Constitutional rights and firearms are again hot topics since the killing of 20 first-graders in Connecticut with an assault rifle. Predictably, the NRA quickly asserted, once again, that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own such weapons. In truth, the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms but does not stipulate which kinds. The federal government can, and does, restrict ownership of certain weapons, as reflected in National Firearms Act of 1968.
Congress made judgments about which types of weapons to restrict, such as fully automatic machine guns. They could have made different judgments. The constitutional right to own military-style assault weapons is exactly the same as the constitutional right to own grenades, stinger missiles and mortars. There is none.
This country suffers many times the per-capita homicide rate involving guns compared to almost every other nation. For instance, our gunfire-homicide rate is 7 times that of Canada, a nation with a strong hunting culture but sensible gun laws. Those who support easy access to assault rifles should explain how such access improves the quality of our lives.
DOUG BROWN, Kennewick