When Discussing the Second Amendment, Keep the First in Mind TooBy Jay Carney, White House Press SecretaryThank you for participating in We the People to speak out on an issue that matters to you.Let’s not let arguments over the Constitution’s Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First. President Obama believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. However, the Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy. Americans may disagree on matters of public policy and express those disagreements vigorously, but no one should be punished by the government simply because he or she expressed a view on the Second Amendment — or any other matter of public concern.
We recognize that the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, sparked an intense, and at times emotional, national conversation about the steps we can take as a country to reduce gun violence. In fact, your petition is one of many on the issue, and President Obama personally responded by sharing his views on this important issue.
Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.
But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.
The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111