To the editors:
As a feminist, a liberal, and a staunch supporter of individual freedoms, I must take exception to several comments in Harold Henderson's article "Against the Law" (February 5). Mary Becker should have done her homework regarding the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The Second Amendment, as interpreted by the NRA, promotes the responsible ownership and use of firearms. The NRA strongly supports proper training in the safe handling of these very powerful tools. Gun ownership by, and proper training of, women is encouraged. Firearms are "the great equalizer" enabling those who are smaller or weaker to protect themselves against those who are larger or stronger. "A handgun in the home is a contingency, based on the knowledge that if there ever comes a time when it is needed, no substitute will do. Certainly no violent intent is implied any more than the purchaser of life insurance intends to die soon" (Ten Myths About Gun Control, NRA Institute for Legislative Action). In Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms, James Wright and Peter Rossi, in a U.S. Justice Department funded study, found that the threat of an armed citizen (women included) was probably the most effective deterrent to crime in the nation. A woman with a gun is not a victim.
Ms. Becker errs again when she attempts to interpret the Second Amendment with regard to the military. The Second Amendment reads "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." It was written as a reaction to a standing army; it is the antithesis of government supported military. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Paper No. 29) went to great lengths to assure the people that the army would remain small and that the people at large would be properly armed to serve as a check against the standing army. He felt, as did other framers of the Constitution, that the people needed protection from the potential tyranny of a professional armed body of government (Ten Myths About Gun Control).
James Madison (Federalist Paper No. 46) promised the American people that they would continue to possess "the advantage of being armed," and thereby would be able to form the militia when needed as a "barrier against the enterprises of despotic ambition." Historically the term "militia" refers to the people (including women) at large, armed and ready to defend themselves, their homes, and their freedom. They would use arms supplied, not by the government, but by themselves. Federal law defines the militia in Title 10, Section 311(a) of the U.S. Code. Closer to home, the Illinois Constitution defines the the militia in Article XII, Section 1 as: "The State Militia consists of all able-bodied persons." Women are not excluded by the Second Amendment, they are embraced by it. Ms. Becker is clearly wrong in her statement "it fails to include women in one of the defining roles of citizenship-military service." The Second Amendment is NOT about military service. It is antimilitary. If she needs an invitation to exercise her rights as a citizen then I extend this invitation: Ms. Becker, I invite you to exercise your constitutional right to participate in the militia of the State of Illinois.
John F. Kennedy said the following in an interview for Guns magazine: "By calling attention to a well-regulated militia for the security of our Nation, and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our Founding Fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny, which gave rise to the Second Amendment, will ever be a major danger to our Nation, the amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic military-civilian relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important."
Oh, one last note about women and guns: target shooting is an Olympic event and the only gold medals taken by the United States (in pistol events) at the Olympics last year were won by women.