Gun advocates sometimes treat their Second Amendment right as absolute, allowing no limitations at all. But none of our constitutional rights is like that.
The right to free speech does not include the right to shout fire in a crowded theater, and the right to religious freedom does not include the right to practice human sacrifice.
In the 2008 Supreme Court decision affirming an individual's right to own firearms, even arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia held open the possibility of a constitutionally premissible ban on assault weapons. In his formal opinion, he wrote, "We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons."
Scalia reiterated that opinion on Fox News.
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But Wayne LaPierre and the cabal at the top of the National Rifle Association stonewall even the most modest, common-sense proposal, which is background checks for buyers at gun shows and in private sales. Congressional candidate Mark Sanford follows this outrageous NRA line. For these people, NRA must mean "No Rationality Allowed."
With a membership including only a minority of gun owners, and with a membership representing only 1 percent of the American public, the NRA ought to be brushed aside. Congress should listen instead to the wrenching testimony of the relatives of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School and then follow the lead of Connecticut and pass significant laws to reduce gun violence now.
And we all should vote against any politician who stands in the way.