The NRA's Absolutist Position on the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms Ignores History: Fully Automatic Machine Guns Have Been Banned Since 1934 -- And the Supreme Court UPHELD the Ban in 1939. It's Time to Extend That Ban to Semi-Automatic Military-Style Weapons
By SKEETER SANDERS
Nearly two years after I shut down my political blog, The 'Skeeter Bites Report, I find myself having to, just this once, "come out of retirement" to voice my feelings on gun control following the horrific mass shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
I watched National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's "press conference" -- and was disgusted by what he said. Without going into a long regurgitation of what LaPierre said, I will say this: Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders are hopelessly locked in a 19th-century Wild West shoot-'em-up mentality that has no place in 21st-century America.
That LaPierre chose to ignore the fact that his proposed "solution" to gun violence in our schools would violate the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1995 is beside the point. The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment, but -- contrary to the assertions of the NRA and other gun-rights advocates -- it is NOT absolute.
Just as you don't have an absolute First Amendment right to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire, nor to issue a threat to kill the president of the United States, you likewise do not have an absolute Second Amendment right to own or possess fully automatic machine guns.
Nor should you, in my opinion, have an absolute Second Amendment right to own or possess military-style semi-automatic assault weapons. Like their fully automatic military cousins, these semi-automatic assault weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: To inflict maximum death and destruction on people and property.
Indeed, the gun-rights lobby has chosen to ignore history. They have obviously forgotten about the passage by Congress in 1934 of the National Firearms Act, which banned the sale of fully automatic machine guns to the general public.
That law was passed in response to mounting public outrage over the infamous "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" of 1929 in Chicago, in which members of "Bugs" Moran's North Side Gang were lined up against the wall of a warehouse and machine-gunned to death by members of the Al Capone mob disguised as police officers.
The 1934 law was challenged as a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But in a unanimous 1939 ruling, the Supreme Court declared otherwise.
In its ruling, the justices agreed with Congress' rationale in passing the law: That fully automatic machine guns -- popularly known as "tommy guns," named after their creator, John T. Thompson -- posed a clear and present danger to public safety that outweighed the Second Amendment right of Americans to own them. "Tommy guns" were the weapons of choice of Prohibition-era gangsters.
The Newtown Massacre -- which in my opinion is far worse than the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in that its victims were predominantly little kindergarten-age children -- should prompt Congress to once and for all ban semi-automatic "assault" weapons, such as the AR-15 rifle used by the gunman, Adam Lanza.
The semi-automatic AR-15 is the civilian version of the military's fully automatic M-16 rifle. And why in God's name do we need to have AK-47s? The Kalashnikovs were created for use by the Soviet Army during World War II.
These military-grade weapons were designed specifically for use as weapons of war -- and that in the wrong hands pose as clear a threat to public safety as the "tommy guns" of the Prohibition era. In fact, they pose a far greater threat, for today's semi-automatics are much more powerful and deadlier than anything Al Capone could have imagined.
You can't eat meat from deer that's been poisoned by dozens, if not hundreds, of bullets fired from an AR-15 or AK-47. No hunter in his or her right mind is going to pump that much lead into the animal.
I categorically reject the NRA's absolutist position that the Second Amendment right to bear arms includes the right to possess weapons of war designed to inflict maximum death and destruction. It's time to include these weapons in the 1934 National Firearms Act.