Right to bear arms should be enshrined in constitution
Stabroek News
November 5, 2001

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Dear Editor,

Over the past two weeks since I submitted my opinion on the right to bear arms, several persons have registered the view that the widespread ownership of a firearm would lead to mayhem. Their concern is understandable but several issues need to be separated in order to achieve clarity. First, we need to appreciate whether it is the ownership of the firearm or the inability to effectively regulate the ownership and control of the use of the firearm, that contributes to the perception of chaos. Again, in my opinion, it is a case of the latter rather than the former.

Second, there is a clear distinction between the right to ownership and the lawful (or unlawful) exercise of the responsibility that is attached to such ownership. In both instances there is ample opportunity for stringent regulation and / or enforcement to ensure that those who bear this responsibility to bear arms, act within the law. Currently, there is a sufficiently large amount of illegally owned firearms, coupled with an inability to control their use, that warrants not only stricter enforcement but requires an option to the law-abiding citizens.

Third, let me expand on the idea of the right to bear arms by noting that this concept is not new to man (much less Guyanese) since it is instinctive for the human being to use whatever means is at his disposal to preserve his life and that of his young. This instinctive need evolved over the centuries to include the protection of property. Given the fear that many victims and the victimized feel, they themselves run the risk of running afoul of the law by seeking to do what is basically written into their genes. It is in this context that I proffer the idea that the right to bear arms be enshrined in the constitution to protect the law-abiding citizen. Regulation and enforcement is an entirely different issue that falls within the scope and responsibility of the government.

Some have also posited the view that the sole purpose of the firearm is to kill but this is a limited vision of its potential. A firearm does the following:

* it satisfies the psychological need to feel safe and secure

* it has the potential of offering comfort to those who avidly compete through the application of their skill (GNRA)

* the deterrent capabilities are well documented (examine the Cold War to appreciate the effect of the build-up of weapons by those who were prepared to stand against what was a global injustice) and, lastly

* the owner is granted the right to exercise justifiable deadly force.

Finally, let me reiterate the fact that I do not nor could not condone a typical 'Wild West' scenario, on the contrary, I wholeheartedly support the institution of good order and disciplined behaviour across all segments of society.

Yours faithfully,

Merrill Hyman Sr