The Right to Bear Arms
When people discuss rights, they tend to get passionate, whether they are arguing in favor of preserving rights or limiting them. Passion is good, because rights are important, but it’s also important to get your facts straight.
That’s why I’m writing about Jim Hart’s letter urging readers to support a ban on assault weapons (“Your Role in Our Democracy,” Jan. 25). Mr. Hart asserts that, “The Supreme Court ruled in 2008, District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Second Amendment does not apply to assault weapons.”
He’s wrong. The Second Amendment clearly applies to “assault weapons.”
In Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms; that right is not limited to membership in the militia. The court acknowledged that the right to bear arms, like (for example) the right to free speech, is not unlimited, and is subject to reasonable limitations, such as barring felons and the mentally ill from possessing firearms.
But the court held that a ban on an entire class of firearms that was overwhelmingly chosen by American society for a lawful purpose was unconstitutional and invalid. That case involved hand guns. But semiautomatic rifles are also widely held and used by Americans for lawful purposes. “Assault weapons” are simply semiautomatic rifles that look like some military weapons.
The Second Amendment certainly applies to semiautomatic rifles and pistols.
Eric Von Salzen
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