Quote:No part of the Bill of Rights is more important than any other, regardless of what gun-rights or gun-control advocates might think at the moment. We have a right in this country, for example, to peaceably assemble.
And while that inalienable right usually is interpreted as a bulwark against governmental interference with political protests, the First Amendment’s free-assembly provision also means what it literally says: We have a right to gather in public places.
Such as in our schools. Or in our theaters. Or in the parking lots of our shopping centers on sunny Saturday mornings. Peaceably. Without fear. Of governments or madmen.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday itemized three legislative proposals and 23 executive orders addressing the crisis of gun violence in America. But nothing he said more squarely hit upon the essence of our now-raging debate than his brief reference to our equally precious freedom to peaceably assemble.
In the context of gun rights and gun control, it is the forgotten right. The right of the dead and maimed. In Newtown, Conn., in Aurora, Colo., in Tucson, that right has been grossly abridged. The time has come to start defending it.
A universal system of background checks of would-be purchasers that includes weapons bought at gun shows is not a threat to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. It is a defense of the public’s right to peaceably assemble.
Law-abiding gun owners and gun-control advocates alike have a clear interest in taking strong measures to ensure that guns do not fall into the hands of the wrong people.
Closing the gun-show loophole is one such measure. Too many people who should not have guns in America have access to them. The existing legal safeguards simply are not strong enough.
Putting a limit on the size of magazines for semiautomatic weapons is a reasonable step, too. The Game and Fish Department limits the number of shells bird hunters can store in their shotguns without jeopardizing the Second Amendment.
In his statement on Wednesday, the president made only passing references to the nexus of weapons and mental illness in the nation’s spate of mass murders. That is disappointing.
Coming to terms with our neglect of the demonstrably violence-prone mentally ill is every bit as important to the current debate as gun control.
Since Sandy Hook, two matters have been clarified. One is that it simply is too easy for the wrong people to get guns in America, a fact that should disturb gun-rights supporters as much as it does their political opponents.
The other? That the status quo simply will not stand. Not in the wake of Sandy Hook. This country won’t accept children being slaughtered in their classrooms.
No president, Democrat or Republican, could have failed to act after Newtown to reduce gun violence in this country. Such horror demands action.
This is no longer a fight between the NRA and their ideological alter-egos in liberal-land. This is not NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre vs. the ACLU.
This is a constitutional crisis, all right. But it isn’t the one the radicals think they are fighting.
We all have a right to peaceably assemble. The threat of mass death is abridging it. And the public is going to take that inalienable right back.
Reprinted here in full from the AZ Republic (January 17, 2013)