The debate over gun legislation is missing two key points. First, no constitutional right is absolute. For example, freedom of speech does not mean that one can endanger the public welfare by yelling “fire” in a crowded building when there is no fire. Nor can one intimidate a witness in a criminal trial. And freedom of religion does not mean that one can use a religious belief to discriminate against other religions. Nor can one use religious freedom to deny a child essential medical care because of a religious belief that God will either heal or take the child.

The same is true of the right to own a gun. In its landmark decision that gun ownership is a constitutional right, the Supreme Court clearly stated that reasonable laws were still valid. The right to own guns is not absolute and can be curbed to protect other rights, such as public safety.

The second key point is that gun owners need to convince the Legislature and the courts why it would be so harmful to them to be required to safely store their guns or to wait for a few days before obtaining a new gun. Too often, just purchased or easily accessible guns have been used in suicides, mass shootings, or have killed children who thought they were just a toy. Against this toll of death and injury, gun owners must explain why it would be so onerous to safely store their guns when not in use or to have a waiting period for gun sales. They have not done so.

One final point: With every right comes a responsibility. The right to own a gun is not the issue — everyone recognizes that right. The responsible ownership of those guns is the issue. Laws that make gun owners responsible for their weapons are only necessary because gun owners have no code of responsibility. It is the lack of any established safety codes by gun owners that has led to proposed legislation.

Joseph Bahr

Waterbury Center

(1) comment

Bob P

There are some 340 million legally privately owned firearms in the United States. Do you know how few of those are actually used in any sort of crime ? Your accusation that "there is no code of responsibility" is absolutely baseless.

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