LETTER from MARY ANNE WHELAN
To the Editor:
Considerable attention is being paid to the anticipated request by county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-West Laurens, that the county board adopt a resolution declaring our county a “gun sanctuary,” by which is meant a declaration that the police need not enforce the state’s SAFE Act.
This is, to begin with, an inappropriate request. As a county representative, Brockway took a signed and sworn oath to support the laws of the State of New York. If he can’t do that he should resign.
Undermining law enforcement by supporting a declaration of “no need to enforce” a law is disrespectful to the state Constitution, to law enforcement and to the citizens law enforcement protects.
The argument that the SAFE Act violates the Constitution is not valid.
It has repeatedly been upheld in the state courts, and for that reason has never reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in turn, upholds the right of individuals to bear arms and also the right of states to regulate them.
It is not an open-ended invitation for anyone, anywhere, in any state of mind, to possess any kind of
firearm they choose to have and do with it whatever they want. Sadly, responsible gun ownership is not
universal and cannot be left to individual decision-making.
People leave guns where children can play with them, disaffected teenagers can readily get their hands on them and shoot schoolmates, and mentally impaired persons can band together under some catchword messages about liberty and justify their violent impulses.
Here in Cooperstown, there have been two school shootings; and in Richfield, grandparents shot to death by their grandson. Their parents should have known better than to leave guns around. They should not have been able to buy them, on their own, or to get someone else to buy them for them.
Liberty – in the sense of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – is, in fact, more often violated by firearms than by any other cause.
Twenty-five children a WEEK are killed by firearms. More are injured.
They are a favored instrument of domestic violence and abuse, and of suicide and murder-suicide. What
happened to these lives, liberties and the pursuit of their happiness?
I have had two friends shot to death when they cheerfully answered their door on a Sunday morning.
They were expecting piano movers. Instead, a grudge-bearing psychopath who never should have had a gun killed them. Is it a civil right to be able to answer your door without defensively carrying
a weapon against the chance of such an event? Where were my dead friends’ civil rights?
America is a gun culture. Our history glorifies it. Our children grow up buying into it. As a pediatric neurologist I saw, in one afternoon, three unrelated children – boys 4 years 3 months, 4 years 3 months, and 4 years 6 months of age – because their mothers were afraid of them. One of them said, “Dr. Whelan, he says he’s going to get a gun and shoot me and I’m afraid of him.”
I asked if there were a gun in the house. “Yes, but it’s in our bedroom, and he knows he’s not supposed to go in there.” Oh, fine.
Teaching school in Africa in 1961, the first question asked in my class was from an 8-year-old boy:
“Where do people in America keep their guns?”
Most people who object to the SAFE Act probably haven’t read it. They probably can’t tell you what the First and Third Amendments are either, because, really, they don’t care about the Constitution: they just want their guns.
Look: Nothing in the SAFE Act prohibits hunting, as some like to claim. It puts some background checks for criminality and mental illness in place for sales (there should be more). It bans assault weapons, including semi-automatics, unless “grandfathered” in and registered, and it bans loading more than 10 rounds at a time.
It requires reporting if guns are lost or stolen. If you share a household with someone convicted of a felony or domestic violence, you are supposed to keep guns in a safe place. (Something that should be extended to households with children also).
None of these provisions are unconstitutional. Which of them offends you?
Putting it about that Democratic candidates want to “take your guns away” is known by those who say it to be untrue: it is said anyway, which makes it dishonest.
Claiming, as the NRA does, that the answer to guns is more guns, is just factually incorrect. Insured claims for firearm-related injuries actually go down during NRA conventions – these are multi-day events in which thousands of gun enthusiasts, and their guns, are effectively taken off the streets. So it’s safer out there!
Stop waving the flag around.
It’s not your flag: it’s ours. I grew up with guns. We had a shooting range in our basement. I was a pretty good shot. But I consider it my civil right not to live in place where law enforcement is flouted and reasonable legislation denigrated in the name of the Constitution. The second and third words of the Second Amendment are: WELL REGULATED.
MARY ANNE WHELAN, M.D.