Logic – you may have heard of it

18 12 2007

In an featured letter to the editor, Robert Hammerle wrote with an interesting suggestion aimed at reducing violence.  Mr. Hammerle, a noted and respected criminal defense attorney, wrote in the Indianapolis Star that if only personal weapons were illegal, there would be no more violence!  What a wonderful idea!  I’m surprised that no one thought of that before.

Mr. Hammerle writes:

Students are shot and killed going to class at Virginia Tech; shoppers are gunned down in a mall in Omaha; church-goers are shot and killed in Denver; at least three professional football players, the most recent being Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins, have been shot and killed recently, all 24 years of age; Amish families are slain, and now Tinsley is almost killed. When are we as a society going to say enough is enough?

 I would venture to say that the fact that all of these acts were illegal means that we, as a society, have already said that enough is enough.  However, that is not enough for Mr. Hammerle, who goes on to condemn the weapons used by some of these shooters as the problem.  Hammerle makes a wonderful leap of logic and asserts that society’s failure to deal with “automatic weapons and assault rifles” is the problem, and the solution is ban them.


Now, as an attorney, Mr. Hammerly has already proven that he is intelligent.  As a criminal defense attorney, he has surely learned the difference between automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons.  He surely knows that assault rifles, which by definition are capable of fully automatic fire, are already severely restricted.  He surely knows that the weapons used in each of the shooting he mentioned were semi-automatic weapons, not assault rifles.  He surely knows that, IIRC, most of the persons who have been identified as the shooters in those cases were not legally in possession of the weapons they used.


However, none of those small details seems to matter.  Like any good trial lawyer, he glosses over the inconvenient facts to focus on his proposed solution.  It does not matter that the shooters were already breaking the law – surely, those people would stop and reconsider their actions if only it were more illegal for them to have weapons.


Hammerle’s solution, which is ridiculous in its scope and breath, is nonetheless amusing.  He writes:


I have spent more than 30 years in the criminal justice system, and I can say flatly that nothing will remotely change the level of violence in our country until we change our approach on firearms. When the Second Amendment was written in 1789, our Founding Fathers thought of firearms only in terms of flintlocks and muzzleloaders. They never once imagined modern-day weapons that the National Rifle Association wants all Americans, no matter how deranged, to have the right to possess. . . . I agree with the NRA that Americans should have unlimited access to the firearms originally intended by the Founders. In other words, all of you gun enthusiasts can have unlimited access to all of the muzzleloaders and flintlocks that you want. Every other weapon is subject to lawful regulation no matter what theory of constitutional law one adopts.

Let’s assume, for a moment, that the Bill of Rights were subject to such taffy-pulling, to be stretched and reshaped to fit our personal whims.  Let’s apply the same logic to the rest of the Bill of Rights.

I think we can agree that speech can be as dangerous as a firearm, and that to be consistent, we should apply the same logic.  Only those forms of communication that were in existence in 1789 are subject to the First Amendment.  Only those newspapers and publications, printed on manual printing presses, who are still in existence today are protected by the Bill of Rights.  All other means and modes of communications are subject to regulation or outright prohibition by the government.

The practical result of such interpretation is left as an exercise for the student.




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