American Legion support for the Second Amendment

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American Legion support for the Second Amendment

Got a sort of complaint this morning that came in via email that The American Legion doesn't discuss our support for the Second Amendment enough.  While I disagree that we don't support it enough, it is certainly possible that people don't see us discussing it as much as we should be.  So I wanted to lay out our support here more fully.

Let's start with our position, which comes from a resolution passed at the Annual Convention:

RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 26, 27, 28, 2014, That The American Legion reaffirms its recognition that the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees each law-abiding American citizen the right to keep and bear arms; and, be it finally

RESOLVED, That the membership of The American Legion urges our nation's lawmakers to recognize, as part of their oaths of office, that the Second Amendment guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to keep and bear the arms of their choice, as do the millions of American veterans who have fought, and continue to fight, to preserve those rights, hereby advise the Congress of the United States and the Executive Department to cease and desist any and all efforts to restrict these rights by any legislation or order.

Not a lot of equivocation in there.  We support the Second Amendment fully.  Now, the gun control issue is back in the news after a series of shootings, and an emotional press conference were President Obama called for increased measures. 

From CNN:

President Barack Obama grew emotional Tuesday as he made a passionate call for a national "sense of urgency" to limit gun violence...

The White House is seeking to expand background checks for buyers. The measure clarifies that individuals "in the business of selling firearms" register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called "gun show loophole," which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

More from the President:

 He defended his actions to strengthen background checks for purchasing guns, answering critics who say the measure would not make it harder for criminals to obtain firearms.

"Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying," Obama said. "I reject that thinking."

One of the more cogent responses to this comes from Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle the "American Sniper" who wrote extensively at CNN that:

Are our current laws being enforced? Are felons and known drug users really put in jail when arrested for a lesser crime and known to have a gun? In most situations, no, because police have more pressing issues than to incarcerate a felon for having a gun that he or she hasn't used in a crime. We have plenty of laws on the books that we cannot or do not enforce. Let's start enforcing what we have before creating new laws.

Understandably, we want a solution to ensure that we and our loved ones will never be in the situation of being caught unaware by someone who chose to do evil. Mass killers have targeted churches, businesses, movie theaters, schools and hospitals, but they could as easily take their violence to a place where people are armed. Yet they do not.

Even at Fort Hood, the killer chose a place on the base where he knew soldiers would be unarmed. What does that tell us? That evil targets those who are unprepared for the evil to strike.

You really should go read the entire thing, because her response is phenomenal.  Long, detailed, and 100 percent accurate in my opinion.  

But back the initial concern that we weren't discussing it enough, the Legion put out a press release specifically about one facet of the current gun control measures, that dealing with mental health.  This is the entirety of that press release:

Concerned that the White House’s executive action on gun sales would discourage veterans from seeking treatment for mental illnesses or conditions, the head of The American Legion urged President Obama to ensure that the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding veterans be protected.

“Nobody wants violent criminals or those with extreme mental disorders to have firearms,” American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett said. “ But The American Legion strongly believes that treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder or depression by itself, which a number of wartime veterans experience, should not be the sole factor in denying a veteran the right to purchase a firearm.

“Barring some additional circumstances that would indicate that a veteran represents a dangerous threat, veterans should not have to forfeit their Second Amendment rights. We fear an ‘over fix,’ which would bar any veteran from owning a weapon. That’s what we’re apprehensive about. Veterans have fought to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans. The American Legion believes that the rights of these heroes deserve protection.”

Now, this portion here is key, because if they do start stigmatizing those who get help for their service related conditions, obviously people are going to stop getting help.  This will just create a vicious circle, where the people most in need of getting help won't get it, because they don't want to lose their EARNED rights to defend themselves.  

Now, to the larger issue of gun control, Congress certainly won't pass any of these measures, and I doubt the constitutionality of doing it via executive fiat as well.  Further, the American public at large is VERY skeptical that any such measures would actually impact gun violence, which (despite what the news seems to be portraying) has been down over a number of years.  Look at the opinion polls though:

About half of all Americans oppose stricter gun control laws, a larger segment of the population than those who support tighter controls on guns, according to a new CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday.

Nearly three weeks after the latest mass shooting claimed the lives of nine people, 52% of Americans now oppose stricter gun control laws, 6 percentage points more than the 46% of Americans who support such laws. That's a wider gap than in June when CNN last surveyed Americans on gun control, finding that the public was equally split at 49% on the issue.

So frankly, I don't believe the Congress, the Courts or the voting populace is in favor of these measures.  But what bothered me most is one portion of what the President said, and I haven't heard anyone really discussing it at length, this portion (again):

"Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying."

Um, if the measure wouldn't have stopped the last one, they why are we looking to do it?  Isn't the idea behind law making and decision making to look at what happened and figure out how to fix it?  It's almost as if they said "Well, we burned the apple pie, so let's buy a new Landrover."  If the measures you are pushing in response to something that happened wouldn't have effected what happened, why are you considering them?

Or perhaps I am wrong, I looked at the mass shootings over the past few years, and I can't find one that would have been prevented by closing the so called "gunshow loophole."  Not the Virginia Tech shooting, the shooting of the Virginia reporters, the California shooting or Adam Lanza at the Connecticut school shooting.  

The CATO institute in particular examined the so called loophole last time this came up:

Denver congresswoman Diana DeGette says that 70 percent of guns used in crimes come from gun shows. The true figure is rather different, according to the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. According to an NIJ study released in December 1997 (“Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities,” a report that covers much more than homicide), only 2 percent of criminal guns come from gun shows.

That finding is consistent with a mid-1980s study for the NIJ, which investigated the gun purchase and use habits of convicted felons in 12 state prisons. The study (later published as the book Armed and Considered Dangerous) found that gun shows were such a minor source of criminal gun acquisition that they were not even worth reporting as a separate figure.

So if our goal is to stop gun violence, wouldn't it make more sense to actually do what Ms Kyle suggests, and target the criminals first?  

As Emily Miller opined in The Washington Times several years ago:

Gun shows aren’t the equivalent of the Wild West. The vast majority of vendors at the shows are fully licensed dealers who must run the FBI check at the time of sale...

[B]ut it makes no sense to put so much effort into an area where criminals aren’t buying their guns.

More good would be done by strengthening the current background-check system by ensuring states submit felony convictions and mental health records. That’s the most effective way to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Posted in the burner | 15 comments
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I do not see any programs dealing with gun safety being offered by politicians. I did find a course given by the Monroe County Sheriffs dept. in New York State. Before a person gives any type of comment they should be qualified to do so first.

The 2nd amendment, like all the others are not EARNED, they are God Given rights.

Once again the American Legion has the issue pegged exactly right. Enforce the current laws and leave us alone! I have seen many news reports of individuals stopped for traffic violations and all the law enforcement could find was a felon with a firearm. The person was allowed to proceed because there was no violation? What do you call a felon with a firearm?

I guess the problem I see with the American Legion Position is we aren't getting the press. The legion needs to have our Public Affairs Arm (if it exists) see to it that our position is known. Your points are excellent and I'm in full agreement with you. But, I've been a Legionnaire for over 36 years and did not know our stance. Maybe my fault, but never the less and if I didn't know being a long time member I'm sure many others didn't know either not to speak of none members. We need to do a better job of getting the news out to the public.

I'm a Legionnaire who supports greater efforts at common sense handgun control so I guess I disagree with the Legion's position on the issue. Be careful in assuming that our membership is of one mind on this matter. I'm very uncomfortable with any attempt to suggest that our organization is in lockstep with the NRA. I thought the President's recent forum on gun control was relevant and a modest attempt to stimulate a debate on how to best prevent gun-related tragedies in our country. Too bad the NRA elected not to participate.

The NRA did not participate because the forum was rigged and controlled by the anti-gun crowd. The NRA has challenged Obama to debate them in an open forum with no pre-screened questions and are waiting on a answer. One they will probably never get since Obama will not participate if he can't control it..

Agree with Mr. Bumgarner. As an Army-trained physician and Gulf War veteran, I see many sides to the debate. We all agree that current laws should be enforced - but arguing where criminals get their guns isn't the whole point. If we agree with background checks, why would we exempt gun shows, even if it's a minor contributor? And over-focusing on anyone with a history of mental illness won't solve the problem, and may deter some from seeking treatment. A recent large study confirms that most with mental illness - even severe - are not violent, and that most homicides are committed by people without serious mental illness. Arguing whether we'd prevent mass killings is fruitless, since these - while getting lots of press - are rare. But gun availability is an issue we need to discuss, especially since many gun violence deaths are suicides. Many suicides are impulsive - attempts or suicidal gestures with knives, pills or less-lethal weapons can often be reversed and the individual can receive successful psychiatric treatment. America is the most heavily armed country on earth, and our gun deaths reflect that. So...I'd disagree with the post by OV that the Second Amendment rights are "God-given" - the Bill of Rights were written by our Founders, who likely couldn't envision semi- or automatic weapons. The 2014 Resolution asserts the right to keep and bear arms "of their choice" - which is not part of the Second Amendment. We do need reasonable minds to agree on moderate approaches, to save lives.

When our Lawmakers wrote the Second Amendment to the Constitution , I believe that the guns were single shot weapons . Why do we need so many weapons that can shot 30 to 100 or more shots without reloading ? You can really wipe out a crowd of people with such weapons .
Many years ago , some States required you to have a partial plug in shot guns which could carry more than three shells . Rabbits and squirrels and turkeys were thus given some chance of survival .
I am in favor of the citizens having guns , but let us be reasonable on how many people that they
can wound or kill at a time . It is just insane having everyone with guns with so much capacity .
Let's give people a chance to survive ........................................

The comments by these gentlemen are right on. If we spent as much time with the First Amendment this country would be a much better place. Personally I think the NRA and the KKK are probably very similar.

The American legion is wrong to set a policy which fits in exactly with the gun lobby and the NRA.
Guns kill--that is the only reason they were ever developed. The human mind and it's irrational behavior
should not be trusted in our society with guns. Strict laws concerning the sale of guns should be legislated.
The legion would do the world and country service if they would reverse the policy of support for gun
violence and killing.

I can't help but wonder about some of the negative comments and those making them. Sincerely doubt they're Legion members, because that would imply they swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution they're now trashing.

Veterans should not have their rights to own and possess firearms infringed without the VA or agency vested with the powers to confiscate firearms granting that veteran a complete "Due Process Procedure."

One must consider the atmosphere in which the 2nd amendment was adopted. There were no mass killings, there was no drive by shootings as we see in some of our cities. There were not as many suicides by guns or children playing with loaded handguns that end up killing these kids. Would the amendment have been written the same way if these killings had existed back then? The President is not talking about taking any guns away from law abiding citizens. He is talking about enforcing laws that have been enacted. Let's tell like it is.

Am I able to join the American Legion even though I have not served in the military? I am a thirty year retired police supervisor. My father was a member( her served in two wars; my grandfather was in service during WWI; he served in France in 1917. I sure would like to be able to help out at my local Legion facility. I am interested in the aide of the vets. who may frequent there. I can offer my time, my actions and my volunteerism for the men and women who gave the ultimate; these men and women were ready to lay down their collective lives in order to protect our wonderful country.

Just let me know. I really know the answer. It is sad that you reject help from outside. I have tried to offer my help. I am not a war vet. I admit that. Now you will reject my offer. Yours is a tightly knit organization. I admire that and respect that. It is just sad that you reject any offers from legitimate members who are able to give so much.

Please re-consider. I can give you my time and empathy. Give it a chance.

Jack Osterman

If you did not serve in the military, you can not join the American Legion as a member but since you state that your father and grandfather served during war time, you can join the Sons of the American Legion. This is a part of the American Legion that assists the Legion in all they do. Please contact your local Post for more information and a application.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.