Letter: Importance of the First Amendment
To the Editor:
While your reporter in large part accurately quoted my words at the Strafford Town Meeting, the article painted an inaccurate picture of the most important point I made and also of my position regarding guns in American life.
Yes, I am a retired Air Force officer, I was a hunter in my youth and I do now abhor the way the National Rifle Association has become a very significant part of the problem by having become a key actor in the nexus of politics-industrial-business-lobbying rather than what I recall it to have been when I was a Boy Scout.
Nevertheless, I sought to stake out a moderate position between the right and left in the amendment I proposed to Article 6. Section 3 of that article was amended to read: “Enforce gun trafficking as a federal crime with enhanced penalties for ‘straw purchasers,’ ” referring to those who arm criminals. Immediately thereafter, I approached another military veteran who spoke clearly and passionately in support of gun ownership, accepting his invitation to begin a discussion about, among other things, how Vermont can find a “Swiss solution” to the matter of military-style weapons. We shall begin that conversation soon as local residents and citizens of the nation we both served in uniform.
I pointed out that the First Amendment precedes — and I believe is morally more important than — the Second, such that speech, conversation and dialogue are the only way to proceed. While I do hope that we will stop worshipping guns — along with fear and violence — in our nation, I know that we cannot approach that shift in consciousness and return the gun to a rational place in society absent pursuing dialogue with one another. In brief, what your reporter quoted tends to portray me as on one particular side of the debate; I beg here to differ.
The Rev. R. Byron Breese