Against Essex County’s SAFE Act resolution
To the editor:
I attended the Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting at which the board voted in favor of repeal of the SAFE Act. I agree with those who claim there are provisions of the SAFE Act that are ill-conceived and unclear, but I also think that it includes provisions that are reasonable, as does a hunter friend of mine.
The board’s resolution in favor of repeal rather than amendment of the SAFE Act, its invocation of the Second Amendment in support of repeal, and the board’s failure to offer suggested changes perpetrates the unfounded notion that all gun control laws are a violation of the Second Amendment. This is a point I tried to make, unsuccessfully, at the meeting: The U.S. Supreme Court’s gun control decisions of 2008 and 2010 made it clear that the Second Amendment is “not a right to keep and carry any weapons whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” As one expert notes, “The American right to bear arms has alway co-existed with gun regulation. The Founding Fathers had gun laws so restrictive that today’s NRA leaders would never support them.” Justice Scalia’s majority opinion upholding an individual right to bear arms was limited to the facts of the case: the use of a handgun for self-protection in the home. Lower-court decisions since the Supreme Court’s decisions have upheld many different gun control laws. In his nuanced opinion, Justice Scalia noted that Supreme Court’s opinion should not cast doubt on a wide range of gun laws.
I am a strong supporter of hunting as a sport and as a way of controlling species overpopulation. The county’s repeal resolution draws no distinction between the legitimate interest of hunters and those who hold the radical view, as a number of the audience members asserted, that the Second Amendment bars any restriction on the ownership and use of firearms, including bans on weapons that are not made for hunting but are made for killing humans rapidly and in large numbers.