OPINION: Here’s a plan to deal with guns


We know the litany. Columbine. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Sandy Hook Elementary School. Las Vegas. Uvalde. And now Highland Park, Ill. and the Fourth of July parade. The deadly count grows.

The Second Amendment consists of the following 27 words, 33 words less than the estimated number of bullets fired in a few seconds at the Highland Park parade, killing six and wounding 40 or more:

“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.”

Nowhere in this amendment does it state that people may carry firearms to defend themselves. It does state that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – because a “well-regulated Militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State.”

The same Supreme Court that found there is no federal constitutional right to privacy for women because it doesn’t appear in the Constitution magically finds a right to carry firearms for self-protection, even though the Constitution clearly states it is as part of a “well-regulated militia” with no mention of “self-protection.”

Since the conservative activist justices all believe in “originalism” – that the Constitution means what it meant when adopted in 1787 – we need to consider what “well-regulated militia” meant in 1787. Let us consider Virginia’s militia statute of 1775:

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That all free male persons, hired servants, and apprentices, between the ages of sixteen and fifty years (exceptions from militia service) shall, by the commanding officer of the county in which they reside, be enrolled or formed into companies of not less than thirty-two, nor more than sixty-eight, rank and file, and these companies shall again be formed into battalions …The free mulattoes in the said companies or battalions shall be employed as drummers, fifers, or pioneers.

“There shall be a private muster of every company once in every month, except the months of January and February, at such convenient time and place as the captain, or next commanding officer, shall appoint, and a general muster in each county, on some day in the months of April and October, in every year.

“Every officer and soldier shall appear at his respective muster-field by eleven o’clock in the forenoon, armed or accoutred as follows: The county lieutenant, colonels, lieutenant colonels, and major, with a sword; every captain and lieutenant with a firelock and bayonet, a cartouch box, a sword, and three charges of powder and ball; every ensign with a sword; every non-commissioned officer and private with a rifle and tomahawk, or good firelock and bayonet, with a pouch and horn, or a cartouch or cartridge box, and with three charges of powder and ball; and, moreover, each of the said officers and soldiers shall constantly keep one pound of powder and four pounds of ball, to be produced whenever called for by his commanding officer.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a gun-hater. I don’t believe in banning guns for all but the police and the military. I grew up with guns. I got my first shotgun at 12 years of age. I own guns today.

I keep them safely locked up. I don’t feel the need to carry one in public. I haven’t carried one in public since the last time I was on duty in Kabul.

After serving on active duty, I spent nearly 30 years in that well-regulated militia more commonly known as the Army National Guard and, courtesy of Uncle Sam, I got to visit some places where it was necessary for me to very publicly carry a loaded, military-grade firearm for self-protection and the protection of fellow soldiers.

I’ve seen what those weapons do to human bodies. Thankfully I haven’t seen what they do to innocent school children in the playgrounds of America. No one should have to see that. And no child should have to suffer that.

I’m not naïve enough to believe we can eliminate AR-15s and their kin from the streets and schoolyards of our nation and even if we did there would still be gun deaths.

But we can start somewhere.

  • We can adopt some common-sense gun laws. We can demand that legislators stand up to the death profiteering gun lobby and pass legislation that will withstand the intense scrutiny of an activist Supreme Court.
  • We can ban the import of AR-15 and similar weapons immediately, ban sales of such weapons effective immediately with a government buyback from retailers at their cost, and a voluntary buyback at cost from gun owners.
  • Gun owners would be allowed to retain ownership and possession of lawfully purchased weapons but not allowed to transfer them other than to a government buyback program or to a licensed gun dealer who could accept them in trade on other firearms as part of the buyback program. All weapons bought back by the government would be destroyed.
  • All firearm magazines with a capacity of more than seven rounds would be banned and destroyed. Larger capacity magazines could be exchanged free for seven-round magazines at licensed firearm dealers.
  • Gun manufacturers’ special exemption from lawsuits – an exemption not granted to any other product – would be immediately repealed.

A tax would be imposed on .223 or 5.56 mm ammunition and all handgun ammunition, with the exception of .22 caliber, which would fund the firearm buyback and magazine trade-in programs.

An additional tax would be imposed on .223 and 5.56 ammunition and handgun ammunition other than .22 caliber to fund medical and other expenses for persons wounded or killed in shootings determined not to be their fault. I exclude .22 caliber ammunition as it is a sporting round and seldom used in gun violence.

For any Second Amendment absolutist who rejects the above proposal, I expect you to appear on the first Saturday of each month on the village green with rifle, tomahawk, pouch and horn and three charges of powder and ball.

Failure to do so will subject you to forfeiture of five shillings pursuant to an Act regulating and discipling the militia (1775 Commonwealth of Virginia). Close order drill will be conducted by the black-robed and bewigged Supreme Court justices who believe we live in the 18th century.

(William Enyart of Belleville, a former UAW Local 145 member, was a U.S. congressman for Illinois’ 12th District, an Air Force general and Adjutant General of Illinois.)

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