Reasonable gun control, not aimed at the mentally ill please

The Honorable Kelly Ayotte

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen

Dear Senators:

I am writing to thank you for voting to end the filibuster which would have blocked debate on pending gun control legislation. I believe it is important for the voters to know where their Senators and Representatives stand.

Reasonable regulation

I do not oppose gun ownership, but I do believe it should be subjected to reasonable regulation, including

(1) expansion of the background checks on buyers to sales that take place at gun shows and/or on the internet.

(2) A ban on the sale, transfer, importation or manufacture of military-style automatic and semi-automatic rifles, handguns and shotguns; and,

(3) A ban on high capacity magazines.

Like other amendments in the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment is not absolute. The First Amendment does not give me the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, and the Fourth Amendment does not give me the right to avoid all warrantless searches and seizures. My “free speech” and “Fourth Amendment” rights are preserved not by imagining them to be absolute, but through the acceptance of some reasonable limits which we accept so that society can function and so that we all can be reasonably safe.

As we all learned this week, banning assault rifles, semi-automatics and guns with high capacity magazines does not make us completely safe. Someone with a knife can still go on a rampage and injure 12 people. But if that individual had been wielding an automatic or semi-automatic weapon, with a high capacity magazine, there could have been another Sandy Hook, where 26 were killed in 5 minutes.

Avoiding gun control endangers other constitutional rights

The attempts being made to respond to Sandy Hook without regulating gun ownership will likely result in the diminishment of other constitutional rights. Consider the variety of opinions on what constitutes “mental illness.” The term is imprecise at best. Mental illness is a spectrum of conditions which are poorly understood and difficult to diagnose. The overly broad term “mental illness” will be an open invitation to encroach upon First Amendment rights – rights which protect both our speech and our behavior.

Scapegoating the mentally ill

Gun control legislation should be aimed at guns, not at the mentally ill. To simply scapegoat “the mentally ill” without giving attention to the desperate need for more and better mental health treatment – in the community and in hospitals – would be a travesty, adding insult to the ongoing injury of the abuse and neglect which the seriously mentally ill must already endure.

I urge your support of gun control legislation which is reasonable, which preserves not only our limited rights to gun ownership under the Second Amendment, but our First Amendment rights as well, and which does not take the easy way out by scapegoating the mentally ill.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.


Lily DeYoung

In favor of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

This letter was mailed today, Ash Wednesday, to Congressman Langevin (D-RI). The article describing his work appeared in the NYT on February 7, 2013. Here’s the link: 

February 13, 2013

The Honorable Mr. James Langevin

United States House of Representatives

109 Cannon HOB

Washington, D,C, 20515

Dear Mr. Langevin,

I am writing to thank you for your work in arraigning for the presence of gun-violence victims in the gallery during the President’s State of the Union address last night. I read about your efforts in the New York Times last week.

I support Senator Feinstein’s bill, the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013” banning semi-automatic weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.  This legislation is described as “doomed to defeat.” Perhaps it was in the days before Sandy Hook, but I believe we must be changed by that tragedy.  As President Obama said in Newtown, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

Today, on Ash Wednesday, my religious community turns toward the season of Lent during which we reflect on the need for change in ourselves and in our world.  I believe that the kind of change needed to enact Senator Feinstein’s bill is possible. I will begin Lent looking for the ways in which I can encourage that change, and I thank you for all you have already done in that regard.

Very truly yours,

Lily DeYoung