Constitution Does Not Automatically Permit AR-15s

To the Editors:

The AR-15 must be banned. Like the M-16 used in Vietnam by our military, the AR-15 was designed to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible with the greatest ease and efficiency. Some argued fiercely in the ’60s that the AR-15 should have been our weapon of choice on the battlefield, not the M-16.

Today, the M-16 is not available to the public, but the AR-15 is. It has been the ideal weapon for mass killings and was used in Florida a week ago to slaughter 17 of the brightest lights for our future: those high-school students and young teachers just moments before their school day was to end. Instead, their lives ended.

In 2008, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the most revered conservative of our time, made it clear in an opinion that the Second Amendment did not give citizens the incontrovertible right to possess any kind of gun. Surely, if that right existed, machine guns capable of slaughtering five or 10 times more children in the same time period would be used by murderers.

Of course, we have a right to bear arms. Scalia just made it abundantly clear that what our founding fathers had in mind in 1791 was not to give us unlimited access to any kind of weapon. He argued compellingly that states have the right to determine — almost 230 years later — what should or should not be available to us. The Constitution does not automatically permit the availability of AR-15s.

Even though the ban of AR-15s will not prevent mass massacres of children and others, we must demand that our legislators support the ban, along with support of improved background checks, mental health programs, etc. Nothing is likely to guarantee the perfectly safe society we seek. But we must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good and do nothing to make progress. Let’s support legislators who support the ban. Celebrate this day.