Virginia House of Delegates speech by Nick Freitas
On March 2, 2018, Virginia House of Delegates member Nick Freitas gave a speech that has since gone viral. It was a good, impassioned and well-reasoned speech. Please listen to the speech in its entirety before continuing to read this post.
Some thoughts about the “two sides of the aisle”
For those of us who are trying to do our part to help reduce gun violence in America, decision-making is difficult. It is clearly not productive if the “other side of the aisle” as referenced in the speech has been as disrespectful as claimed. Both sides in the debate (everywhere, not just on the Virginia House floor) need to stop claiming the “other side” is un-American and ignorant. We believe most Americans feel as we do, that both sides tend to partisan hyperbole that just makes our situation worse. As a country, we should be able to form a clear majority that can work together to defend our Second Amendment and simultaneously care deeply about reducing gun violence in our country.
The “name-calling” approach to the gun debate
Mr. Freitas claimed (probably correctly) that he and other Republicans were called Nazis and worse by Democrats. This is unacceptable and, as Mr. Freitas states, does not help further a fact-based debate. However, many Republicans are equally guilty of this sort of thing. One need only look as far as the home page of the NRA website, with a quote from Wayne LaPierre, the NRA Executive Vice President. His claim that Democrats are terrifying socialists is just as damaging to this debate as what Mr. Feritas describes. The NRA’s claim that the AR-15 is as American as apple pie is equally galling. It’s not hard to find this kind of thing on the NRA website and similar “pro-gun at any cost” outlets. When trying to have a policy discussion, calling into question the love we each have for our country is unacceptable.
Limits to the Second Amendment not addressed by the speech
Mr. Freitas claims that part of the difficulty for “his side” of the debate is that there is no trust that the “other side” does not actually intend to dismantle the Second Amendment. He says he’s worried it starts with outlawing bump stocks, then it will become outlawing semi-automatics, then pistols, then all guns, etc. There are certainly Americans who would like to take such an approach, but they should not be taken as the “norm” by the “other side.” Can’t the “other side” be concerned that Mr. Freitas and others want to expand the current definition of an “arm” as used in the Second Amendment? The NRA and its supporters claim that an Arm should include fully-automatic weapons, which have been banned for civilians since 1986. Once the NRA and others get the 1986 act repealed, won’t they move on to expanding the definition of an Arm to include rocket-propelled grenades or maybe anti-aircraft guns? There are certainly Americans who would like to take such an approach, but they should not be taken as the “norm” by the “other side.” We feel this discussion gets overrun by extremists on both sides.
The Supreme Court helps define an “Arm”
Part of the Supreme Court’s job is to act as final interpreter of federal law, which includes the U.S. Constitution. In the June 26, 2008 District of Columbia et al. v. Heller US Supreme Court majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote:
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”