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Drawing the line between safety and individual rights

February 04, 2011|By ART CALLAHAM

Hello Washington County and hello "Duke" (not his real name). Where do we, as a nation or a state or a locality, draw the line between public safety and individual rights? Kind of a quirky lead in, isn't it? So who's Duke and what's with that question?

Well, let me take the question first. Those of you who read my column in the Jan. 23 edition of The Herald-Mail, I mean those of you who really read it, realize that the question above is the one I asked readers to thoughtfully consider and to respond. Some missed the point completely (my bad) and thought the column was another (let me coin some feedback I received) "piece of liberal blather condemning our Second Amendment Rights and defying those real Americans who support those rights" — wrong.

One more time, let me tell all readers of this column who I am: I am a lifelong conservative Republican and an unabashed Constitutionalist. I will freely admit that as a conservative, I am not to the right of Attila the Hun, but a bit more moderate in my thinking just like Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and both of the Bushes. All of these mainstays of Republicanism were willing to do the right thing even when that right thing went against some ultraconservative party dogma. (If you don't believe that the Republican presidents I have mentioned were somewhat moderate in their approaches to the role of government, just Google their individual names and social programs and review the lists.)  

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And finally, as for me, the greatest proof of my Constitutionalist view is the fact that I took the following oath on three separate occasions: "I, Arnold Arthur Callaham, will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and will bear true faith and allegiance to the same." I meant it.

So Duke, don't feed me that enlightenment line. Oops, got a little carried away there, you don't yet know who Duke is. I expect that Duke (not his real name) knows exactly who he is. I chose that name to hide his identity in this column, for my purpose is not to ridicule anyone publicly.  Duke is a "nom de plume" that, in my lifetime, has only been associated with two people — John Wayne and a fellow who worked with me and has moved away, so I thought Duke would not be confusing.  My "Duke," however, should never be confused with Marion Morrison, the "real" Duke.

So, for my Duke (sounds almost endearing) and all of the 15,000, or is it 65,000 (I forget) people that you purport to have represented: I don't want to take away your gun, I don't want to register your gun, I don't want to impinge or violate your Second Amendment rights, I don't want more laws that are not enforced. I just simply want you or one of your Second Amendment rights aficionados to tell me and The Herald-Mail readers where you would draw the line between public safety and individual rights (there I've stated the question twice — and I'll do it one more time at the end of this column).

Let me be totally serious, Duke. All of those "liberal friends in Annapolis" that you believe I deal with daily know exactly where they would "draw the line." What I don't know is where you would "draw the line." or rather is there no line to be drawn at all? That latter answer — no line — is as good of an answer as any. Saying that there is absolutely no solution or law or line in the sand that can ever be crossed will at least open a discussion that is not totally focused on "what are Americans' rights under the Second Amendment."

The Constitution is very clear on what your and my rights are. The framers summed those rights up in two sentences. But Duke, you know as well as I, the devil is in the details. "Well regulated" and even "arms" are subjective words and need to be defined. So Duke, take a minute and define for us "well regulated" or what should be regulated and what should not. What are arms? Are arms long guns or pistols? Do arms have components and do those components need to be regulated? Put a little thought in it.

And Duke, no more of the inane e-mails with posters of men and women pointing oversized guns and muttering slogans such as "smile and wait for the flash." The vast majority of Americans get it. We have the right to keep and bear arms. Where do we draw the line?

Art Callaham is a local community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees   

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