By Shawn Reilly
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “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.”
There are disagreements about the limitations of the Second Amendment as to whether it is absolute.
It’s important to note that no right is absolute, not even those guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
Take for instance the Right to Free Speech.
This right is limited and restricted in many ways. A clear example of why the Right to Free Speech is restricted can be found in the Imminent Danger Rule: A person cannot stand in a crowded movie theater and scream fire or bomb if there is not one, because the panic and injury it will cause to those in the movie theater.
As a country, we have agreed this is a valid limitation of the right to free speech because the right to free speech clashes with the people in the movie theater’s right not to be trampled.
The same analysis can be applied to the Second Amendment. If the right to own and carry a gun interferes with the public safety, that right can be abridged, in order to protect public safety.
Many court decisions have limited the right to keep and bear arms, such as the Stevens v. U.S. case in 1971 at the United State Court of Appeals.
The court indicated that the clause in the Second Amendment about “a well regulated militia” does not mean the average citizen is part of that militia.
The court is quoted as saying, “Since the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies only to the right of the state to maintain a militia, and not to the individual’s rights to bear arms, there can be no serious claim to any expressed constitutional right of an individual to possess a firearm.”
A similar ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “Construing the language of the Second Amendment according to its plain meaning, it seems clear that the right to bear arms is inextricably connected to the preservation of a militia. We conclude that the right to keep and bear handguns is not guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”
With today’s movie theater massacre restarting the gun control debate in this country, it’s important to take a step back from the hard-line positions of the past and ask ourselves: Do we want to live in a country where 14,159 human lives were taken in 2010 alone?
Or can we accept reasonable limitations on guns that keep military weapons out of the hands of illegal immigrants, terrorists and and accused mass murder such as James Holmes, who allegedly wore body armor, used an assault rifle, a shotgun and a Glock handgun to kill at least 12 people and injured 71 people?
Let’s give people the right not to have someone open fire on them in a movie theater just as they have the right not to be trampled.
About Shawn Reilly: Shawn Reilly is co-founder of Say No To Bridge Tolls.