Weather Forecast


Becker County Sportsman: Supreme Court upholds Second Amendment

For 217 years, the American people have fretted over the meaning of our founding fathers when they wrote the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

These men were delegates from the thirteen original colonies. They were drafting a document to give powers over their individual governments, to a yet ambiguous authority over themselves. They were giving federal authority but wished to assure certain individual rights would be retained.

Along with free speech and the right to lawful assembly, they kept the right to bear arms, as a deterrent over the build-up of a superior federal force. But the right to bear arms, as written in the Second Amendment always left the doubt as to meaning an individual right to own and personally use a gun. Or was it meant to a state militia, which became our state National Guard units?

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a narrow five to four ruling, has settled the matter once and for all. The courts five to four struck down a ruling of the District of Columbia, which banned personal handgun ownership. The D.C. law required that persons -- and they were few -- must disassemble entirely, any firearm kept in a home.

Of course, that ridiculous facet entirely negated any personal defense qualities that gun ownership might provide.

A citizen who was an armed guard in downtown Washington began the suit against the D.C. law. He legally carried a handgun on his person all day long, but when he came home, off duty, the gun became illegal unless he disassembled the piece. The Supreme Courts' interpretation holds that individual citizens, not the militia, is guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms. Many of the existing laws now on the books will be declared unconstitutional now, when they meet future challenges. Much of the existing control on guns is about to be dissolved.

What it will mean to the shooter or hunter

The new ruling means that a person, who isn't otherwise denied gun rights, may now own and keep handy personal protection, usually meaning handguns, along with long guns for hunting, target shooting or just plinking at tin cans.

But not everyone should have a gun

The rights of gun ownership should have some element of control. Any person who is a convicted felon shouldn't again be trusted with a firearm. Persons without full mental capacity should be denied. Under-age persons should not be personally trusted until they have demonstrated reliable and trustworthy judgment. Persons nowadays reaching the age of 15 are given a course in gun use by many communities. This leads to the participation with dad during the hunting season in the field. But use of firearms by persons who have successfully completed such courses should continue to be done with adult supervision. Injecting a personal note here, I was the owner of a 22 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a 22 rifle, and a 20-gauge shotgun when I was the age of 15. I hunted with a buddy who was the same age, shooting ducks, squirrels, grouse, and rabbits at the lakes and woods in the vicinity of Perham. We didn't have much money, but what we did have often went for a box of 22 shorts or some shotgun shells at perhaps $.65 a box. We hunted, shot tin cans, and had a great time, never using the guns in an illegal or dangerous manner. And we never had any formal training that outlined the cautions which now come with the Youth Firearms Training courses as referred to previously. Today, such liberalization probably couldn't be tolerated.

The politicians have taken notice

The Supreme Courts' decision in favor of gun ownership being the right of the individual has been out now for about a month. Democrats are known to be in favor of more gun control. There are notable exceptions to this, however, including that of our own 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson, who is an avid hunter and gun owner. But Presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that local jurisdictions across the country would need guidance. But Democratic mayor Richard Daley of Chicago called the ruling "very frightening."

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms exists and is supported by the historical narrative both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted. President Bush said that he supports the individual right, confirming what has always been clear in the Constitution. The full implications of the decision still must sorted out, but guns to be used for protection in the home is now more clear. But the absolute prohibition of guns held at home, and used for self-defense is clarified. The court struck down the requirement of trigger locks, but these devices are practical when there are young children in the household who can get a hold of a firearm when adults aren't present. Sensible gun ownership and use must still be a major part of the new gun positions in America. But at least, the measure of the meaning of the Second Amendment is now a clear. All laws should be this specific in their meaning and their intent. In Minnesota and North Dakota, little change in gun control is seen by law authorities. We have mostly common sense gun laws here with a few exceptions in some of the suburban areas of the Twin Cities.

A commemorative bench

The Friesen Corporation and club president Brett Friesen has placed a classic bench at the clubhouse of Becker County Sportsmen. Lettered in memory of Gene Johnson, who died unexpectedly on the club grounds last year, it is a fitting memorial to a shooter who did much for the club.

Gene Johnson had a great talent for securing advertising support, it being displayed in our annual shoot program. This was an endeavor that provided needed funds for the operation of the Memorial weekend shoot, an event staged every in May.

Gene Johnson was an active participant in the trap shooting at the gun club. His particular favorite was the doubles event, a challenging phase of trap shooting. The beautifully finished eight-foot bench is tastefully lettered with an appropriate message. The club is grateful for receipt of the memorial to Gene Johnson. It will be there for the years to come, remembering a member who cheerfully and energetically worked towards the best interests of Becker County Sportsmen's Club.