A rush to judgment with gun resolution

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate March 01, 2013 06:30 pm

Some interesting reactions were on display as the Del Norte County supervisors listened to public comment and then voted Tuesday on a resolution “in support of the Second Amendment and the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

All but one of the 11 citizens who spoke supported the resolution. And the exception made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of additional gun-control laws. Bill Lonsdale just questioned the necessity of the resolution and implied that Supervisor Roger Gitlin was forcing a local vote on a hot-button national issue in an attempt to politically damage any colleague who disagreed with him.

Lonsdale wasn’t the only person in the room who seemed less than enthusiastic about what was unfolding. After the public comment period ended and supervisors had the floor, three of the five said absolutely nothing about the issue at hand.

Responding to Lonsdale’s questioning of the need for the resolution, Gitlin asked, “If not us, who?”

Martha McClure was the only supervisor who delved into the 11 “whereases” contained in the resolution, questioning interpretations of legal precedents in three of them.

“I too am a gun owner,” said McClure, but she noted that the supervisors had already taken oaths to uphold the entire Constitution and said it made no sense to “cherry-pick” amendments for special consideration.

She abstained, but her four colleagues voted in favor of the resolution. “Sure,” said David Finigan when the roll call came to him. It sounded more like, “whatever.”

Perhaps the president of the California State Association of Counties was preoccupied thinking about problems he might actually be able to help fix.

We share the lack of enthusiasm for a resolution that takes a ham-handed approach to a complex issue by implying that all proposed federal and state legislation surfacing in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre is unconstitutional.

Like much of rural America, Del Norte is gun country in its politics and its practices. For the responsible among us, that means learning about firearm safety and passing that tradition on to our children.

The Second Amendment states that “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The Supreme Court has ruled that this right applies to individuals as well as militia members.

But let’s not pretend that there aren’t still questions to be publicly debated and answered. Such as:

What limits should be placed on the types of arms we have the right to bear? Should your surly neighbor be allowed to own a hand-held missile launcher?

Does the Second Amendment guarantee the right of our fellow Americans to walk among us toting semi-automatic guns and large-capacity magazines for quick reloading?

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” So states the resolution approved by our Board of Supervisors.

Who decides when the government has gotten tyrannical enough to justify shooting at its agents, be they feds or local law officers?

Is the potential anarchy inherent in allowing individuals to arm themselves to the teeth a threat to the American tradition of freely deciding at the voting booth how our government is run?

These questions are far from settled, but the resolution adopted Tuesday seems to imply they don’t exist.