My Turn: Gun rights are not absolute

For the Monitor
Published: 1/26/2017 12:14:57 AM

I am writing to correct the assertion by Rep. Al Baldasaro (Monitor front page, Jan. 25) regarding restrictions on guns in schools when he says, “I do not lose my rights because I walk into a school.” The truth is that you definitely can lose your “rights” by walking into a school with a gun, open or concealed. The Constitution, as interpreted and defined by the Supreme Court, says so.

This needs some explanation.

First, an individual’s right to bear arms was not clearly stated in the Constitution. It was the Supreme Court in a 2008 decision that decided that the right goes beyond “a well regulated militia” and that it also belongs to an individual (District of Columbia v. Heller). But the Supreme Court also made it very clear in that same decision that this right was not so “absolute” that the federal, state or local government could not make and enforce restrictions. Those like Baldasaro who say their right cannot be “infringed” need to read the Supreme Court’s decision.

The majority decision was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote: “Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on the longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions or qualifications on the commercial sale of firearms.”

The language is a little awkward for a non-lawyer like myself and Justice Scalia obviously cannot be asked for any clarification, but I believe Scalia is saying that a law to prevent firearms in schools is “constitutionally permitted.” In other words, there is no constitutional guarantee of your right to go into a school with a gun. You definitely could lose this “right” simply by walking into a school, if a restriction on this exists. And I would add, this would also apply to guns at polling places, which would be considered sensitive places in our communities.

I hope that gun advocates look into this further and realize that gun restrictions do not infringe on your rights. In fact, the right to impose restrictions is guaranteed by our Constitution the same way that the right to individual gun ownership is guaranteed.

(Peter Fairchild lives in Contoocook.)

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