Finding a Balance on the Second Amendment (Expanded)

This post has been expanded to include the Lilly letter of May 11, 2015.

 In a Letter to the Editor dated May 11, Curt Lilly explained to us his view of the goals and implications of the Second Amendment. I believe the key part of his message is this: “The Second Amendment did not say that citizens could only have weapons that were inferior to [those of] the police or armed forces. By definition, they would need weapons that were just as potent to have any chance of wrestling the government back from despots and their co-conspirators.”

In an earlier letter, I pointed out danger in that interpretation. It places no limits on the power of the weaponry that can be placed in the hands of law-abiding citizens and of criminals and terrorists, too. There are nuclear weapons in existence today that could be manufactured privately and sold openly, needing only the protection of the Second Amendment as the letter-writer has interpreted it.

Modern weaponry has enormous power, far beyond anything that the founding fathers could ever have imagined. Those who speak of the Second Amendment as outdated are concerned that it does not rationally reflect and consider this fact.

So how do we support the Second Amendment? I believe we need to work on updating it – building in a rational response to the power of modern weaponry – before the letter-writer and his colleagues lead our nation into the status of an armed camp that would be unacceptable to most people. So unacceptable, perhaps, that it could weaken support for the Second Amendment itself.

Regrettably, the letter-writer lowered the tone of discourse by questioning the patriotic credentials of those who disagree, and invoking the old saw of “love it or leave it.” I have paid dues as a World War II veteran, a reservist through the Korean conflict, and a civilian serving his country on the front lines in Vietnam. I’ve had a lot of travel abroad. I have no intention of leaving the United States.

                                                                                        JIM BURNS

The letter above was published in the Waynesboro, Virginia News Virginian on May 20, 2015. Text of the May 11 letter by Curt Lilly follows.

Amendment has two goals

In an earlier letter, a writer suggested that armor-piercing bullets should be banned. The reason for the Second Amendment was twofold — first, it provided personal protection; sec­ond, it armed the citizenry in case the people had to take back the govern­ment from rulers that violated the Constitution. The Second Amendment did not say that citizens could only have weapons that were inferior to the police or armed forces. By definition, they would need weapons that were just as potent to have any chance of wrestling the government back from despots and their co-conspirators.

The writer called it an “outdated amendment.” Liberals would like you to think you can just brush the Consti­tution under the rug with statements like this, but that’s not how it works. In our government, you follow the procedure laid out in the Constitution to amend it. That keeps people like this guy from changing the whole basis for our government willy-nilly. Changing the Constitution is hard and time-con­suming — by design.

The writer also claimed that a major­ity of NRA [National Rifle Association] members approve of a three-week waiting period. He never backs up these outrageous statements with evidence, and I doubt that a legitimate poll with these results exists. He also said that walking the streets of the United States is more dangerous than all but a “few” nations. This is complete absurdity; obviously, he has not trav­eled to other countries.

Instead of trying to destroy our Constitution and making false claims about our country to make us feel guilty or bad — or making us do without fossil fuels (in his other earlier letters), water, electricity and personal freedom — I suggest he do something much easier: Quit trying to ruin our country. Go find a communist or socialist nation with the limits you love so much and move there.

                                                                                       CURT LILLY

Is Armor-piercing ammunition needed?

In his March 15 column, Representative Bob Goodlatte explains his opposition to a move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to ban production and sale of M855 ammunition for the popular AR-15 rifle. He claims to oppose it as an unlawful attempt by the Obama administration to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights.

He omits two pertinent facts: (1) The M855 bullet is a projectile that can penetrate the bulletproof armor commonly used by policemen. (2) Alternative ammunition for the AR-15 rifle is available. These omissions follow from his reading of the Second Amendment in absolute terms, which he says allow no choice of what to follow and what to ignore. Under his reading, the two facts seem irrelevant.

There are intelligent, responsible ways of considering such facts while complying with the Amendment, as typified by the AR-15 rifle itself. It is a civilian version of the Army M-16 rifle, a fully automatic weapon. Review of civilian usage indicates no plausible need for the automatic feature. The AR-15 is semi-automatic; it has been redesigned to discourage attempts at conversion to automatic. Does this deprive Americans of their rights?

The relevant question concerning the M855: Is there a plausible civilian need for the ability to penetrate a policeman’s bulletproof attire?

As nuclear weapons developed rapidly in the 1950s, those in the program sometimes said with dry humor that we’d soon see an atomic hand grenade. Based on Mr. Goodlatte’s Second Amendment logic, I would now add that such a development should, and would, allow wide civilian ownership of these hand grenades. No, I don’t believe there ever will be an atomic hand grenade. Unbiased people, however, will get my point.

The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Board (Letter, March 21, 2015), commends Mr. Goodlatte for opposing the ATF move. The Board sees victory because the ATF is dropping the proposed ban for now. With more victories like this, we may see yet more mayhem unless the nation finds it preferable to revisit the matter of the Second Amendment – a most unlikely option.

This letter was published by the Waynesboro News Virginian on March 23, 2015, under the headline “Is AR-15 Assault Rifle Needed?”  This title is inflammatory and goes beyond the intent of the letter. I promptly notified the newspaper with the following message:

“I must hasten to correct the impression created by the headline above my Letter to the Editor of March 23: “Is AR-15 assault rifle needed?”

“I did not supply the headline, and it does not reflect the content of the letter. In fact, the letter refers to the AR-15 as “popular,” and cites it as an example of intelligent, responsible consideration of pertinent facts while complying with the Second Amendment. What I questioned was the need for one specific type of ammunition, M855.

“I regret the resentment that this error has undoubtedly aroused.”

The editor-in-chief assures me that the problem will be fixed.  Meanwhile, I have titled this posting with what would have been a more accurate heading.