January 20, 2013

Thanks so much for the analysis of President Obama’s constitutional exegesis in support of more gun control [“In arguing for firearms restrictions, Obama points to Constitution,” news story, Jan. 17]. The Post provided an admiring picture of Mr. Obama’s effort to “turn a perceived strength of gun advocates — the constitutional right to bear arms — into a potential weakness.” He did this, we read, by claiming that Sikhs in Wisconsin were denied the right to worship freely and that shoppers in Oregon and movie goers in Colorado were deprived of the right to peacefully assemble.

However, the most casual reading of the First Amendment indicates that it enjoins the federal government from abridging religious liberty and the right to assemble.

It says nothing about the actions of demented killers. In fact, one suspects that the Framers never conceived of a federal government that could anticipate, much less prevent, the actions of lone madmen across a continental nation. It is something of a mystery how our president, a former professor of constitutional law, missed this obvious distinction.

J.L. Smith, Bethesda

It is a sad commentary that many don’t recognize or appreciate courage when they see it. President Obama and Vice President Biden’s stand against the gun lobby and its supporters is an act of moral courage that is exceedingly rare among today’s politicians.

We are about to find out whether our president or the National Rifle Association is the more powerful. This is something the country needs to know.

Ronald Letteney, Gaithersburg

In her Jan. 18 letter, “No right to military weaponry,” D.W. Gregory displayed an apparent lack of understanding about the very thing she railed against. She wrote that “the issue is not shotguns, hunting rifles or even handguns . . . .” and “I would not deny anyone the right to self-defense.”

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the author is doing by helping to organize the March on Washington for Gun Control and writing that “there is no reason why semiautomatic weapons ought to be widely available to civilians.”

Many modern shotguns, hunting rifles and handguns are semiautomatic weapons, which simply means that they use the energy from the bullet being fired to eject the spent casing and load a fresh bullet or shotgun shell into the chamber. Even sporting rifles such as the Bushmaster AR-15 use this old technology.

Addressing the problems of violent crime and deteriorating mental health makes far more sense than banning old technology, like the semiautomatic shotguns I use to go trap and skeet shooting on weekends. Let’s focus on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals rather than on the inanimate objects themselves.

Steve King, Alexandria

Richard Cohen, meet Courtland Milloy.

Mr. Cohen [“How liberals lost the fight,” op-ed, Jan. 16] called “laughable” the assertion that if Jews had guns in Europe during World War II, fewer would have died in the Holocaust. He called “paranoid” the idea that Americans worry about needing protection from our government and  “the belief that the government is either unwilling or unable to protect us.”

Mr. Milloy refutes [“A staunch defender of civil (and gun) rights,” Metro, Jan. 15]. He reported that Deacons for Defense and Justice reminds us that guns in private hands have been essential to protecting African Americans from people with racial hatreds when the government was indeed “unwilling or unable” to protect them — in living memory and today.

Laughable paranoia? Hardly. Acknowledging the problem of illegal guns, and that of young men without fathers falling into violence, Mr. Milloy made an argument for the Second Amendment grounded in our reality, warts and all.

Shoshana Bryen, Silver Spring