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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Second Amendment – A Right for Everyone

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, June 28, 2008.)

For the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled
that the second amendment is an individual right.

On Thursday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court declared the most restrictive gun law in the nation unconstitutional.

Before being overturned, the Washington D.C. gun ban prohibited functioning weapons in the homes of citizens living in the nation’s capital. Citizens could lawfully possess only broken firearms or firearms rendered inoperable.

What’s a hunter’s take on this landmark decision?

Hunters are happy about the decision, but not because it preserves their right to use guns for hunting and other sporting purposes. It doesn’t. The sporting use of firearms is not a consideration in this ruling. Indeed, in Washington D.C. no land is even available for hunting.

This Supreme Court decision recognizes the right of the people -- all law-abiding people and not just hunters -- to use firearms in the defense of themselves and their security. This decision properly recognizes that the second amendment is not about hunting. It has to do with the right of the individual to self-defense.

From the text of the opinion:
“Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition -- in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute -- would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.”

The United States Supreme Court has finally said that citizens have the right to use firearms in self-defense. And for the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the second amendment is an individual right. That’s not just good news for hunters, it’s good news for every law-abiding citizen.

Although the second amendment is not about hunting, many politicians pander to hunters, attempting to pacify them.

Consider these words from a presidential candidate’s web site:
“Millions of hunters own and use guns each year. Millions more participate in a variety of shooting sports such as sporting clays, skeet, target and trap shooting that may not necessarily involve hunting. As a former constitutional law professor, Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he greatly respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns for the purposes of hunting and target shooting. He also believes that the right is subject to reasonable and commonsense regulation.”

If you think this statement is friendly to gun owners, read it again. It is noteworthy for what it does not say. He states only that Americans have a right to bear arms for hunting and sporting purposes, not for self-defense.

He does not say that he will protect the rights of ordinary law-abiding citizens for the purpose of self-defense. He does not say that self-defense is a legitimate purpose for gun ownership. His statement is carefully crafted to ignore the right of citizens to use firearms in self-defense.

I’d rather not use a gun in self-defense. I hope I never have to. But the D.C. law, before being overturned by the Supreme Court, would penalize any law-abiding citizen who did so. It gave confidence to law breakers that they would not suffer the consequences of an armed citizenry. The result was a high rate of crime.

Now that it is lawful for citizens of Washington D.C. to use firearms in self-defense, we can expect the rate of crime in the nation’s capital (sixth highest in the nation according to the FBI’s 2006 unified crime report) to drop, saving the lives of innocent people.

If you wonder why judicial appointments are so important, this 5-4 ruling is a good example. One vote would have tipped this decision the other way, effectively ending an essential civil right under the Constitution of the United States.

Appointments to the Supreme Court are the most important and far reaching decisions a President makes. Consider that as you decide how to cast your vote in the coming election.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Magazines in Doctors’ Offices

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, June 14, 2008.)

“I expected to see a big whitetail
or an elk head hanging in here,” I said.

I’ve been in lots of doctors’ offices lately, and I can’t figure out why waiting rooms are not equipped with better reading material. Think about it. You open the door and cast your glazed eyes about for something to read.

You know the routine. The first magazine you focus on is a copy of an entertainment magazine – probably People, at least three months old. Of course, it doesn’t really matter that it’s three months old, because it’s only about the fluff of celebrity lifestyles – nothing that ever changes and nothing that’s important. It’s so tiresome, but it’s all presented as if it were totally new and vitally important.

I was headed for a doctor’s waiting room in Pittsburgh recently – expecting to sift through People, Woman’s Day, Redbook, Cosmo and all the rest, to find something interesting among the various fashion, food and fun magazines. Instead, what I saw was completely unexpected.

Right on top of a pile was a magazine featuring a cover photo of a black bear. It was North American Hunter, the magazine of the North American Hunting Club. Common sense whispered to me, “That’s probably a stray that will be tossed if I don’t rescue it.” I quickly grabbed it. It might be the only magazine worth reading during a long wait!

Under it was another surprise. American Rifleman. Yikes! Not just a pro-gun, pro-hunting magazine, but the actual “official organ” of the National Rifle Association!

The strangest thing? This doctor’s office treats women – women only – and here are a couple of “politically incorrect” magazines that appeal primarily to men – in a city, in a health care office, connected to a university hospital. Not a place you’d expect to be friendly to what some people call the “blood sports.”

“One of those dastardly right wingers must be dropping off magazines here. Good for him!” I thought.

There were more. And not just the mainstream outdoor rags like Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, but a lot of magazines that most of the public has never heard of.

Bugle, the bi-monthly of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, was there. And Rifle. And even Handloader magazine. As Ted Nugent might say, “You won’t see those in France!” They come from Wolfe Publishing, a company that caters to hard core riflemen and shooters who make their own ammunition.

The newest one from Wolfe’s corral was also there – Successful Hunter. Wolfe targets readers who want accurate information based on solid technical knowledge. If you see anything fluffy in their magazines, it will be in a photograph with a story that includes data about bullet weight and velocity.

Sifting through the pile, I also found The Alaska Professional Hunter. And another copy. And another. And another. It’s a quarterly that I’ve seen only in Alaska, and occasionally at sport shows where guides and outfitters are selling Alaska hunts.

Several well known magazines turned up, too, including Deer & Deer Hunting, Pennsylvania Game & Fish, and Peterson’s Hunting. And I noticed that the mailing labels were not clipped off or blackened out. My right winger theory was wrong. They had the doctor’s own name on them.

He had given me lots to read while passing the time, but too little time passed before I was invited to join my wife and the doctor in the examination room. My reading adventures were over.

After a brief medical conversation, the doctor asked me, “Do you have any questions?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I expected to see a big whitetail or an elk head hanging in here.”

He laughed. “You’re talking about the magazines in the waiting room. I keep telling my staff that it’s not my patients who spend the most time out there. It’s their husbands.”

We need a few more doctors who think like he does. I’d like to thank him for standing up for what he believes in by boldly ordering at least a dozen different magazines that appeal to his fellow hunters.

Oh yeah – and for taking such good care of my wife.