Gun rights and regulations are not mutually exclusive

January 22, 2011

Hello Washington County, I'm feeling a bit blue today.  Early in the week of January 3, I submitted an article for publication to The Herald-Mail.  

The point of that article, besides a little history about the Battle of Antietam, was my vow and a vow for each of you, to settle our differences in a bloodless manner.  Lo' and behold, at the end of that same week a deranged (my opinion and I hope it becomes a fact) young man tried to settle some as yet unspecified grievance with a gun.  

The net result of that action, at the time I am writing this article, is six Americans dead, another 12 wounded and a state turned upside down.

Among the six deaths was a 9-year-old child — a child, an innocent child — I still am wiping away the tears in my eyes as I write this.  

Oh, by the way, for my Second Amendment friends, I don't intend to turn this column into an indictment of our right, as Americans, to keep and bear arms.  I'm still an unabashed constitutionalist and no one that I know of is a stronger advocate for the rights outlined in our Constitution than I; but, let's get "real" about some things.  

Outside of the military (a well regulated militia included) and legislated law enforcement, other than indiscriminate killing, what is the reason behind owning a 30-round magazine for a handgun?

Where is the logic in "my gun's got to be bigger than your gun"? Where is the rationale in making available to anybody weapons that go well beyond anyone's definition of "self-protection;" or better yet, show me why anyone in his right mind would want such a weapon?  

If you apply that reason, logic or rationale to our Second Amendment rights are you going to make Jared Loughner the poster child?  Like our friends on ESPN say "come on, man"!

Enough of the rant, there is no debate in my mind about the right of Americans to bear arms, own arms, buy arms, sell arms, and carry arms; heck, I'm even opposed to the blanket registration of all firearms (now, if some law allows you to have an operational cannon in your back yard, I would be hard pressed to suggest that gun should not be registered).

But somewhere out there is a definition of "well regulated" that will protect 9-year-olds from unregulated human beings using underregulated firearms for the purpose of killing or maiming.  

There is probably a law, and that law's enforcement will help protect 2-year-olds from finding unregulated firearms under beds and inflicting injury upon themselves or others. Heavens!  Why stop at protecting children? There is probably some law or well-regulated regulation that will even protect you and me better than we are being protected now. And all the while, we can still protect your rights and mine under our Constitution.

One of the weakest excuses that is being espoused (I heard it on the television) is that this guy Loughner just "fell through the cracks."  However, after thinking about that purported "crack falling," I began to think about our rights, and is there a problem with a "right" or an individual's right falling through the crack occasionally in some specific instance?

It is almost like we take public safety as meaningless when a "wacko" or a group of "wackos" (remember the terrorists on 9/11 "falling through the security cracks") fall through the cracks.

But we rail against the thought that some well-regulated, upstanding, generally law-abiding citizen might get his rights stepped on for owning or selling a 30-round magazine for a Glock — or get arrested on suspicion of breaking and entering even though the arrest was a mistake, or any other of a myriad of "rights" violations.

The issue is this: Where do we as a nation, or a state or a locality draw the line between public safety and individual rights?  

I believe I can safely say that the family and friends of those 18 victims of the latest tragedy in Arizona know where they would draw that line. But how about you?  Please don't comment on "what your rights are;" rather, comment on where you would draw the line.  

I personally, and I believe Herald-Mail readers, would like to hear the many sides of this issue, safety verses rights or, if you will, what constitutes "well regulated."  So please give some thought to this and comment. Someone out there might have the right idea.  

— Art Callaham is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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