As parents, or friends of parents, the last weekend has been exceptionally difficult. Friends have debated whether to tell their children what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, and, if so, how to explain what happened. Many of us likely have friends calling for greater gun control, and others calling for greater access to guns for protection, all referencing the Second Amendment. I, personally, have a difficult time with both sides of the issue. On the one hand, I do not understand why a civilian needs an automatic or assault weapon. On the other hand, the founding fathers put the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment, even before protecting the right against unreasonable search and seizure. And the answer to my question can be answered by the question, "Why do you have to be able to say something offensive?" Some reenacting weapons are considered assault rifles because they have sniper scopes too. I know any number of responsible and irresponsible gun owners who take weapons into entirely inappropriate circumstances, but legally. Then again, it took three seconds to reload a rifle in 1787, when the constitution was written. The issue of original intent versus modern circumstances is one that occurs in all constitutional issues, but seems to be more intense in these discussions of gun control, or not, and gun safety. In short, the questions and issues are numberless, and a discussion covering all of them is coming. We will be asked questions by friends because we are lawyers. And we will not necessarily have all of the answers.
However, because we are attorneys, we will be asked our thoughts regarding the Second Amendment; gun control; gun access; gun safety; and other issues related to forceful treatment of mental health. And we, as attorneys, will have varied opinions and varied strength of opinions. But, the one thing we are uniquely qualified to do, by virtue of our training and professionalism, is steer the conversation to a respectful tone, with reasoned opinions. We can ensure that all sides are heard, rationally. We can ensure that the discussion is held without unchallenged hyperbole. We are in possibly the best position to analyze the data that all sides will be throwing at us, to find flaws, and strengths, in the various arguments, and to present them, calmly and professionally to other people.
We, as lawyers, will not have, and should not think we have, all the answers. But we can and should ensure that the upcoming discussions recognize the legitimacy of the various points of view and are held rationally, without rancor.