An interesting letter to the editor of a Maine newspaper yesterday throws out an offer that might surprise some, infuriate others and cause quite a few people to shake their heads because the author offers to swap his Second Amendment rights to “a hunter who will agree to one hunting rifle (not a pistol) per adult family member.”
The letter writer notes that his Second Amendment rights are “something I’ll never use.” The suggestion seems to consider the right tantamount to something one throws on the table at a flea market.
That might not square with any of the thousands of people attending this weekend’s Washington Arms Collectors’ gun show at the Puyallup fairgrounds. It’s raining and this is the first show in a couple of months, so firearms enthusiasts are crowding the aisles, but they’re not here to trade away their rights. While the Maine letter writer’s suggestion is doubtless well-intentioned, it’s the kind of thing that starts arguments.
The letter writer’s offer exemplifies what rights activists — people who not only exercise their constitutionally-protected rights but spend their waking hours protecting those rights — are up against. It’s a position that gun rights defenders can’t understand, but should never casually dismiss.
It may be the same philosophy, one might suspect, that drives the author of a column in the Saturday Knoxville News-Sentinel in which it is asserted, “The original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect the rights of the states to form militias. It wasn’t intended to allow anyone or everyone to buy, without restriction, whatever gun may be on the market. In 2002, in Silveria v. Lockyear, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals affirmed the above language. In 2008, in D.C. v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Silveria. Misinformed gun rights advocates and the gun lobby apparently haven’t read critical portions of the decision.”
Perhaps the columnist didn’t read another critical portion of the decision, either. The part where it says, “Every late-19th-century legal scholar that we have read interpreted the Second Amendment to secure an individual right unconnected with militia service.”
There’s another important line in the Heller ruling dealing with the militia argument. “It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause.”
The notion that someone might be willing to trade away this right, or limit himself/herself to one “hunting rifle” in exchange for someone else’s exercise of the right might be considered astonishing. First it implies the Second Amendment is about hunting, which it is not. Second, it suggests that nobody wants or needs a shotgun or a handgun. That doesn’t pass the smell test and suggests a gross misunderstanding of the right to keep and bear arms.
The question remains. Would you trade away your Second Amendment rights? Would you let someone else do it? A right is something you only give away once.
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