The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 17, 2013

Herb Van Fleet, guest columnist: The right not to be shot

TULSA, Okla. — On April 9, CNN’s Arin Burnett interviewed Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., regarding his stand on background checks for would-be gun buyers.

The good senator allowed as how he would support such a measure and went on to say that “91 percent of Americans support background checks as long as there is no record of it.” (Note: The Quinnipiac University poll that Coburn refers to makes no mention of records.)

When challenged by Burnett on that claim, Coburn barked that the Constitution says “the government doesn’t have a right to know whether I bought a gun or not.”

Then, in typical political double-talk, he contradicted himself by adding that we should keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and felons. But he fails to tell us how will we do that if we don’t keep records.

Further, I can’t find a prohibition in the Second Amendment that says the mentally ill and felons can’t own guns, nor is there a list of weapons that the public is forbidden to buy such as an M-1 Abrams tank or an F-22 Raptor.

Such limitations on the “right” to own guns are, in fact, perfectly legal. Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution says Congress has the power, “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” That means Congress can make laws regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of guns, just as it has done and continues to do with a plethora of other goods.

Sen. Coburn and government officials at all levels should go back to the Preamble of the Constitution, to the first three words: “We the people.” We the people have conferred certain powers to the three branches of government on the condition that that government protect, defend and enforce certain rights and liberties of the people. If the president and the justices of the Supreme Court and the members of Congress are to follow the Constitution, then that means any executive order, Supreme Court decision or act of Congress must fall under the rubric of “pro bono publico” — for the public good.

To say it another way, the Preamble does not begin with “We the crony capitalists,” “We the military-industrial complex,” “We the lobbyists,” “We the campaign contributors” or “We the NRA.”

Among other things, this means any actions of any of the branches of government that are carried out specifically for the benefit of any special-interest group that works to the detriment of the people would be a clear violation of these officials’ oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and, thereby, a betrayal of the public trust.

All things considered, then, it seems to me the only question to be resolved by Congress with regard to the Second Amendment is whether the people’s right to own guns is more important than the people’s right to be keep from being shot.

Herb Van Fleet, a former Joplin resident, now lives in Tulsa, Okla.

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