Honor First Amendment rights before worrying about Second Amendment
To the editor: Northumberland County Commissioner Stephen Bridy proposed a resolution that would nullify any future federal gun laws in Northumberland County. So nice that he is so adamantly defending the Second Amendment while being sued by county residents for allegedly violating their First Amendment rights.
As a supporter of the Second Amendment and wife of a gun owner, I want to know why the commissioner would automatically oppose any debate on this topic. In particular, why would he oppose federally enforced, universal background checks. According to a recent poll, nine in 10 gun owners support universal background checks. Basically, these checks would ensure that guns do not wind up in the hands of felons and criminals. In addition, it will be strengthened universal background checks that help keep guns out of the hands of those struggling with mental health issues.
There is no simple solution for gun violence. We cannot just take guns away from law-abiding citizens. The Second Amendment guarantees this right and the Supreme Court has reinforced this right. However, there may be federal laws that can regulate the Second Amendment to make our society safer. I support the language of the First Amendment to have an open discussion about this important issue and I support the language of the Second Amendment that calls for a regulated approach.
Many argue that there are already thousands of gun laws on the books. And it is true. However, the problem with these laws is that there is no federal agency that has the capacity to enforce them. Republicans in Congress have rendered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) useless by defunding the agency and refusing to appoint a full-time director. In addition, NRA-financed Republicans have slipped amendments into unrelated laws that make it impossible for stronger laws to be enacted or enforced.
In a humorous attempt to illustrate the weakness of the ATF, Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" aired an actual ATF video where ATF staff advise gun suppliers on how to handle inebriated customers. What is clearly absurd is that there is no law that prohibits the supplier from selling the gun to someone who is intoxicated. They may choose not to sell to that person, but the federal government can not prohibit it. There are apparently no legal consequences to the gun distributor if he/she sells a gun to an intoxicated buyer.
The NRA argues that more guns offer the solution to our gun violence epidemic. Not surprising: the NRA is not an advocate for gun owners but an advocate for gun manufacturers. The manufacturing of more guns is exactly what gun manufacturers want. And the NRA's ridiculous call for more guns in schools is not just a superfluous attempt to sell more guns, but it is also an unfunded mandate. How is this a realistic solution for police departments and school districts that are already strapped?
It is a complicated issue that requires thought and leadership.
Carelessly taking solutions off the table is dangerous and irresponsible. Moreover, we're a nation, united and, as Americans, we abide by our nation's laws. Gun violence is an issue that should be debated at the federal level since weapons can easily cross political and geographic boundaries.
Thankfully, Commissioner Bridy's proposal to disregard federal gun laws in Northumberland County lacks legal standing. I'd suggest that the commissioner focus on improving rights to county citizens that he can control. He can start with First Amendment rights.