Letter to the Editor:

The bill to make Wisconsin a “second amendment sanctuary” sponsored by Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) is unwise, unnecessary and ultimately extremely dangerous. 

I first fired a revolver when I was 8 years old, 72 years ago. My brother, 10 years my senior, persuaded my father to allow him to build a target consisting of a 2-inch slab of iron 18 inches square in the basement of our home on the west side of Chicago in 1949. My brother owned a .44-caliber cap and ball revolver which, though reasonably accurate, was the loudest, most foul smelling weapon you can imagine. 

I cannot recall how my mother tolerated this enterprise or how my father, a traditional and conservative, was persuaded to allow this activity. But it was, however, dangerous, great fun and we did not put a hole in the basement wall. 

The point is that I have been familiar with firearms for seven decades as both a target shooter and a hunter.

Over the years, I have owned 18 firearms, mostly handguns ranging from a Colt .45-caliber model 1911 down to a .22-caliber Ruger, and three rifles of various caliber and three shotguns.

With the few I still own, I enjoy target shooting and retain a degree of dexterity and precision. I know and enjoy firearms in a way that puzzles some members of my family and friends.

Now to the most important point. No liberties guaranteed under the First or Second Amendment are absolute. There is a “reasonable person” standard that constrains freedom of speech and assembly freedom of religion and the press. We accept some limitations based upon what “reasonable people” agree to be true. 

That same set of constraints should be applied to the Second Amendment and, like the First Amendment, should be subjected to the community standard of what is reasonable.

Unfortunately, it appears that protections of the Second Amendment have reached a point where they have become unreasonable guarantees of individual access to the most destructive weapons utterly unrelated to hunting or target shooting and predicated apparently on the assumption that we must be prepared to resist an authoritarian abuse by government using individual militias. 

That is the stuff of paranoia and rejected by a vast majority of reasonable people. However, advocates for unlimited access to weapons, their  industrial producers and a critical number of jurists apparently do not agree and fear the “slippery slope” of gun control. 

The only slippery slope we are on right now is the slippery slope of slaughter, which takes place on a daily basis all over the United States and bears no reasonable relation to the guarantee of access to weapons as ensconced in the second amendment. 

Remember, 40,000 American citizens die each year from gun shots and only 1% of those are the dramatic mass shootings utilizing military style automatic weapons; the balance are gun deaths by handguns, 60% of which are suicides and the vast majority committed in private homes by someone the victim knew.

Of course the AR 15-style combat weapons should be eliminated, but the larger issue of the proliferation of handguns will challenge our imagination and resolve. 

Improved and universal background checks, an end to unregulated “gun shows” and the private party sales that elude all checks, regulation of the small but damaging number of illegal gun dealer sales, are all only a start to reducing the carnage that will take a century to reduce . . . but then I’m 79 so it does not seem unreasonable to start to be “reasonable people.”

James Parker

Eagle River and La Crosse