Changes must not infringe on rights

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States – particularly the 14 words in that last, independent clause – are what keep firearm ownership rights of Americans from being, well, infringed. Indeed, those who do not believe the advent of arms affordable for the common man merely was coincidental to the securing of democracies here and elsewhere in the world may feel correct in thinking the second item in the bill of rights preserves all other freedoms.

There are Americans who, for reasons based in good intent, would favor restrictions on firearm sales and possession, if not an outright ban. Short of passing another amendment, it would be difficult for Congress to grant that wish without violating the Constitution.

Some may hope, and others fear, President Barack Obama would at least limit or prohibit private ownership of certain types of firearms via executive fiat.

Yet most of the 23 points proposed by the president Wednesday appear to be common-sense approaches to reducing gun violence, and within the constitutional authority of the executive branch. Some – such as nominating a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – actually are overdue.

It’s quite likely advocates of gun control will be more disappointed in the breadth and depth of the 23 points than gun-rights advocates. Regardless, presidential and congressional action in this matter must be within the bounds of the Constitution.

That must be remembered if the president pursues legislation seeking a ban on types of firearms and volumes of ammunition magazines – items absent from the proposal outlines Wednesday.