Right to own guns should never infringe on others’ right to live without fear


he most recent and unthinkable tragedy in Connecticut has given everyone in the country pause about who we are. Myself, I am a father of three, an outdoorsman, a hunter and a gun owner. 

I appreciate the privilege I have as a U.S. citizen to own and bear arms as is prescribed in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.  I also appreciate the Preamble to The Constitution which highlights the purpose of this founding document: “…to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”  

The Second Amendment was adopted into the United States Constitution Bill of Rights on June 15, 1790. The arms available to people back then were bayonets, swords and single-shot muzzle-loading muskets.

Today, it seems unlikely that our government would look favorably on me owning my own nuclear warhead, Sarin gas bomb or other weapon of mass destruction (WMD). Yet, according to the Second Amendment, that could be my right to bear arms. While it seems absurd to think the government would allow each of us to have our own WMD, it does permit our citizens to purchase and own efficient people-killing assault weapons. As we know, these can cause substantial devastation in a short amount of time. In many ways these weapons fit the definition of WMDs.

Times have changed since the 18th century and it’s time we changed the Second Amendment to reflect our contemporary society. This would restore purpose to the Preamble of the Constitution and subsequently, with time, the peace and tranquility of our country. 

We all have our “rights” according to the Second Amendment, but it is not your given right to purchase or own these weapons if it infringes on my given right to live without the fear of sending my children safely to school or going to a shopping mall.

If you compare the United States to our Canadian friends you would find that mass shootings just don’t happen there — even when adjusting for population.  Why? The people are pretty much the same. They have the same mental problems we do. They’re exposed to the same violent television shows and video games we are. The key difference in their country is the absence of assault rifles and high-capacity handguns. Their gun control efforts are effective. Still, Canadians live freely, hunt and enjoy the outdoors with sporting arms just as we in the United States do. 

The .223 “Bushmaster,” AR-15 assault rifle and 9mm high capacity handguns, all readily available virtually anywhere in the United States, seem to be favored for carrying out these atrocious acts. They are often used because they are so efficient at killing a maximum number of people in a short amount of time. A hunter really has no functionality for these weapons as he/she needs only one or two well placed shots to take game.

Likewise, those who argue they need assault weapons for self-defense should consider that it is extremely rare to fend off an attack with a people-killing caliber and need 17 or more rounds of ammunition to do it.

It should be proposed and legislated across our country to completely ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that are used for these mass killings. In addition, there should be a national registry that every gun bought or sold, under any circumstances, must be registered to.

Just as we register our vehicles, we should register our guns giving each one its individual “title.” A “title” would be necessary for the sale or transfer of ownership. Similarly, there should be mandatory background checks and waiting periods to purchase/transfer ownership as many of these horrible acts have been very spontaneous. A responsible gun owner can plan ahead long enough to purchase a sporting or personal protection firearm.

The government has made it illegal to trade, sell or even gift a drop-side baby crib because of their death risk. Our legislators could easily do the same with assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. While we cannot change our culture overnight we can stop putting more assault weapons in the hands of Americans today.

Locally, I am only aware of two stores that sell guns.  I have recently seen assault weapons for sale at both of them. As a community we should strongly encourage them to not sell them. How would we feel and how would they feel if an assault weapon they sold was used against loved ones in this community?

I can only imagine the eternal pain the families of the victims in Connecticut and the other mass shootings will have. Right now there’s not a parent in America who isn’t terrified about sending their child off to school and getting such a horrific phone call. We are smart. We have the ability to change. We need to do it now.

Dr. Jay Marley was raised in Homer and he and his wife, Erica, are raising their three sons here. He has a private dental practice.