Over the Hill

We need to regulate guns — and evaluate the Second Amendment

After my brain surgery two years ago, I wasn’t allowed to drive my car until I passed a DMV driving test. But I bet I could have still bought a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle. It seems like anybody can.

No matter how badly I drive my car, I would never be able to kill 49 people with it and injure 54 more in two or three hours. But Omar Mateen used his military-style assault-rifle and semi-automatic pistol to kill and injure that many people early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. He finally stopped when police officers shot him dead.

The Tribune’s headline called it the “Nation’s Deadliest Shooting.” But it wasn’t our first multiple-death shooting in recent years, and it won’t be the last unless we start regulating gun sales much more strictly. Do ordinary residents really need rapid-fire military-style rifles with 30-round magazines?

Once upon a time, state and local governments regulated the kinds and number of guns we could own. But then in 2008 and 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to change all that. The Court majority said the Constitution’s Second Amendment gives Americans the right to “keep and bear arms,” and that right mustn’t be infringed.

But it now seems plain that we need some gun regulations, or the next headline may say “Deranged shooter kills 100.”

It could happen in any crowded place, even here in the North County where we have annual attractions that draw large crowds.

It’s time to re-examine the Second Amendment. It’s short but confusing. It 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 don’t know what that means exactly. And in 2008 and 2010, four Supreme Court justices didn’t see it the same way the other five justices did. I can’t believe it really means all residents of the United States may own 30-shot semi-automatic military-style rifles, and other similar mankillers.

So, we must change something. If we can’t change the Supreme Court, we’ll have to change the Constitution, and that can be done. The Constitution isn’t set in stone like the Ten Commandments. It has been amended 27 times. It can be amended again if three-fourths of the states approve.

Amendments to the Constitution have included banning slavery, letting women vote, imposing a prohibition of alcoholic beverages and repealing that prohibition 14 years later. The amendment repealing Prohibition took only 9½ months to be approved.

New gun regulations would, of course, apply only to the general public and not police agencies or the military. New gun regulations might include a ban on semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons.

I’d like to hear your suggestions for gun regulation.

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 phild2008@sbcglobal.net.