June 23, 2009
Thank you for contacting me about Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act (H.R. 45) and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome this opportunity to respond.
I am a strong supporter of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms. I believe law-abiding citizens have a fundamental constitutional right to own firearms and the government has the responsibility to protect that right. I have and will continue to strongly defend that right in Congress.
As you know, H.R. 45 would implement a system of licensing for purchasers of certain firearms and for a record of sale system for those firearms. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. I will certainly keep your concerns in mind should this legislation come to the House floor for a vote.
Please allow me to share my personal stance and support for the Second Amendment. I grew up in a small rural town where most of the families hunted for recreation and to put food on the table. My father taught us about guns and gun safety from the time we were five years old and there was a gun rack with a thirty-ought six, a twelve gauge and a twenty-two right above our dinner table. Dad gave us a list of rules that I can still remember: never play with a gun; treat all guns as if they were loaded, etc. Before we got our first BB guns as kids we had to prove we knew the rules and then show with empty guns that we understood how to use them safely.
Some of the best memories I have of growing up are from hunting and shooting. I know so well the sound of my father waking us in the early hours, the smell of the woods, the chill in the morning air, learning to walk quietly among the dry leaves. I also know the responsibility of cleaning and skinning an animal we killed, packing it out, taking care of the meat and hide, and the code of ethics that says you eat what you kill.
When we weren’t hunting, guns were still part of our life growing up because the whole family enjoyed target shooting. We reloaded our ammunition and weekends were often spent plinking at bottles, shooting trap, or sighting in rifles as the season approached. We got to be pretty fair shots and in scouts I earned marksmanship awards and won shooting competitions.
Guns and hunting are something I grew up with and understand and respect. My other experience with guns comes from working in hospitals and clinics with the victims of gun accidents or violence in their families. I have treated patients with severe bullet wounds to the brain and I have helped the family members of people who were killed with guns try to rebuild their lives and cope with the loss. So, while I know well the enjoyment that can come with responsible use of firearms, I also know the harm that can come from irresponsible or illegal use of firearms from my work as a as a health care professional.
Moreover, as a member of Congress I am sworn to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Based on the Second Amendment, I strongly believe law abiding citizens have a fundamental constitutional right to own firearms and the government has a responsibility to protect that right. I also believe that the people who manufacture, sell and use firearms have a responsibility to ensure they are used safely and responsibly. That is why I have emphasized a common sense approach that respects gun rights, but also calls for reasonable gun safety and responsibility.
While protecting the right to keep and bear arms, I believe the interest of public safety demands that we must keep guns out of the hands of criminals and we must take reasonable and responsible measures to ensure that unsupervised children do not have access to firearms. I also believe that certain firearms, such as fully automatic weapons intended for military use, should not be available to the general public except under very specific conditions and qualifications.
I recognize that my position on this issue may not please people on either extreme of this issue, but it is based on reason, experience, common sense and a recognition that rights, including Constitutional protected rights, come with responsibilities.
Again, I appreciate knowing your thoughts on this topic. Please be assured that I do take note of your concerns and sincerely appreciate you taking the time to contact me. I will keep your thoughts in mind as I continue to represent Southwest Washington.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE LETTER I SENT