Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Locks are for honest folk



Father Richard F. Gorman
Community Board #12 (The Bronx)

BRONX, NEW YORK, January 30- The current debate surrounding the issue of gun control legislation is hot and heavy and undoubtedly will continue to be so. This should not surprise any of us. As a matter of fact, such public discussion and airing of every aspect of this issue should be encouraged. Our political leaders and the head honchos of the news media should help to shape an open, honest, non-ideological, non-partisan, and dispassionate examination of what is at stake as, indeed, there are tremendous implications for the safety, the security, and the good order of our society hanging in the balance. Far too often in controversial matters such as gun control, exceedingly more heat as opposed to light is shed. Voices are raised, hypothetically intractable issues demanding solutions are concocted, alleged all-encompassing and comprehensive answers are proposed, and
opponents of one’s positions are demonized either as ill-informed, ignorant, phobic, or a combination of all of the aforesaid. Such shenanigans, regrettably the staples of modern public debate, are unworthy of a great democracy such as ours and of a noble people such as us. Furthermore, while they frequently pay homage to the demands of political correctness, advance the careers of politicians, and feed the ideological campaigns of self-proclaimed public pundits; they lead to deficient, if not altogether failed, remedies to imperative questions. This circumstance, consequently, gives rise to cynicism along with a skeptical disbelief that our political system is incapable of addressing successfully, or even adequately, the needs of its citizenry.

The tendency to rush the enshrining of purported resolutions of public predicaments into law is another feature of the present discourse on civic difficulties. It is highlighted by the cavernous flaw in the recent gun control legislation approved by our New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. According to news reports, the provision of the law limiting the number of bullets that can be placed in a gun clip had the effect of making the service firearm utilized by many of our local Police Officers illegal.

Governor Cuomo’s hurried explanations to the contrary, this development demonstrates that judicial decisions and legislation
hurriedly put into place absent ample scrutiny and across-the board debate leads to bad law, which goes on to contribute to widespread skepticism and criticism relative to the integrity and the competency of our governmental processes. Even though the Governor maintains they are not needed, last reports in the media contend requisite amendments to correct the imperfections of the new Cuomo gun control law are in the works and will be taken up in due course by the State Legislature.

An interesting aside in this regard that has not really come to the
fore is why this flaw in the law was not discovered either by those who drafted it or those who deliberated and voted upon it. With both an Executive Branch and Legislature chock full of lawyers, should not have somebody picked up on this item? On the other hand, perhaps the need of some to be first on line to acquire bragging rights in this matter superseded the observations and/or objections of others.

Devising a legal response to the need to shrink gun violence requires time, full-fledged argument, and forthright candor. After all, and very importantly, this issue touches upon a constitutional right  -- viz., the right to bear arms  --  enumerated in the Second Amendment contained in the Bill of Rights appended in 1791 to the Constitution of the United States. In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States issued two landmark decisions officially establishing this interpretation. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected to service in a militia and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense in the home, within many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession listed by the Court as being consistent with the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the Federal Government. Constitutional rights are not to be toyed with or addressed lightly. The misuse and abuse of our constitutional rights does not justify and should not result in the extent of those rights being reduced, their practice restricted, or their existence abolished. The proper and reasonable reaction to self-serving, anti-social, and manipulative utilization of a constitutionally protected right is to encourage and to enhance the respectful and right practice thereof.
Prudence is equally called for in reflection upon the content of any innovative and contemporary laws and regulations. Does the gun control proposal genuinely tackle the issues at stake? Much talk on this subject has been directed as of late to such ideas as banning assault weapons. Such appears to many to be a reasonable and intelligent proposition in light of recent events. However, does it really speak to or address the basic problem? In his latest editorial comment in a local newspaper, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, while endorsing a ban on assault weapons, hastens to add that the real and overall problem with gun violence is the possession and illegal use of handguns. Any bona fide gun control proposal must include the
possession and the use of handguns  --  constitutionally, legally, and safely.

On a final note, I refer to the title of my column this week. The
Irish have a timeworn and time-tested statement that says “LOCKS ARE FOR HONEST FOLK.” In other words, persons who are honest do not take what is theirs, but those who are not do. A lock stops a one who respects the property rights of a neighbor while a thief merely picks the lock. Newly enacted laws and rules will bind those citizens who are law-abiding; criminals will basically ignore them. The genius of an authentic answer to the problem of gun violence must protect the rights and the well being of the righteous and peaceable individual while thwarting the designs of lawbreakers. Ergo, we need to move slowly and cautiously on the topic of gun control and only subsequent to far-reaching and circumspect conversation, something that I shall again take in hand when next meet.

Until next time, that is it for this time!

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