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Letter to the Editor: Gun rights are not absolute

The shallowness of Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen's analysis of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is disturbing. (See last week's letter to the Perham Focus.

Ingebrigtsen is wrong to impugn the integrity--by questioning the sincerity of their oaths of office - of those elected officials with a different point of view than his. Doing so is also destructive to our political process.

The Second Amendment issue is complicated and becoming more complicated as the weapons we produce become more lethal and pervasive, and as we continue to respond inadequately to the social issues we face in this country. We need to encourage our elected representatives to freely discuss and acquire an honest understanding of the facts and issues involved and to respond in a manner that is consistent with the Second Amendment.

Ingebrigtsen is wrong in failing to acknowledge that the Second Amendment gun right is not absolute. As Justice Scalia said in an important 2008 United States Supreme Court decision, "like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited."

According to Scalia, that right is "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose," nor does that right prohibit us from attempting to control who owns guns. Scalia also made clear that this decision should not "cast doubt on laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

In other words, the Second Amendment gun right is limited, not absolute.

Scalia more recently made a related point in a Fox News interview when he said that future limits to the Second Amendment are possible, depending on what might be understood as being reasonable in the future.

I suspect that Ingebrigtsen quietly supports some limitations to the Second Amendment. He has to know that there are already restrictions on those who have been found to be mentally ill and dangerous, and on the ownership of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. There are many others - including some registration requirements - that have little opposition and have been found by our Supreme Court to be permissible under the Second Amendment.

Assuming that the Senator agrees with at least some of these limitations on arms, it is disingenuous for him to trumpet that right as if it is absolute.

And it is misleading for him to suggest that the First Amendment right to free speech has not also been limited over the years. He asserts that the free speech right is "continually protected" and consequently, fares better than the Second Amendment gun right. I'm quite sure there are many advocates of the First Amendment who would take issue with him on that point. The simple fact is that both rights have been limited by the Supreme Court on many occasions.

Finally, Ingebrigtsen says that he'll, "assist in passing legislation" that will "deal with" the safety of our children. That self-serving promise has no content unless he tells us what legislation, and how and to what extent he will "assist." Will he simply sign on to the legislative proposals of other legislators determined by him to be politically safe? Or, will he seriously and with an open mind study the issues and facts and champion legislation that will truly make our children safer?

If he's going to get on the "mental illness is the problem when it comes to guns" bandwagon but refuses to sufficiently fuel that bandwagon (with money!), his promise to "assist" will turn out to have been an empty promise and an effort to manipulate the public.

Ingebrigtsen must do better than be a rigid ideologue if he wants to be more than a run-of-the-mill legislator.

John Minge

Perham, MN