Tuesday February 5, 2013

On December 16, 1991, I chanced to videotape an interview of Chief Justice Warren Burger, with Charlayne Hunter-Gault on the "MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour." He was appointed Chief Justice by Richard Nixon in 1969 and served in that capacity until 1986. Justice Burger was first asked where he thought the Bill of Rights could be better. I transcribed his response and a highly significant section of the interview follows:

"If I were writing the Bill of Rights now there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment, that a well regulated militia being necessary for the defense of the state, that people (have the) right to bear arms. This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my life time."

He continues, "Now just look at those words. There are only three lines to that amendment. A well regulated militia. It’s the militia which was going to be the state army, was going to be well regulated. Why shouldn’t 16, 17 or 18 year olds, or any other age persons, be regulated in the use of arms, the way an automobile is regulated? It’s got to be registered. Someone asked me recently if I was for or against a bill which was pending in Congress calling for five days waiting period. I said ‘Yes, I’m very much against it. It should be a 30-day waiting period, ‘till they find out why this person needs a handgun or a machine gun.’"

Then he finished up with, "If you ask some active member of the NRA if the 2nd Amendment should be changed, of course he or she would go up in the air. I don’t want to get sued for slander but I repeat, that they have misled the American people and I regret to say they have had far too much influence on the Congress of the United States than as a citizen I would like to see, and I am a gun man. I have guns. I have been a hunter ever since I was a boy."

In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. This was a 5 to 4 decision. Imagine what the decision might have been had the Court been presided over by Chief Justice Burger.

Further, just compare what happens in our country with other nations. Using some older statistics I have at hand for 1994, the year in which assault weapons were banned, gun murders in the U.S. totaled 17,866, while 193 were murdered by guns in Great Britain, 131 were thus murdered in Vietnam, 1,004 were shot dead in Germany and 49 were so murdered in Japan. Adjusting for the relative population numbers at the time, compared with gun murders in the U.S., an individual was 5.53 times safer in Germany, 20.64 times safer in Great Britain, 38.24 times safer in Vietnam and 174.96 times safer in Japan.

It is very difficult for an ordinary citizen to get a gun in Japan. There seems to be a message there. Enough said.

DON LATHROP

Canaan, N.Y.