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Voices / Letters from readers

Gun rights are not absolute

RE: “The leftist case against gun control in Vermont” [Viewpoint, Feb. 21]:

While David van Deusen tries to reassure us that Vermont’s violent crime rate is low, he omits the fact that the state’s suicide rate is high and that firearms are a frequent method of suicide, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Gathering such statistics has been made difficult because of the lobbying of the National Rifle Association. The Dickey Amendment to the federal Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1996, promoted by the NRA, states that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

The NRA has promoted gag laws in many states, preventing doctors from asking about gun ownership. Such questions may be especially relevant when a doctor detects depression or violent delusions in a patient. Florida’s 2011 law was finally struck down last year.

It is condescending and insulting to the voters of Vermont to suggest that they lack the discernment, reason, and wise judgment to understand that there is a need for a reasonable balance between individual rights and public safety. We all know that no right is absolute. We have the right of free speech, yet we know that we can’t yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater if there is no fire.

The extreme statements of NRA president Wayne LaPierre and spokesperson Dana Loesch demonstrate a lack of appreciation for such balance and may not reflect the beliefs of rank-and-file NRA members. They refuse to draw a distinction between military assault rifles and hunting rifles and therefore they support the militias of Cliven Bundy, Randy Weaver, David Koresh, and others.

Basically, the NRA leadership has no respect for our government or its Constitution. Our government may not be perfect, but it is preferable to anarchy.

Surely, the voters of Vermont can work together for our common good.

Eric Reines

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Originally published in The Commons issue #449 (Wednesday, March 7, 2018). This story appeared on page E2.

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