Raising questions about the way guns are debated

This is a comment on the Second Amendment as per Bob Burger in last week’s issue of The Independent (“On gun-free zones and the second amendment,” April 4-10). We’ve all heard most of Bob’s comments many times. Here are a few thoughts that you rarely hear:

Let’s take a look at the whole amendment, not just the second clause. The first clause states that “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.

In 1791 when the “bill of rights” was adopted, there was no free state, and no standing army or militia. The right of citizens to keep and bear arms is linked to the necessity to have a militia to secure a “free state.” And the arms that citizens could purchase then were all single-shot pistols or rifles. Times have really changed, haven’t they? Now we have a standing national army, state militias, and police forces in every large, and most small (even tiny) cities, all well-armed to protect all the citizens of the multiple communities in the United States.

Questions: So is the second clause in the Second Amendment unnecessary today? Should we limit the arms that citizens can keep and bear to “single shot” guns? Is it at all possible that the real people who benefit from citizens having multiple guns, and multiple kinds with multiple shots, are the gun producers who are in it for the profits? Should all provisions of the Constitution support the goals stated in its preamble, “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”? All these questions are relevant to the “serious” discussion of the Second Amendment. Don’t you agree?

If we’re going to discuss the Second Amendment, then let’s discuss the whole thing, and the implications of different prevailing conditions in 1791 and today. Back then there was no national gun industry, nor the NRA. Is that relevant to the discussion or not?

Richard Hahn, Sandia Park


The Supreme Court & Second Amendment

Does the traditional right of self-defense include the unconditional right to own an assault weapon?

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.”

The wording clearly says that the right to keep and bear arms is tied to the need for a state to maintain a well-regulated militia. The obvious implication is that only soldiers connected with an official state militia might be protected by the Second Amendment. That is exactly what Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said in his opinion in the 2008 case District of Columbia vs. Heller.

The City Council of the District of Columbia passed an ordinance requiring that firearms kept at home by civilians—even rifles or shotguns—should be “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.” There was a challenge to the constitutionality of the ordinance, and the question brought to the Supreme Court was whether the ordinance violated the Second Amendment. Justice Stevens said the ordinance did not violate the Second Amendment because there was no showing of a connection to a state militia. His opinion was a straightforward application of the idea of “originalism,” a now-popular theory of constitutional interpretation proposed by conservative thinkers. Originalism holds that federal judges should not adapt the meaning of the Constitution within its modern context by superimposing their own views on the “original” meaning of the constitution the way it was written, back in 1779.

Curiously, however, Justice Stevens did not express the opinion of the 5/4 majority of the Supreme Court in the Heller case. It was Justice Antonin Scalia (appointed by Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1986), who expressed the opposite opinion of the majority. It seems the majority stumbled upon a traditional right for civilians to own firearms for hunting and self-defense. It must have been secretly embedded or implicit because it was not expressly set out there in the text. This must be true, we assume, even though two state constitutions of the same era found it appropriate to state the idea in writing.

To their credit, the majority of the court in the Heller case noticed the similarity of this newly “discovered” right to some due process rights not specifically granted in the text of the constitution. Many of these due process rights discovered by “liberal judicial activists” have attracted the ire and bombast of right-leaning politicians and legal theorists, especially since pre-Reagan court days. The Scalia opinion has thus become an exceptionally ironic or disingenuous opinion, because when he was nominated for the court, Antonin Scalia had carefully been vetted as a reliable judicial conservative. He was not only the leading judicial exponent of the originalism doctrine, Antonin Scalia had been an originator of the concept itself. But in the Heller case [speaking for the judicial activist majority!] Justice Scalia said: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to posses a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

The argument that the actual language of the Second Amendment says what Justice Scalia appears to claim it says, simply cannot be supported. [Remember, this is not only my opinion, it is Justice Stevens’ opinion as well!]

So what can be learned from this remarkable case of judicial hypocrisy when it comes to the real meaning of the idea of “originalism” in modern constitutional interpretation?

First, originalism theory is invoked by the Supreme Court when it suits their purpose to do so—and ignored by the judges when it is inconvenient. It cannot serve as a reliable indicator of what they might decide in any given case. Interest group politics and well-known judicial prejudices are a much better guide. Some legal scholars scoffed after Heller was decided, that we are now all originalists. I prefer to agree with Thomas Jefferson that strict adherence to the apparent literal original meaning of the constitution in 1779 is a self-limiting way to interpret the U. S. Constitution.

Second, in the same opinion where literalists discovered a previously unstated right to keep a loaded shotgun or rifle for self protection at home, they also advised us that some regulation of firearms might pass constitutional muster—like in the rowdy prohibition days of Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde when it was deemed okay to outlaw private ownership of Thompson sub-machine guns. The courts will of course decide these questions on a case-by-case basis. I wonder when they might conclude it has now become necessary to keep an Uzi on the bedside table—or hang an AR-15 loaded with a 40-round clip over the fireplace—to protect a family from home invasion. In 1779 each state militiaman was armed with a muzzle loading flintlock, a Bowie knife and a tomahawk.

Leo Sullivan, President, East Mountain Democrats


CNMEC member-owners urged to attend annual meeting

To the CNME owners-customers: Your presence is requested for CNMEC’s annual meeting.

A quorum is needed to learn where we are, and where we are going in this century. Other electric co-ops appear to be progressing at a rapid pace. However, our co-op appears to be lagging behind with technological advances except where paying one’s electric bill.

Voices are needed to find answers to these questions.

The meeting will be at the Mountainair High School gym, Saturday, April 12. Pre-registration starts at 8 a.m. The business meeting starts at 11 a.m. but one has to be registered before that hour.

Election of trustees takes place at the business meeting. Also financial information about CNMEC is presented as long as a quorum is achieved.

Bring family and friends.

Sheila O’Keeffe, CNMEC Member


‘Thank you, Edgewood!’

Thank you, Edgewood citizens and businesses, for all your encouragement and support during my successful campaign for Town Councilor. It was an experience that reinforced my desire to follow in the faithful steps of retired councilors Chuck Ring and Rita Loy Simmons, and my commitment to continue serving Edgewood through public service.

Edgewood’s leadership has many issues before us, including: water, sewer, roads, land leases (Section 32/34), zoning, safety, freedoms, and the future lifestyle of our town.

During the campaign, I stated I wanted to hear your (all generations’) vision for what you desire Edgewood to be in 5, 10, 20, 50 years. It would mean a lot to me to receive a phone call (505-281-2209) or an email (ajaramillo@edgewood-nm.gov) from you. As I learned while on the MESD Board of Education, we cannot please everyone, but public input and community connections are essential for making sound decisions for the future.

Government does not know better than the individuals it serves. I would be honored to hear from you.

Audrey Jaramillo, CPA, CFE & Edgewood Town Councilor


Running for Torrance County Probate Judge

My name is Arthur DuCharme, and I am a candidate for Torrance County Probate Judge. I am primarily motivated to seek this position to help my neighbors to make good decisions regarding estate planning. Some of my close friends have recently left this world without wills, trusts, or even joint tenancy of their property that would legally and clearly fulfill their wishes on how to dispose of their estate. I have studied law for the last two years at Santa Fe Community College, most recently receiving the top grade in Probate and Estate Planning. I feel compelled to pass on what I have learned to our citizens, especially seniors. A probate judge is a civil court judge who is in charge of overseeing not only the estates of deceased persons, but determining competency issues. If elected, I would continue and expand the good work already under way by our current Probate Judge, Jim Summers, through workshops, especially at our County Senior Centers.

Beginning in 1968, I worked for 28 years as a Sandia Laboratory PhD physicist, the last four years as the U. S. Department of Energy representative to the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow, Russia. I then retired from Sandia to accept a position with the State Department to be their American Deputy Director at the Science & Technology Center in Kiev, Ukraine. I held that position for seven years before returning permanently to Torrance County in 2003 to run a small farm and cattle operation. My wife, Julia, and I are now raising four children and trying to pay back our beautiful County for our wonderful life here with public service.

I was awarded by Santa Fe Community College this semester with an internship in Santa Fe with a nonprofit organization training more than 500 defense lawyers. I fully intend to pursue whatever further legal training is needed as a plus to helping my community.

Although I was the first chair of the Torrance County Republican Party, I hope all voters will evaluate candidates based on their credentials and capacity to do the job, not on politics. I am trained in all aspects of the Uniform Probate Code adopted by New Mexico and ready and anxious to serve all of our residents needing estate planning or probate. Please vote for me on June 5.

Arthur DuCharme, Torrance County 505-876-7303