I received at least 16 responses to the column I wrote last week calling for stricter gun regulations. I wrote it after 49 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The killer used a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic pistol.
Nine of the readers who responded were basically against increasing gun regulations, five suggested some new rules and one offered friendly corrections for some of my errors and omissions.
Some of the regulation opponents brought up the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment reads: “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.” (I wonder if any of today’s gun owners are members of well-regulated militias.)
Anyhow, in last week’s column I said the Second Amendment was “confusing” and that we should re-examine it. That really upset one man. He accused me of advocating “treason.”
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But another man called me with a thoughtful suggestion. He said the Second Amendment should itself be amended. He proposed adding just three words, to follow “… to keep and bear arms.” The three words are “of the day.”
So the last part of the amendment would read, “ … the right of the people to keep and bear arms of the day, shall not be infringed.”
In other words, the amendment would apply only to the arms available and known in 1791, when the amendment was ratified. Those arms include swords, lances and single-shot, muzzle-loading muskets, but no automatic or semi-automatic guns of any kind.
The people who drew up and ratified the Second Amendment couldn’t have meant it to apply to automatic and semi-automatic guns, which didn’t exist in the 1790s and weren’t even conceived of.
It takes the approval of three-quarters of the states to ratify an amendment to the Constitution. That sounds difficult, but it’s been done 27 times. There might be enough clear-thinking people to do it again.
And now a correction: Last week I wrote, “semi-automatic military-style assault rifle.” You’ll find that wording in many news stories. But that gun is really just a semi-automatic rifle, which resembles a U.S Army rifle. Millions of rifles these days look like that. But real U.S. Army rifles are capable of fully automatic firing, like a machine gun. You and I can’t own a fully automatic gun.
Semi-automatic means you must pull the trigger to fire each shot, but that can still be rapid. And Reuters recently reported that California is one of seven states and the District of Columbia that have banned semi-automatic guns. Also, to buy other guns in California you must pass a written test and wait 10 days. Now, let’s get the other 43 states onboard.
Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.