrect. The correct number of people killed by firearms in America in 2005 is 30,694 (Source: CDC WISQARS Injury Mortality Reports). During the same year, 45,520 people were killed in incidents involving motor vehicles.

    The difference is that automobiles, and automobile owners, are highly regulated in America. Guns and gun owners are not. Firearms and tobacco stand alone as the only two categories of consumer products in the U.S. not subject to federal health and safety regulation, because of the powerful lobbies that represent these industries. Licensing and registration of firearm owners and firearms is also rare in America, limited to just a handful of states.

    Vigorous efforts to regulate motor vehicle safety and America’s roads have saved countless lives since the mid-20th century. In large part because of common-sense regulations, the motor vehicle fatality rate has declined by 40% since 1970. As for the groups that fought to enact these regulations to make our cars and roads safer, there are many. How about Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the Trauma Foundation, Parents for Safer Air Bags, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving for starters?

    A similar effort is needed (and grossly overdue) to improve firearm safety in America, with gun violence continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives a year in our country. As you stated earlier, the numbers do indeed speak for themselves. - CSGV