Friday, December 21, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Guns

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
December 21, 2012

The gun debate was moving “fast and furious” in this country even before the tragic event in Newtown, Connecticut.

The day before the Sandy Hook massacre, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill -- over the objections of the state’s school boards -- that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed the legislation this week.

However, lawmakers in Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon said they will consider laws allowing teachers and school administrators to carry firearms in school.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said last week, prior to Sandy Hook, "the time is right" to debate gun control legislation, although he did not call for specific legislation. This past weekend, Democratic Senate President John Morse said lawmakers need to balance people's right to own firearms with public safety.
"Maybe we do end up doing nothing but I do think the time has come to where we need to have a conversation so that we can stop talking about burying our children," he said.

The shooter at Sandy Hook used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle with magazines containing 30 rounds as his main weapon, according to the Connecticut State Police.

A Connecticut proposal in March 2011 would have made it a felony to possess magazines with more than 10 bullets and require owners to surrender them to law enforcement or remove them from the state. Opponents sent more than 30,000 e-mails and letters to state lawmakers as part of a campaign organized by the NRA and other gun advocates. The legislation failed.

In Pennsylvania, State Sen. Daylin Leach, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the discussion on gun laws has reached a "tipping point" with the Newtown shootings.

The tipping point is no more evident than in Washington, D.C. The White House announced gun control measures supported by President Obama. The President has asked Vice-President Joe Biden to oversee an effort to reinstate the assault weapons ban, closing the gun-show loophole, and limiting high-capacity ammunition clips.

The best chance to get the gun issue before the U.S. Supreme Court is in Illinois. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons is unconstitutional. The Court also ordered the Illinois legislature to come up with a law legalizing concealed carry within 180 days.

A recent panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals out of New York said the requirement that people demonstrate a special need to carry a concealed weapon does not violate the Constitution.

Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontrovich said the difference between the Second and Seventh Circuits over what it means to bear arms could be enough to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene.

Public possession is a different issue than having a gun in your home,” Winkler said.

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