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In the current gun violence debate, the National Rifle Association and its supporters often cite the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for their opposition to any gun safety laws. However, such a view falsely turns the Second Amendment into a “super right.” In fact, most individual rights under the U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment and other amendments in the Bill of Rights, are not so absolute; rather, they are subject to reasonable limits. Here is a brief and partial list of examples:

First Amendment

You do not have the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater, to publish certain sensitive military information such as troop movements during wartime, to show material deemed “obscene,” to call for the incitement of violence, or to commit defamation such as libel and slander.

You do not have the right to block traffic and hold an impromptu parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC; you have to apply for a permit.

Your freedom of religion does not allow you to kill other people in religious human sacrifices.

Fourth Amendment

You, your home, your papers and your effects can be searched and seized, as long as such searches and seizures are not “unreasonable.”

Fifth Amendment

You can be deprived of life, liberty or property as long as you have been given due process of law.

Your private property can be taken for public use, as long as you have been given just compensation.

Fourteenth Amendment

A state may deprive you of life, liberty or property as long as it gives you due process of law.

Another response that opponents of sensible gun laws sometimes give is that the Second Amendment is special because it states that “the right … shall not be infringed.” However, that language is similar to the language in the First Amendment stating that “Congress shall make no law ….” In both cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that, in fact, the right is not unfettered. Here is what the conservative-controlled Supreme Court said in its recent District of Columbia v. Heller decision regarding the Second Amendment:

   

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose:  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
The bottom line here is that the Second Amendment isn’t special. As with other rights under the Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms is subject to reasonable limits. Anyone who argues otherwise is dead wrong.

[Originally published at Messaging Matters]

Originally posted to MessagingMatters on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:07 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cocinero, cotterperson

    See also a woman's 14th Amendment liberty interest in privacy surrounding her decision regarding a non-viable fetus. Subject to reasonable regulation. All Constitutional rights are.

    •  I can't help but respond (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annecros

      Non viable. When is a fetus viable? Becuase I would totally agree as one believing in the sanctity of life. Viability is science. And viability is becoming earlier and earlier as science progressss.

      •  Viability in this context (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denig

        is the ability to live outside the womb with or without medical intervention. And don't fight with me about it. It's the definition of the US Supreme Court and more than one religious scholar.

        Life on earth is complicated and nuanced. It is not black and white.

        If you wish to make facile statements about the sanctity of life there are thousands of Web sites and groups that would be happy to have you.

        Don't throw it at me, ok?

  •  Generally speaking, any right we give up to (5+ / 0-)

    the Government will never be restored. After 911, we gave up tons of ground with respect to search and seizure and due process. I desperately hope for stronger gun regulation, but I also want to staunch the weakening of our rights.

    “liberals are the people who think that cruelty is the worst thing that we do” --Richard Rorty Also, I moved from NYC, so my username is inaccurate.

    by jeff in nyc on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:29:59 PM PST

    •  Dunno, We Had the Assault Weapons Ban and Then (10+ / 0-)

      it expired, we had prohibition and repealed it. Marijuana prohibition is beginning to crack.

      The government doesn't have the same immediate, ubiquitous and constant incentive to eliminate gun rights that it has with surveillance, searches & seizures and rights that have been weakened under the banner of fighting terrorism. The losses of rights in that area are definitely worrying.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:41:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Keeping & bearing guns (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hey338Too, Tommye, denig, mungley

      will not staunch the weakening of any rights nor will arms restore any rights.

      The romantic individual with his (it most likely will be a he) scary looking semi-automatic and cami-clad soft sedentary middle-aged white (he will also most likely be white) body will not prevail over any modern military force foreign or domestic.

       All guns will do is what they have always done: kill real living people.

  •  The only absolute right... (6+ / 0-)

    is the right of the people to form their own government. Which, upon constitutionalization of said government, implies the limitation of individual rights with respect to other members of the governed.

  •  good points (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too, cotterperson, denig, mungley

    good argument.

    thanks!


    Here's how the game is really Rigged.

    by jamess on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 06:22:22 PM PST

  •  Second Amendment (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too, Tommye, Joy of Fishes, mungley

    There seem to be a lot of self-proclaimed experts on the meaning of the Second Amendment. Under our system of government, members of Congress are sworn to uphold the Constitution. When they pass laws, they generally do so within their understanding of what the Constitution allows. If someone thinks a law is unconstitutional, it can be challenged in court. Courts generally give deference to Congress, but occasionally a law is overturned on Constitutional grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court can make the final decision. State and local level assault weapons bans have been upheld in court for decades. The scope of the Second Amendment has been addressed in nearly 200 federal and state appellate cases. These decisions uniformly rejected Second Amendment challenges to firearms laws. The U.S. Supreme Court has had numerous opportunities to review these lower court decisions and has consistently refused to do so. The federal assault weapons ban was in place for ten years and never challenged. The only exceptions have been the recent 5 to 4 decisions to overturn very strict handgun bans in D.C. and Chicago. The court said people have a limited right to keep a gun in their home for self defense. If not for the 5 conservative members of the court, even that right would not exist.

  •  Fine. I'll accept these restrictions. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tommye

    I'll accept the restriction on actual military hardware. Don't judge a book by its cover, don't judge a person's mental abilities on their skin color, so don't judge a gun by its style. Just like painting racing stripes on a car doesn't do squat to make it go faster, styling a gun to look a certain way doesn't make it any more lethal. According to that nugget of common sense, DiFi can take her ban on a certain "style" of gun and shove it.

    I'll also accept restrictions on access, in the form of needing to show I'm not one of those prohibited persons. How about we have a national database of those persons who are prohibited? We can have a phone number that checks you against that list at the point of purchase for EVERY purchase. Sounds good, right?

    I'll also accept restrictions on where I can bring that gun. How about we set aside the most sensitive places as off-limits for the random person to bring a gun? Like, courts and schools, sound good? I'm cool with that restriction.

    How's that for accepting that the second amendment is not an absolute right? How's that for accepting some reasonable restrictions?

    Now, how about YOU do YOUR part on helping to make sure some of those restrictions actually do their job, eh?

    How about YOU do YOUR part to enforce that list of prohibited persons, so it is complete? How about YOU do YOUR part so that when some should-be-prohibited person with great acting skills walks into a gun shop they discover that their state got its act together and added them to the list of NO GUNS.

    How about YOU do YOUR part?

    It's safe to trust a sane person with the keys to nuclear weapons, but it's not safe to trust an insane person with the cleaners under the kitchen sink. The answer is not more gun control, it's people care.

    by JayFromPA on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 06:40:16 PM PST

    •  If the style is not important (0+ / 0-)

      Why do they style it that way? Does it make it more functional or does it feed a fantasy?

    •  This equating people with inanimate objects (0+ / 0-)

      is the wrong course.  Rather than creating empathy for your cause, it comes off as cold and calculating.

      I voted for the human beings.

      by denig on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:58:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  By repealing the Tiahrt amendment? And voting (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MessagingMatters, denig

      to fund the proper agencies that would do those background checks?
      And voting to fully staff and fund the ATF?

      By allowing the CDC and the CPSC to follow guns use as a health issue, and monitor gun manufacture so it is indeed safe?

      Ok. I'll do my part.
      I voted for a congressperson, two Senators and President who all want to do those things.
      I support organizations that want to do those things.
      I pay my taxes and are perfectly willing fro them to fund those things.

      Guess who is not interested in funding those things?  The GOP.
      Guess who keeps the pressure on the GOP to make sure that none of the things you listed above actually happen? The NRA.

      Take back the House in 2014!!!! ( 50-state strategy needed)

      by mungley on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:32:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I note that Sarah Majoras, the missing woman who (0+ / 0-)

      ... made you glad you carried your gun, was found. She had slipped and fell into the canal and died. Police suspect no foul play.

      So it looks like a lot of folks were right and you were wrong.

  •  The second amendment can be repealed. nt (4+ / 0-)

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 07:03:48 PM PST

    •  The second amendment should be (6+ / 0-)

      repealed.

      Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

      by JoanMar on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 07:09:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Joan - let me know when you have 2/3rds (5+ / 0-)

        of the House and Senate and 38 states signed up for that Second Amendment repeal.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 07:35:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Are you willing to work toward that end? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DefendOurConstitution

          Because I am.

          Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

          by JoanMar on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 07:43:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hell no...not in a million years... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            annecros, FrankRose

            But have fun with your crusade. In the meantime, women everywhere will be happy they can shoot a rapist in the balls and avoid the lifelong nightmares that accompany being taken against their will.

            •  Wayne Lapierre is that you? (0+ / 0-)

              Women come in handy in your sick campaign on behalf of your masters, the gun manufacturers, don't they?
              Fuck off!

              Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

              by JoanMar on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:35:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  You think you can appeal to women through fear (0+ / 0-)

              emotion and tough talk. But you can't. We're the logical ones. We vote Democratic.

              I voted for the human beings.

              by denig on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:02:24 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  How is empowering women invoking fear? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                annecros, FrankRose

                And I vote Democratic too. Just because one disagrees with you on a single policy issue doesn't shuttle that person from the party...sheesh.

              •  I am a woman (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                FrankRose

                who votes Democrat and works very hard to get Democrats elected.

                I reserve the right to defend myself.

                •  The statistics disagree with you on what actually (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  hestal

                  works, as defense.  

                  ...women everywhere will be happy they can shoot a rapist in the balls and avoid the lifelong nightmares that accompany being taken against their will.
                   

                  A ridiculous, emotionally charged, fear-mongering  statement. How does that work exactly? At what point in a rape does the woman get her assault rifle from it's cabinet and shoot some guy in the balls?  Well before the rape, obviously.

                  How does that defense work in court?

                  The NRA has not logically thought this through. But lack of logic is the NRA hallmark, these days.

                  I voted for the human beings.

                  by denig on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:50:00 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well I don't have an assault rifle (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    FrankRose

                    They are illegal. Have been since 1937.

                    Self defense is a long standing concept in American Jurisprudence. Usually it doesn't even get to court.

                    I'm not a member of the NRA.

                    Shooting in the balls makes no sense. Aim for the body mass.

                    How does it work in self defense? The rapist stops because he has been shot.

                    •  What NRA talking points do you disagree with? (0+ / 0-)

                      I voted for the human beings.

                      by denig on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:02:59 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I disagree (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        FrankRose

                        that Universal Background Checks violate the 2nd Amendment.

                        What does that have to do with your insistence that I must be deprived of the ability to defend myself?

                        What does that have to do with your accusation that I own illegal firearms?

                        •  I did not accuse you of owning illegal firearms. (0+ / 0-)

                          Nor did I insist you must be deprived of your right to defend yourself.  

                          You are in favor then, of Universal Background checks? That sounds promising.

                          What about limiting magazine clips?

                          I voted for the human beings.

                          by denig on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:39:09 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Assault rifles are illegal (0+ / 0-)

                            There aren't many women at all that own them, much less "get them out" to confront rapists. Implying that anyone owns them is in fact, accusing people of owning illegal firearms.

                            Sure I'm in favor of background checks. I had one. I had to have one before I could work at my job. It's called being in favor of enforcing existing law! The gun show loophole violates the spirit of the law, not the letter. Easy fix.

                            Magazines or clips? I haven't settle on a number for that yet.

                            So, let's talk about you. What do you have against women defending themselves from rapists?

                            That doesn't sound very promising.

                          •  I have nothing against women defending themselves. (0+ / 0-)

                            I have nothing against you defending yourself.

                            There aren't many women at all that own them, much less "get them out" to confront rapists. Implying that anyone owns them is in fact, accusing people of owning illegal firearms.
                            I've read this three times.  It makes no sense, in light of what I said. I didn't accuse you of owning an illegal weapon.  It's a leap of logic to say I did.

                            You don't appear to want to have an actual discussion and perhaps discover where either of us might be in agreement or a touch over the top. If that's the case, there's no point in continuing this discussion.

                            I voted for the human beings.

                            by denig on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:15:00 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I asked you questions (0+ / 0-)

                            and answered yours. That is actively engaging in discussion.

                            But, as you refuse to listen to others on this issue, as President Obama suggested we do last weekend - see ya later! Have a great Friday!

                      •  Guilt by association (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        annecros

                        Let's try to keep this conversation above logical fallacies, shall we?

                        Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

                        by FrankRose on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:23:47 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  Then don't have a gun. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    annecros, nextstep

                    Neat how freedom works, innit?

                    In the rape scenario, if the person invaded the home, it would work very well in court. In fact it would probably be dismissed as self-defense before it even went to court.

                    Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

                    by FrankRose on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:22:28 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  LMS - as you know no one aims for the balls (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JoanMar

              Everyone is taught to aim for the chest, more mass and easier to hit. It's nearly impossible to shoot someone in the testicles and using that example just needlessly inflames the discussion.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 10:15:03 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Joan - I don't favor a repeal of the 2nd Amendment (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            annecros, JoanMar

            All I ask is that people working on a repeal take it outside the Democratic Party to the many bipartisan groups who are working on amending or repealing the Second Amendment. Make it bipartisan, so the Democratic Party doesn't take the political hit for your efforts.  

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 10:13:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  They can't even get (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FrankRose

          51 votes in the Senate for the AWB.

          •  I know, you have the power now, but (0+ / 0-)

            something like this has happened before. It was called the slave power, and for a long time it worked, but eventually it was obliterated. So it will be with guns. Civilian ownership of guns will go the way of slavery, it will be cast out of our democracy and thrown upon the dung heap of history.

            Things are changing for the better, get used to it.

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:16:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Haven't you gotten the memo yet? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FrankRose

              Your expectations have already been lowered by Democratic leadership. Perhaps you should catch up.

              It looks like we'll get expanded background checks and armed guards in schools. That's about it.

            •  Eliminating slavery was an expansion of liberty (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annecros, VClib

              AWB is a contraction of liberty.

              Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

              by FrankRose on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:25:23 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  hestal - not in your lifetime (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annecros

              Civilian ownership of guns may be restricted, but will be legal for another 100 years.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 10:17:09 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You guys are so easy. You just break out (0+ / 0-)

                in a cold sweat whenever you think about your precious guns. 100 years, indeed.What bravado. You are so eager to preserve an amendment that has long outlived any useful purpose without regard to the deaths it has caused for innocents. It is very disturbing to see people who have so little disregard for the lives of others. You should be ashamed of yourself. But, as I said earlier, slavery was very much like the second amendment. Those who love guns would probably have loved being slave masters. The thrill of inducing fear in the hearts of others is more than an addiction, it is a shame and a disgrace.

                Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                by hestal on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:28:41 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  hestal - "my precious guns" (0+ / 0-)

                  I have never owned a gun and have no plans to own one in the future. But I am a political junkie and understand that gun owners are the largest single issue voting block in the US, and that's not going to change for a very long time. There is a reason that politicians who favor even modest changes in gun control laws go out of their way to state with clarity that they support the right of individuals to own guns. A recent case in point was our President in his remarks on potential new gun control legislation.

                  "let's talk about that"

                  by VClib on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:14:55 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Typical. You uttered not a single word (0+ / 0-)

                    about the deaths of innocents. Why do you and others of your ilk steer away from acknowledging that the second amendment is nothing but permission to murder?

                    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                    by hestal on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 03:12:21 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Maybe because it is not permission to murder (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      notrouble

                      We have laws and harsh penalties against murder, hardly "permission".  Even for those of us who would like to improve the gun control laws acknowledging and understanding the political realities of gun ownership is an important element in gaining whatever legislative remedies are possible in this session of Congress.

                      "let's talk about that"

                      by VClib on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 07:21:56 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Still denying responsibility. Sad... (0+ / 0-)

                        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                        by hestal on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 08:09:56 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  hestal - I am in no way responsible for the acts (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          notrouble

                          of others particularly people who commit murder. You can continue to be sad on my behalf, but your sadness has no effect on me. Adults make choices, some are horrific, but I am not putting anyone in danger and feel no responsibility for the act of others.

                          "let's talk about that"

                          by VClib on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 10:43:51 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  You don't have to remind me. You have (0+ / 0-)

                            made it very clear that you are irresponsible.

                            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                            by hestal on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 11:08:38 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Advocating no private guns is counterproductive (0+ / 0-)

                      When one side overreaches it get less than it could otherwise.

                      Those advocating highly restricted rights to own guns will not only not get what they advocate, they will also prevent important reforms.

                      When anti-gun advocates call for no or little gun rights, the pro-gun forces are helped in their opposition to licensing of gun owners or gun registration, as they argue these measures are just a precursor to confiscation.

                      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                      by nextstep on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 08:29:43 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  "When one side overreaches" I (0+ / 0-)

                        wonder which side that is?

                        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                        by hestal on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 11:07:26 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not letting you know anything. nt (0+ / 0-)

          Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

          by hestal on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:12:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The point is, it doesn't have to be (0+ / 0-)

        There are reasonable limits that can be placed on the sale & possession of weapons and ammo without violating the 2nd Amendment.

  •  A friend posted on another website the other day (3+ / 0-)

    about how he was boycotting Home Depot.

    Apparently some guy who was carrying a gun was tossed out of a Home Depot, due to the company's 'Weapons Free Zone' policy.

    Yeah... it's private property, genius. HD can also throw you out because they don't approve of your speech.

    It is more important to be a confident and articulate speaker than to know jack shit about anything.

    by VictorLaszlo on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 07:29:01 PM PST

  •  Ok, let me turn that around. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrankRose, annecros

    "freedom of the press" is understood to include the gathering of information, the business aspects of running a news operation, owning the presses themselves, having access to ink and newsprint, and also the freedom to distribute what you've written.  

    A similar interpretation of the second amendment would lead one to conclude that "reasonable" restrictions that make keeping or bearing arms impossible would still be infringements.

    Oh, and the first amendment has been interpreted as applying to modern technology too, while we're arguing whether the second should apply to late 19th century arms.

    the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

    by happymisanthropy on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:17:54 PM PST

  •  You missed the Third. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, FrankRose

    No one argues that the Second Amendment is absolute.  Have you seen an effort to repeal the NFA, GCA or even FOPA lately?

    This is a flagrant strawman.

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