The Honorable Kelly Ayotte
The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen
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.
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.