But the public should also urge the selectmen not to stop here, but to continue their efforts to strengthen gun laws and to address the larger issues surrounding gun violence. The new ordinance is a small but important step on a long road to a safer world.
Weston officials took bold action immediately after the tragic shootings in neighboring Newtown brought gun violence to the forefront of the national consciousness. In a heartfelt and well-intentioned attempt to protect its citizens, town leaders acted like just that — leaders. All three ignored political party and stood together to say, “Enough is enough.” They looked at what the state and federal government had done since the last several tragic mass shootings to strengthen the laws that protect law-abiding citizens from gun violence, and they realized it was next to nothing.
So they took to heart the phrase “Think globally, act locally,” and they took to heart their sworn duty as elected officials to put the health and safety of the town’s residents first. They took a look at the town’s current gun ordinance and realized it needed updating and strengthening.
The selectmen quickly found themselves in the cross hairs, so to speak, of powerful, well-financed lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association, and they backed down — for now, at least — on some of the trickier and more controversial issues, like banning assault weapons and high-capacity cartridges and requiring safer storage methods.
And that’s OK — for now. Weston should take pride in its stronger, more effective firearms ordinance. But those trickier issues — what kinds of weapons should people be allowed to own and what kinds of restrictions should be placed on their use and where they are kept — must be addressed soon at every level of government and by every American citizen.
The “right to bear arms” does not give Americans the right to have and use weapons irresponsibly, just as it has been upheld that the “right to free speech” does not give Americans the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater that’s not on fire. It does not give gun owners the right to put people’s lives in danger. This Second Amendment right was given to citizens to protect them from political tyranny, not to allow anyone to own and use a lethal weapon — the likes of which our forefathers never imagined in their wildest nightmares — capable of mowing down an entire classroom of small children in an instant. That right is absolutely not protected under any constitution any self-respecting American wants to live under.
With rights come responsibilities; our society is built on that premise. Weston’s new ordinance emphasizes responsible gun ownership, and that is a positive step.
But the next step must be to address the underlying culture of violence that makes it acceptable to use guns in the first place. With our constitutional right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” we have the responsibility to teach our children to respect the sacredness of that right above all others.