Nothing ‘knee jerk’ about Reed excuses

An article in the the OBSERVER (Feb. 21) lists all the well-worn talking points that avid gun supporters flip back to every time a gun-caused tragedy of mass casualties occurs in the United States. It is a list of quotes from our Congressional representative, Tom Reed. I feel the need to respond to some of these talking points, especially the Second Amendment Guarantee Act that Reed is co-sponsoring with Congressman Chris Collins.

First, according to the article, Reed believes Congress “should do what is necessary” to keep mass shootings from happening, but he is standing firm on Second Amendment rights.

Doing what is necessary involves doing everything that is necessary, including the regulation of high velocity assault-type weapons such as the AR15, the current gun of choice used in many recent shootings. The article states “He said the issue is not as simple as removing Second Amendment rights.” By this, he is implying that cries for gun reform legislation are aimed at that goal. That is incorrect and an excuse for inaction, acceptance of NRA donations which he admits with no problem, and perpetuation of their false claims.

Second, if the Parkland. Fla., shooter had been on the radar from numerous contacts with mental health or law enforcement and still authorities were unable to legally admit him involuntarily to a mental health facility or confiscate his weapons which he was allowed to purchase legally, then there is a problem of inbalance within the laws. It is not mainly the fault of mental-health providers as Reed asserts.

Third, Reed claims he is seeing a “knee-jerk” reaction to the Parkland shooting, echoing that same initial perception of Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio, as a result of his participation in CNN’s town hall may be open now to changing his mind on some things, but apparently not on accepting money from the gun lobby. I have attended several of Rep. Reed’s town hall meetings and as I do commend him for holding them, I wish he would be more receptive to the requests of the constituents who are concerned enough to attend and speak up, rather than trying to convince us that we should believe what he believes. They would have a point about a “knee-jerk” reaction if this was the first occurrence of such a tragedy. But as we are all too painfully aware, we have had plenty of time and reasons for exploring solutions and “starting a conversation.”

Columbine was in 1999, Sandy Hook in 2012, along with many others. The range of proposed solutions is as long as that timeline and still nothing at all has been done at the federal level. In fact, the federal government has backtracked by allowing the assault weapon ban to expire in 2004 and to negate an Obama act which allowed the weapons check data base to include mental health information collected by the SSA. It is time to stop talking and start trying some of the things that have been suggested.

Fourth, Reed, as well as Rubio, seem to think that there is no way to distinguish which weapons to limit. Again, this is to make us believe that this would inevitably expand to an abolition of the Second Amendment. There are in fact measures that can determine a class of weapons to limit. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has proposed a bill which lists 200 specific weapons, based on their ability to cause maximum casualties in minimum time — the reason our military is armed with them. They have no business being sold to civilians. Can’t the restrictions be based then on the damage that the weapon, attachment, or ammo is capable of inflicting? That way, the appearance or name have nothing to do with it. Medical technicians tending to the Parkland victims attested to the severe bodily damage the high velocity bullet causes, compared to a regular hand gun, making most wounds fatal. The AR15 is not a gun for sport or protection, it is a gun made for killing.

And finally, and to the main point of my response, this Second Amendment Guarantee Act which Rep. Reed is cosponsoring with Rep. Collins makes no sense, and here is why. This bill is aimed directly at New York State’s SAFE Act. This Collins-Reed bill is an act proposed by federal government legislators for the purpose of removing the right of state and local governments to pass laws to regulate firearms in their state. The protection of the rights of states to maintain a “well regulated militia” is exactly why the Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights in the first place. In this case, the state has passed a law which regulates arms, as it is allowed by the Second Amendment to do. The act that Collins and Reed propose does just the opposite of protecting the right of states to regulate their arms, it strips that right away from them! It doesn’t guarantee the Second Amendment, it nullifies it!

In fact, the state governments have been the ones to take action on the issue of gun regulation — New York, Connecticut, and Maryland immediately passed legislation in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. Since then, as of the December fifth anniversary of that shooting, over 200 preventative laws have been made in various states. The Collins-Reed act would nullify all these protections. The inaction of the U.S. Congress is bad enough; removing the rights of states to make decisions on this issue is even worse.

The Second Amendment simply reads ” A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Our founders were leaders from states that were very recently individually governed colonies of Great Britain, and as much as they knew centralized power was necessary for a strong nation, they had reservations about giving up control of their own regional interests, and wanted recourse against a central government that might become too powerful, having just removed us from the rule of a powerful monarchy. In particular, the southern states demanded the entry of this amendment, as they needed to protect their right to a well regulated militia to control their slave population. In 1791, the phrase “the right of the people” used “the people” as a way to describe a collective, not individuals. The first time this was interpreted as an individual right wasn’t until 2008 when Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court made that definition in DC v Heller.

It is ironic, really, that a Republican backed legislation would aim at removing a right from the state and local government and give it back to the federal government, since Republicans have traditionally advocated for keeping local government strong and centralized government controlled. It would appear that the act that Tom Reed is cosponsoring is not a Second Amendment protection so much as an NRA protection and a re-election protection. We have some very good people stepping up around our district, seeking to run against Reed in the upcoming November election.

There are seven Democrats coming forward to take him on, among them Eddie Sundquist, who is endorsed by the Chautauqua County Democratic party, and other very impressive and qualified candidates who have received endorsements from other counties and organizations: Tracy Mitrano, Rick Gallant, Max della Pia, Ian Golden, Charles Whalen, and Linda Andrea. If you agree that we need to make a change to someone who is more likely to be willing to help solve the problems that lead to these mass shootings, and not continue to pass over them and hope they will go away, I suggest you google these candidates and see how they stand on this issue. One candidate will be nominated in June to run against Tom Reed. This is a very important election and it should bring out every voter who wants to make a change.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident.

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