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Editorial: Second Amendment week welcomed but not ideas

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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On April 12, the University of Iowa College Republicans wound down its first Second Amendment Week, a set of events to celebrate and raise awareness about the right to bear arms.

The week began on an unfortunate note — a proposed outing to the Hawkeye Gun Range on April 8 was canceled — but the College Republicans rebounded to disseminate information about the National Rifle Association on April 10, host a “Hunters Awareness BBQ” on April 11, and encourage students to wear red in support of gun rights on April 12.

This year’s Second Amendment event was a welcome departure from “Conservative Coming-Out Week,” the controversially named celebration of conservatism that the College Republicans put on in the springs of 2011 and 2012.

That event drew widespread criticism for its use of the term “coming-out,” which many believed to be a sardonic slight to the gay-rights movement. This year’s “Hunters Awareness BBQ” was a toned-down cousin of last year’s “Animal Rights Barbecue.”

Conservative Coming-Out Week’s controversial legacy was cemented in 2011, when Ellen Lewin, a UI anthropology and women’s studies professor, sent an ill-advised email response to the College Republicans that read: “F*** YOU, REPUBLICANS.”

We applaud the College Republicans for moving beyond Conservative Coming-Out Week, but we take exception to the interpretation of the Second Amendment that the group offered last week.

Mary Kate Knorr, the president of the UI College Republicans, told The Daily Iowan that the group had chosen to highlight the Second Amendment because of the recent attention the subject has received as the Senate works on legislation designed to curb gun violence.

“Any efforts on the part of the government to make it more difficult to obtain firearms is a breach of our constitutional rights,” Knorr said.

This absolutist stance — the notion that any type of gun regulation is a violation of the Second Amendment — is both dangerous and factually suspect.

The legal precedent surrounding gun laws in the United States directly contradicts this claim. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of numerous limitations on people’s ability to own guns. The court upheld a ban on sawed-off shotguns in the 1958 case United States v. Miller. The Supreme Court upheld the right of states to ban felons from possessing guns in 1998’s Caron v. U.S.
The notion that the Second Amendment entitles Americans to unrestricted access to firearms is untrue.

In any case, the legislation currently being debated in the Senate certainly falls well short of Second Amendment infringement. If a bill were to emerge from Senate deliberation, it would likely be centered on provisions to expand background checks and institute harsher penalties for those who sell guns illegally.

Rhetorical absolutism argued by the College Republicans threatens to torpedo much-needed gun legislation by deliberately mischaracterizing the modest proposals currently being weighed in the Senate. Expanded background checks and stricter punishment for weapons trafficking are not an attack on our Second Amendment rights.


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