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Lucas: Our current gun control approach is not working

Kelly Lucas
February 12, 2014
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EidtPerspLucas-sigA couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting in my office texting my son, who was locked in a classroom at Purdue University amid reports of a shooting on campus. Texts between students close to the situation indicated that at least one student had been seriously injured, and we soon learned the heartbreaking news that a young man was dead.

I began texting my son as soon as news of the shooter on campus surfaced. I was grateful to receive a quick response from him telling me that he was safe, but my thoughts quickly went to a mother out there who was trying to reach her son and was not getting a response – who would never again get a response – from her child. I later read an account describing how Mary Boldt tried to phone her son that afternoon and, when she could get no answer, finally called Purdue. That is when she received the worst news a parent can hear.

In this particular situation, I don’t know where the killer obtained his gun or if he possessed it legally. As is the case with so many of these horrendous shootings, questions remain that we would all like answered. But the Purdue shooting; along with the almost weekly shootings happening in schools, malls, movie theaters, and grocery stores; not to mention our city streets, once again brings to the forefront the need to do something – anything – to control gun violence in our society.

For the record, let me say that I am not trying to incite those who advocate and defend their Second Amendment right to gun ownership. I’ve often heard it said that the good guys have to own guns because the bad guys will find a way to get them, legally or otherwise, and I don’t argue with this.

But when we hear reports of shootings at schools or malls or other public places, the picture painted of the shooter is typically not one of a thug or criminal – it is often an unstable individual who, quite obviously, had access to firearms.

So, while I am not arguing against a person’s right to own guns or protect himself from threat, here is the question I can not shake: When does one person’s right to own a gun trump another person’s right to return home alive? In fiercely protecting one, we are clearly not doing enough to ensure the other.

I read last week in the ABA Journal that a federal judge in Connecticut had upheld that state’s gun control law which was enacted in the wake of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The law bans a broad range of assault weapons and prohibits the sale of high-capacity magazines, and its constitutionality was challenged by several groups including the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League and the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello wrote, “While the act burdens the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights, it is substantially related to the important government interest of public safety and crime control.” The judge acknowledged that the Supreme Court of the United States’ 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision protects ownership of handguns that are “in common use,” but he added that gun owners’ Second Amendment rights are protected by the large number of alternative weapons available for hunting, protection and sporting events.

In their response to the decision, lawyers representing those challenging the law told the Hartford Courant that they would do everything they can to get this decision overturned because “There are findings that we can work with.”

My question: Would any of those “findings” lead to meaningful changes that will reduce the number of innocent people who are being shot on a weekly basis in schools and public places in this country? With rights come responsibility, and will the “findings we can work with” support public policy that will help to keep guns out of the hands of those not equipped to use them responsibly. This is not a rhetorical question; I really want to know. Our current approach isn’t working.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that it is an uncomfortable feeling to be texting with your child while he is locked in a classroom because a shooter is on the loose at his school. I am hopeful that our growing discomfort with the status quo will motivate our society to do something about it.•

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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