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It was disheartening to read the recent article, "In the wake of the latest school massacre, Montana lawmakers remain cautious about gun control." All three of our congressional representatives are “cautious” about bump stocks, National Instant Criminal Background Check System requirements and assault weapon bans out of a feigned concern for the Second Amendment. The sad truth is that these are not Second Amendment issues.

In D.C. v. Heller (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court (authored by conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia) ruled that the Second Amendment encompasses the right to have a handgun in the home for self-protection. The court held that the Constitution protects the sorts of weapons “in common use at the time.” Further, the court recognized that the Second Amendment is not absolute. Rather it is subject to qualification, including the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons” and prohibiting possession of guns by the mentally ill.

Clearly there is no legitimate argument that assault weapons or bump stocks are constitutionally protected. If our congressmen were truly concerned with school safety they would look to the U.S. Supreme Court (not the National Rifle Association) for the meaning of the Second Amendment.

If U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte are going to side with assault weapons over school safety, they should just say so. Don’t insult our dedicated teachers and students by glorifying your so-called “concerns” as being of constitutional stature when, in fact, they are pure pandering to the gun lobby. The real concern should be that the number of mass shootings per year has doubled since the assault weapon ban expired in 2004.

Before we have another school massacre, one would hope that our elected officials will confer with someone who has read the Constitution and understands the Supreme Court’s interpretation. Continued ignorance of the law is unforgivable when lives of students and educators are at stake.

W. William Leaphart is a retired justice of the Montana Supreme Court. He lives in Helena. 


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