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Commentary: Step up, take action against assault weapons

We are once again engaged in national ferment that always follows one of the mass shootings of students in their schools. They generate more heat than mass shootings of other people, often in greater numbers than in the school killings.

While these events spawn endless talk and volumes of writing, they have produced no action, other than in a few states. At the outset, let’s acknowledge that, with over 300 million firearms in the hands of owners (and often mere possessors), there will be no end to killings of this nature. There are, of course, proposals that might somewhat reduce them – among them more extensive and deeper background checks, raising the age of eligibility to purchase rapid fire guns, addressing the mental illness aspect of the subject, and, most counterproductive of all, arming teachers.

Reality demands a conclusion. These proposals, if put into effect, could have some mitigating result. But they are, at best, essentially Band-Aids.

As we all know, what has killed masses of people quickly is military-style assault weapons whose functional purpose is slaying human beings. Other than the armed services, who needs them? Hunters? Come on! Collectors, they may like them – but at what cost of human life? Oh, there are indeed those who do need them. The National Rifle Association, which uses them as props for its lethal agenda. The gun manufacturers, for whom the NRA is a paid stooge and whose market for traditional firearms is threatened by the fact that there are hundreds of millions of them already in the hands of the public. And certainly, the merciless killers whose demented goal is the execution of the largest number of humans in the shortest possible time.

What rational excuses are there against making the sale and possession of assault weapons, and their mass clips of ammo, illegal? Empty and misleading efforts are common. The Second Amendment is usually the first trotted out. It’s only recently that the Supreme Court has held, for the first time in over 200 years, that the amendment’s ambiguous language gives individuals the right to bear arms. While it is now clearly the law, even the court’s opinion recognizes that reasonable exceptions to its ruling may follow.

Comparison to the First Amendment’s unambiguous and explicit language establishing freedom of speech is revealing. What it means has been obvious since the late 1700s. But it takes no learned legal research to find the countless reasonable exceptions to its rule that have been adopted over the centuries by federal, state, and even local governments.

It’s also alleged that any exception to the Second Amendment’s general provision will tend to chip away and eventually undermine or destroy it. Strange, isn’t it, that this hasn’t happened to the First Amendment over our history as a nation. While there may be gun control advocates who would repeal the Second Amendment, I’ve never met one. And given to date the failure of enacting even the most innocuous exception to the gun rights rule, what is the chance of passing a Constitutional amendment?

So, what’s to become of the wishes of 70 percent of Americans who favor measures that would make real progress in reducing the number of our students and others mowed down in masses by automatic military-type machinery? Step up, 70 percent! Show the courage of the Douglas High School kids in confronting the craven legislators of either party who are perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of their people in return for some bucks from the NRA.

Bob Lowerre is a retired attorney who lives in Strasburg.