El Paso carnage shows need to limit gun rights
The proponents of enabling Americans to possess what are known as AK-47 or AR-15 firearms, and the high-capacity ammunition they can accommodate, are not deterred by the horrific damage these weapons of mass destruction can inflict.
They have seen the news photos and videos of adults and children shot dead or wounded in public.
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Yet despite the phenomenon of mass shootings in the United States, they maintain that the Constitution's Second Amendment — which calls for a "well-regulated militia" — permits the poorly regulated possession of weapons with lethal potency that could not be envisioned in the 18th century.
As staunch defenders of the First Amendment, we treasure free speech. But as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued, in 1919, free-speech rights do not automatically protect someone when words present a clear, present danger. Thus, his famous warning against "falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."
The legal application in the Schenk case and the modern relevance of that phrase remain debated by legal scholars.
But the philosophy of the argument, when prudently applied, is relevant today.
The latest mass shootings — in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio — provide further evidence of a clear, present danger that justifies state and federal actions to dramatically limit possession of military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition. That has been our position.
For those willing to contemplate the danger posed by these weapons and the people who use them to massacre innocents, and act accordingly, consider excerpts from an article by Gina Kolata of The New York Times about the havoc in El Paso and its hospital certified in trauma care:
"The woman, grievously wounded in the mass shooting at a Walmart, lay on an operating table at the University Medical Center of El Paso as the chief of surgery, Dr. Alan Tyroch, turned her to clean the exit wounds. ... She had two gaping holes the size of a man’s fist in her side and a third the size of a silver dollar where bullets had burst from her body. Those bullets had also shredded her intestine. Dr. Tyroch hooked her up to a colostomy bag and a feeding tube. And he reached into another wound to pull out a bullet lodged in her shinbone. ...
"Some of the patients rushed to the hospital needed more than one operation, like the woman treated by Dr. Tyroch. On Saturday, surgeons had quickly opened her abdomen, cleaned out feces and blood, and sent her, with a temporary patch over her open abdomen, to intensive care, heavily sedated and on a ventilator. They had to work fast, clearing the operating room to make way for other victims. Then on Sunday, Dr. Tyroch spent three hours operating on her, repairing the damage as best he could."
"Dr. Tyroch had seen wounds from military-style weapons before, but he had never seen anything like the number of victims that showed up at his hospital on Saturday — 14 in all, most shot more than once."
That's what happens when weapons meant for warfare are on the streets of America.
By the Herald-Tribune Editorial Board