This story is part of a Q&A series where students took an issue of national importance that they’re researching in their government class, and conducted an in-person interview with somebody actively involved with fighting for or against that issue.
By: Nicholas Garland
I interviewed Donald Kilmer, a lawyer who specializes in firearms law and the Constitution, at his San Jose office, to get an opinion on gun rights. I felt this was an especially important issue in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. While he claimed that he thought the Second Amendment is still relevant in the same way that it was when it was written, I disagree. Below is his interview with me, excerpted for readability.
Q: You said that you are pro second amendment, right?
I am pro the Constitution and all of the Bill of Rights. I think the First Amendment is as important as the Second, as important as the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Third, all of them.
Q: And the Second Amendment should be applied the same way as it was when it was drafted?
Well, the Second Amendment hasn’t been applied in either the federal government or state governments until 2008 and 2010 so, your question doesn’t make sense because the Second Amendment wasn’t enforced until almost 200 years after it was ratified. It was just sitting there, kind of dormant. Sort of like the Third Amendment says the government can’t quarter troops in your home, there hasn’t been any litigation on that because the government hasn’t tried to put troops in our homes.
Q: In light of the Las Vegas shooting, do you think that gun laws should be tightened?
I struggle to understand what gun law would have prevented this deranged killer from doing what he did. So I guess the answer to the question is no, I don’t perceive any law that would stop somebody who wants to kill from killing. There are too many other ways of killing people. Guns just happen to be particularly effective tools for killing which is what makes them good for self defense.
Q: Are “safety” and “self-defense” a good and valid reason to own a gun?
The Second Amendment does reserve the right to have a gun for self defense, that’s part of the Second Amendment right. If you’re asking me a personal question as to whether or not it is a good idea to have a gun for self-defense, I would probably answer yes, but only if you know how to properly handle a gun. You properly store it, and unauthorized people can’t get access to it. So it’s kind of a two-part answer, there’s a personal question. In the First Amendment context, if you asked me if it’s a good idea to read books, I would say, “Well yes it’s a good idea to read books and having a book is a right in the First Amendment, but the First Amendment doesn’t compel you to get a book.”
Q: If you could make everything the way you want in terms of guns and gun laws, what would you envision?
I would say that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as it was originally written and understood. That is you have the right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes, you have the right to keep and bear ordinary and common firearms.