Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Do you like to shoot...? ...get on the subway and go to Maryland."

     Dear Friends,
     "We're acting as judges. If we're going to decide everything on the basis of history -- by the way, what is the scope of the right to keep and bear arms? Machine guns? Torpedoes? Handguns?" he asked. "Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don't think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun."
     That was United Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer last weekend in a Fox News interview. You can read the first part of the interview here and the second part here. In the quote above, he was explaining his thinking behind the dissenting opinion he wrote in response to the Heller case that the Supreme Court recently decided. The emphasis I added to the final 3 sentences tell me that Justice Breyer does not seem to inhabit the more practical world in which the rest of us live.
     With respect, Mr. Justice, it doesn't work that way and the American people will have none of this twisted thinking.  To begin with, prior to that decision, it was against the law for anyone in Washington, DC to own a handgun in any way.  Even if you liked to shoot pistols at targets, you could not own one if you lived in Washington, DC.  As for owning one to defend your home or family against the predators in DC - forget it. You had little choice but to call the police and hope for the best.

     Secondly, even if you broke the law by owning a handgun in DC, you would be breaking the law again by carrying one in the DC Metro.  Even if you lived in Virginia (where handguns are legal to own) and wanted to use the Metro to go shooting in Maryland (where shooting a gun is still nominally legal) you would be breaking the law by carrying it onto the Metro and be breaking the law again by carrying it in DC.

     Third, he says that "there is no problem, I don't think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun." That is certainly true as long as you do not view breaking a few gun laws as a problem.  Personally, I like avoiding things like that. I love our police, but I religiously stay out of trouble - life is easier that way.

     By way of background, I lived in New York City for five years and later worked in Washington, DC for nearly six years.  I've gotten familiar with this brand of "thinking." When I moved to North Carolina the gun laws were a breath of fresh air by comparison.  That is not to say that we don't have some legal impediments to gun ownership, though.  Obtaining the permission of my local sheriff to purchase a handgun is one. The laws pertaining to the possession of any gun during a "state of emergency" are another that trouble me greatly. There are some aspects of where one can and cannot legally carry a concealed handgun that make little, if any sense.

    So what can we do about this convoluted thinking?  Instead of letting judges like Mr. Breyer determine what is and isn't a "problem" and hoping for the best - why not just cut to the chase and remedy these faults in the law by changing the law?  Many times judges find that they are forced to decide what the law means or how it should be applied when it is not specific enough or if it conflicts with another law.  By introducing and enacting laws that will remove the strange impediments to the Right to Keep and Bear Arms that have cropped up over the years, we can strengthen our liberties.  I hope you will join me in letting our new legislature know where you stand on this important issue.
     Sincerely yours,
     Tom Goffe

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