Letters to the Editor

Voice of the People - February 28, 2008

Don't infringe upon our rights

I was amused to read Leonard Pitts' article on the difference between theory and reality regarding gun control. Pitts argues that the correct "reality" is for both sides to work toward the middle -- for gun-control advocates to accept gun ownership and gun-supporters to accept some limits on that ownership.

Well, I would like to point out the error in the theory vs. reality approach, especially when it applies to our basic rights.

I moved to South Carolina from New Jersey, a state where the firearm laws existed in theory to allow law-abiding citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but in reality, that right did not exist at all. Law enforcement routinely withheld applications to purchase firearms from minorities and other persons, even though the law (theory) said they could not. Theory said that law-abiding citizens could carry guns for self defense. In reality, virtually no one was ever granted a permit. So basically, reality overrode the theory. Too bad it was to trample people's rights.

The 14th Amendment gave blacks the right to vote -- in theory. In reality, it took another 100 years for everyone to be able to exercise that right. Remember poll taxes? That was a government-imposed "reasonable restriction" that prevented most blacks from voting. Apply the same approach to gun permits and registration, and you can see where an ill-intending government restriction can totally eliminate a right for persons that the current rulers don't particularly care for at the moment.

Regarding his comment that no one "needs" a so-called assault weapon to go deer hunting: Does society "need" pornography? Does society "need" shock-jocks on the radio? Does society "need" endless reality TV? No, we don't. But they are the reality of the theory of free speech. If we accept the theory of freedom to "keep and bear arms," then we must accept the reality to own guns that are menacing looking to some and useful to others.

So what's the difference between theory and reality? The theory is that the Bill of Rights is just a list of silly ideals that the government is not required to pay any particular heed. The reality is that it's a specifically enumerated list of fundamental freedoms that every U.S. citizen possesses that the government can never infringe upon. We ought to know that "we the people" wrote it. Mr. Pitts would do well to read it himself someday.

Michael J. Bodner

Rock Hill