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Voices / Letters from readers

Guns: a federal problem in need of a federal solution

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “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.”

To “keep arms” means to “have weapons,” to “bear arms” means to carry them. “Weapons” is generally taken to mean “guns” as opposed to tanks, missiles, and cannons. According to Merriam-Webster, “infringe” means to “encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another.”

The perceived popularity of submachine guns such as the Thompson (the “Tommy gun”) with violent gangsters in the 1920s and 1930s was one of the main reasons given for passage of the National Firearms Act by the United States Congress in 1934. One of its provisions was that owners of fully automatic firearms were required to register them with the predecessor agency of the modern Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The law also placed restrictions on the possession, transfer, and transport of the weapons.

That sounds like infringement to me! It has already been done!

I think that opens the door to further infringement (which should be limited in scope, as was the original National Firearms Act).

The rationale for the NFA was public awareness of the violence created by fully automatic firearms such as the “Tommy gun.”

The public is becoming increasingly aware of the violence potential of military-style weapons such as the AR-15 and its clones.

This is a federal problem. It needs a federal solution. And the solution is a simple one. Amend the original National Firearms Act to include military-style weapons. I don’t think it would be difficult to craft a usable definition of the weapons to be controlled.

How many times have you heard the refrain “I need guns to defend my family”?

I buy that. But do you really need a rifle equipped with easily interchangeable 30-round magazines for defense? And you certainly don’t need one for hunting. For wildfowl, guns are restricted to three rounds, and semi-automatics are prohibited. Deer hunting restricts the guns to five rounds.

If you can’t down a deer with five rounds, you don’t belong in the woods.

Tom Finnell
Brattleboro

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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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