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Commentary: Don’t repeal the Second Amendment - read it

My Word columnist

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens says we should repeal the Second Amendment. I suggest something much easier: Read what it says.

I own a weapon. This handgun, purchased many years ago, was withheld for several days, a cooling-off period required at the time. I registered the weapon with the dealer. I have no concerns whatsoever about the gun being identifiable by authorities who presumably have these records from many years ago. I don’t worry about the intrusion into my Second Amendment rights; nor do I understand the claims coming from weapon apologists.

Regarding other constitutional matters, the federal courts have ruled specific fundamental rights are not without constraint. These rights, conveyed elsewhere in the Constitution, prohibit Congress from abridgment, limitation, sponsorship and passage of laws that would assault our basic protections.

Owen Beitsch
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We have a constitutional right to vote limited by age, and registration practices vary from state to state. It is long settled that freedom of speech is not without its limits. Questions involving protected classes are scrutinized very carefully by the courts but, in some cases, do not affront constitutional constructs related to equal rights.

The Fifth Amendment speaks to seizures of private property but, for the moment, law-enforcement agencies practice it openly. We may have expectations about privacy but even our trash is open to inspection and appropriation as evidence in criminal matters.

We don’t support a state religion but the American Congress attends a prayer breakfast every year, which is an obvious nod to common Christian-Judeo beliefs.

I’m sure we can list other examples consistent with on our own points of view.

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At least two major Supreme Court cases (Heller and Miller) have probed weapons control. Language from both supports arguments favoring and denying unfettered access to weapons. Neither appears to have slammed the door to limitations, but they urge caution in precise ways. Justice Antonin Scalia — among the strictest of strict constructionists — advises in the majority opinion handed down in Heller: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” That opinion goes on to remind us about the propriety of weapon restrictions against felons, the mentally ill, and the carry of weapons in certain sensitive places, citing schools and government buildings in particular.

I am always surprised how strongly we recoil from the idea of imposing restrictions in the guise of flawed concern about our Constitution or the reading of the Second Amendment. Certainly, these claims are suspect and most likely indefensible.

Read the Second Amendment carefully. Then frame your arguments based on what this and the remainder of the Constitution actually say. Add contemporary context or not. Afterward, we can have a more rational discussion about the right to bear arms and the dangers to civic order envisioned by our Framers.

People, not guns, are the killers of our social and legal discourse. The ideas filtering out have launched a thousand conspiracy theories, which only parody the Second Amendment and much else. Informed conversations among our citizens and leadership are the means to assure America stays great.

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Owen Beitsch of Winter Park is a real-estate consultant and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Central Florida.


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