Opinion: What are people saying about plans for a constitutional amendment to control gun sales?


We can make our nation a safer place

Our second constitutional amendment gives us the right to bear arms. However, this was written when people respected the Constitution and the rights of others much more than they seem to do now. Guns were used to protect against aggressive animals, for hunting and perhaps for protection against aggressive humans. Lately, guns are used by unscrupulous people to shoot anyone and anything.

Times have changed. Rarely a day goes by that The San Diego Union-Tribune doesn’t have a story about individuals who have randomly or deliberately shot one or more people, including adults and children.

Current gun purchasing laws aren’t strict enough. That’s why Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing the addition of several gun safety measures, including mandatory background checks, a waiting period for gun purchases, and a ban on civilian purchases of “assault weapons.”

All these measures are for our protection, and won’t inconvenience anyone but those who wish to obtain a gun for illegal or nefarious purposes. For example, a person who wants to rob a store tomorrow or shoot a group at a party would want a gun immediately. With the new amendment in place, the shooting would be put off or even forgotten.

As for so-called “assault weapons,” why would anyone want one unless they had devious intentions in mind? I think Gov. Newsom’s amendment suggestion should be passed nationally.

Iris Price, Ramona

We need to get at the cause of the problem

It appears painfully obvious that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s suggested constitutional amendment is pure theater. The governor is well aware that nothing positive will occur during the time required to adopt an amendment. However, he would benefit substantially by appearing to be tough on crime and opposed to ineffective firearm laws.

What no one wants to acknowledge or talk about is that politicians have little incentive to put an end to the current, unacceptable bloodbath in our nation. Liberals can bemoan the deaths and appear bereaved while painting conservatives as heartless, blood-thirsty individuals. Conservatives can accuse liberals of being wild-eyed fanatics who are willing to gut the Constitution and trample individuals’ rights in order to end this slaughter. Both sides profit by gaining votes plus amassing huge campaign contributions.

The solution to the gun problem is not to disarm law-abiding citizens. The solution is to stop treating the symptoms and to start attacking the causes.

Imagine a patient is admitted to a hospital spitting up blood and having an elevated fever. Would a competent physician give the patient a towel to cover her mouth and some ice packs to reduce the fever? No. The doctor would begin searching for the cause of the symptoms, and then institute the proper treatment.

Something has infected our society. The number of firearms per citizen has not changed dramatically in decades. The number of citizens allowed to lawfully carry firearms has increased, which should serve as a disincentive for criminals to go on a killing rampage.

What has changed negatively in the last 20 years? Has the family unit deteriorated such that children no longer learn how to behave in public, or interact with their peers? Have church attendance and church teachings collapsed to where we no longer treat one another properly? Has drug usage by the young plus drug usage by parents altered intellectual development? The list goes on.

We must find the cause of the problem and stop focusing on the symptoms, or this civil cancer will only destroy our nation.

What is never brought up in gun-violence discussions is that gun owners have more at stake than others. Gun owners’ civil rights are at risk. Onerous anti-firearm rules and regulations will negatively affect gun owners but leave others untouched. We should be encouraging gun owners to help formulate a solution, rather than treating them as a dimwitted remnant of a bygone American era.

Lance A. Dohe, Tierrasanta

Newsom’s leadership shows with proposal

One of my favorite photos in the family archives is of my grandfather and uncles returning from a hunting trip, holding their rifles. I understand how many people would want a rifle or handgun for self-protection or recreation, especially when family members have had guns for generations. However, I do not understand why any civilian needs an automatic or semi-automatic rifle. In the United States, mass shootings where more than four people are killed or wounded are becoming commonplace. Other countries like Australia and New Zealand have prevented mass shootings by implementing stricter gun control laws and buying guns from civilians at market price in response to a mass shooting.

Part of the problem is in the way the Second Amendment is interpreted. The Second Amendment is a single sentence that begins, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” This is sometimes interpreted to mean that arms should be restricted to militias, i.e., the National Guard, and not to individuals. The second part, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” is often cited as the right of citizens to bear arms without including any reference to militias. Notably, the National Rifle Association omits the beginning reference to militias in its posting of the Second Amendment in the lobby of its headquarters in Virginia.

The Second Amendment was written when smooth-bore flintlock muskets were the arms of choice. The most extreme mass shootings in modern times were committed with semi-automatic rifles as they can do more damage in a shorter period of time than standard rifles or muskets.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to amend the Constitution shows superb leadership and perspicacity and modernizes the Second Amendment for the times that we live in now. By focusing on semi-automatic weapons, he acknowledges Americans’ obsession with guns while eliminating the deadliest of these weapons. Newsom’s proposed amendment has four main tenets. First, raising the age for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21 is soundly based on science. Human brains are not cognitively and emotionally developed until 25 years. Drinking alcohol is prohibited for those under 21. Owning a gun is a greater responsibility and comes with the potential for greater harm than drinking beer. Second, background checks, while not 100 percent accurate, will prevent guns from being owned by some people with a record of dangerous or unstable behavior. Third, a waiting period before a gun purchase is also an excellent proposal for gun safety as it would allow prospective buyers to analyze their motives and emotional state and consequences for rash actions. It may prevent some people from acting irrationally based on emotions. Finally, banning the civilian ownership of so-called “assault weapons” is long overdue. Such a weapon would not be that useful or sporting for recreation or hunting. If someone feels that such a weapon is necessary for his or her protection, there is something very wrong in that person’s life, or he or she needs to find a new occupation.

Jean Spence, Serra Mesa

Polarized nation will never let this pass

Ever since the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed, I have always heard the mantra, “We should be careful about amending the Constitution.” It may be a cliché, but it’s probably good advice. That proposed amendment almost made it to the finish line until the Phyllis Schlaflys and Anita Bryants of the world brought religion into it and made it a new cause for the conservative movement to quash it. And it will be that same conservative movement, now on steroids, that will prevent Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed amendment from seeing the light of day.

Is the proposed amendment worthwhile? I respect and agree with the substance of the proposed amendment. Background checks should be federalized, and “assault weapons” should be banned. “Assault weapons” were once banned, but that law was allowed to sunset and expire, thanks to President George W. Bush and a conservative Congress. The best route for universal background checks and assault weapon bans is in Congress. As difficult and daunting a task as that would be, it still is more realistic than the amendment process, which requires state legislatures to get involved.

Also, constitutional amendments traditionally are passed to either guarantee a right like freedom of speech, or to expand existing rights to people who have been denied them, like due process. Prohibition, which I am sure at the time was well intended and was seeking to make people, especially women and children, safer, was restrictive and eventually repealed. On its surface, Newsom’s amendment will be considered restrictive because, in various states, such weapons are legal and the amendment would make them illegal. Guns are popular in the U.S. While most citizens support restrictions on various types of weapons and background checks, there are a great many people, rightly or wrongly, who fear government interference with their rights to weapons, and state legislatures will be cowed into submission by gun rights activists.

I like Gov. Newsom. I share his desire to have some balance in gun rights, and I support his proposal. The arguments for background checks and banning assault weapons are persuasive and should be the law of the land. It’s common sense. However, the process to get a constitutional amendment passed is monumental and in such a polarized country is nearly impossible. Also, it will be seen as “performative” politics, which is something the conservative movement has a great deal of expertise in. “Thoughts and prayers” is the conservative movement’s only answer to mass killings, and it will fight tooth and nail against Newsom’s amendment. And that’s a deadly shame.

Rob Cohen, Mission Hills

Second Amendment open to interpretation

Another amendment?

No. What our Constitution needs is for more of us to read the Second Amendment — all of it. It starts with the subject, “A well regulated Militia,” the why, “being necessary to the security of a free State,” and the what, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That’s it.

The state is any of those that make up the United States. A militia is a state’s armed organization, usually called its National Guard. The people are those who are members of such a militia. Well-regulated is what America’s guns are now not.

Going over a too-long-and-getting-longer list of triggermen wielding guns in our stores, schools and churches, I cannot find even one who was a member of a state militia, much less a well-regulated one.

Chief Justice Warren Burger said it best back in 1991: “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have seen in my lifetime.” He said, “The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies — the militia — would be maintained for the defense of the state.”

R.A. Stewart, Solana Beach

Newsom is focusing on the wrong issues

Sure, let’s implement Gov. Gavin Newsom’s amendment, even though it will only have a minor positive impact, but it really misses a major point. I don’t know anyone who, if they found a gun, would go out and start shooting people. Our focus should be on much more intelligent thought and real action.

When will we ever admit and focus on the real root cause: The poor upbringing of these violent criminals? I’m sure a background check on all shooters will show the vast majority had horrible upbringings with absentee and abusive parents. We need to insist on love, engagement, discipline and responsibility in raising our children, and this problem will drop dramatically. No, not an easy task, but we cannot continue to store this in the “too difficult” file. We need a method to report and act upon non-parenting, with real consequences. Something significantly more severe than today’s tiptoeing for fear of hurting a few feelings, a concept sorely lacking in today’s society.

Also, the way the media turns mass shooters into instant celebrities is appalling. Show their pictures, repeat their names, over and over and over. Exactly what these haters want and crave. Oh, and publishing their manifestos. Really? How about a law ensuring zero reference to who the shooter was and, if captured red-handed, immediate sentencing by a judge. Why would we possibly need years of trials with more publicity all funded by taxpayers?

A few ideas for additions to the amendment.

Oh, and it’s also a twofer. These same parenting actions will dramatically reduce future homelessness as well.

Brian Kaplan, La Jolla

Banning one type of weapon fixes nothing

Gov. Gavin Newsom thinks there needs to be an amendment to the Constitution, a ban on “civilian purchases of assault weapons.”

No, to start, one can assault someone with any legal firearm now. What some people call an “assault weapon” is a long gun that will shoot a lot of rounds fast, as they are semi-automatic.

If a deranged person is intent on killing someone or a group of people, there are many ways to do that with a gun or other things, and it is done. One can take any handgun with a magazine — all one needs is a backpack full of loaded magazines and the intent to kill.

Now if that person is wanting to shoot a long distance, a long gun, i.e., rifle, this is where the AR rifle comes in. There are many long guns that can load quickly and shoot long distances, not just the ARs.

Tom Fox, Normal Heights

This proposal does not go far enough

I am one of the U.S. citizens who favor a wholesale removal of the Second Amendment from the Constitution. That amendment was drafted for the citizens of a country that was far different — in every way — from the U.S. of today, and it addressed entirely different social expectations and risks. It also dealt with weaponry that was, by today’s standards, vastly slower and more awkward, and often unable to kill even one person at close range.

But I am also a retired lawyer who understands that with 450 million or so guns already in public hands in this country and a huge division in the citizenry (and thus Congress) about the details of gun acquisition and the propriety of gun ownership, eliminating the Second Amendment is almost literally impossible. So rather than tilting at windmills, I therefore support Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal as a way to impose reasonable limitations on gun ownership that would assure a meaningful increase in safety for average citizens.

The proposed background checks and waiting periods are common sense proposals that do not meaningfully infringe on any gun purchaser’s rights. Of more importance is the key proposal to ban assault weapons (and we all know what is meant by that phrase). Such weapons are bad for society. Other than members of the U.S. armed forces, no citizen needs these weapons for self-defense, hunting, target practice or, for the most part, law enforcement, the only sane reasons why individuals need weapons. It is grotesque and obscene that the gun lobby and its congressional enablers have convinced Americans that owning such weapons of war is a good, and possibly necessary, thing to do. In fact, ownership of such weapons, in my view, is a badge of fear, cowardice and undue aggression,

To me, Gov. Newsom’s proposal does not go far enough. But every road starts somewhere, and I hope the road back to gun sanity starts with this proposed amendment.

Susan Bovee, Scripps Ranch

View Part 1 of this essay series

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