Ban any guns with detachable magazines
The blood-splattered classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary and the 26 photos of the now-dead children and teachers call us to use our utmost creative intelligence, both mental and spiritual, to solve a seemingly intractable problem.
Intellectually, we're asked to take a closer look at which weapons of war we allow in our community, while still observing the Second Amendment. Obviously, our modern weapons are many times more lethal than they were when the Bill of Rights was ratified, and today we prohibit civilian possession of machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, for example, without violating anyone's constitutional rights.
NRA President David Keene warns us that detachable ammunition magazines in, say, our Bushmaster AR-15s and our Glock 19s take only seconds to change, thus greatly multiplying their killing potential. The profane tragedy in Connecticut provides a ghastly demonstration. It seems reasonable to conclude that we must now prohibit any guns with detachable magazines of any capacity.
By comparison, "The Guns that Won the West," the Winchester rifles and Colt revolvers, had fixed magazines. If we limit ourselves to modern guns with fixed magazines holding about six cartridges, we will surely go a long way toward protecting ourselves from mass slaughter. A generous buy-back program could fund the transition.
We can also reduce the number and accessibility of guns in our neighborhoods and insist on adequate storage safety. The late Nancy Lanza had seven guns. Eight guns were recovered from two recent residential burglaries in Baker City. We need to ensure wise and competent gun ownership.
Spiritually, I believe we're asked to gently heal the obsessive fear and harsh condemnation that blocks reasoned debate, obscures our shared humanity, and spurs us to become what we hate. Texas Governor Rick Perry tells us to pray for guidance. I agree.
In addition to the Second Amendment, our Constitution promises to insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare - which means our well-being: health, happiness, and prosperity. I urge us all to search our hearts and minds to discern the full intent and meaning of all the provisions and protections of our marvelous Constitution.
Fight to protect our Second Amendment rights
During my 91 years as an American, I have watched the slow deterioration of our individual rights and freedoms. God bless our Oregon sheriffs and those in so many states across the U.S. for their guts in refusing to carry out any orders that would infringe upon our Second Amendment rights. I've long admired Sheriff Arapaio of Arizona for bucking the federal government, including both our president and Congress who fail to enforce border security, which is a duty of our government stated in the Constitution. Our government "walked" 2,000 guns into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels who used them to kill 300 or more people, including Americans, while our own border patrol guards were only allowed beanbag rounds with which to defend themselves. On top of these failures, Obama now wants to begin stripping Americans of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms while at the same time pushing for the Small Arms Treaty with the U.N. which would give the U.N. the power to police Americans, thereby giving up our national sovereignty. Obama just took his second oath to uphold the Constitution. Words are easy, but how unconstitutional his actions are!
Taking away our gun rights makes as much sense as trying to stop drunk driving deaths by making it harder for sober drivers to buy cars. We need to fight for our Second Amendment rights. That amendment was put in place for good reason - and that reason was not about hunting. That amendment allows Americans to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. Do our elected officials demonstrate the epitome of morality, ethics, character, common sense, integrity or self-restraint? Absolutely not. All the more reason to make sure the inalienable rights in our Constitution are preserved.
Ann E. Racey
Don't put 8th-graders at BHS
We are writing you to warn of some of the legal dangers that lurk if eighth-grade students are placed at the high school. Because this is one of the options being proposed with our current overcrowding issue, we are publicly warning about the dangers of this choice.
We understand that the school board has many difficult decisions to make due to our continuing challenging economic circumstances, but we urge you most strongly to think very carefully before placing adolescents between the ages of 13 years to 19 years together in the same school building. Your decision will be in place for many years, long after many of us are no longer in our current positions of service to the community.
Under Oregon law, youth under the age of 18 years cannot consent to sexual relations.
Yet the Legislature recognizes that some youth engage in sexual relations voluntarily. Because of this, the Legislature created a defense if the victims' lack of consent was due solely to incapacity due to age. The defense only applies if the actor is less than three years older than the victim at the time of the alleged offense.
Under current Oregon law, all citizens 15 years of age or older are subject to Oregon Revised Statute 137.700, which is known as Ballot Measure 11. This statute requires mandatory prison sentences when a person is convicted of specific crimes. Four of these crimes apply when the victim is under 14 years of age. These crimes are Rape in the Second Degree, Sodomy in the Second Degree, Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the Second Degree, and Sexual Abuse in the First Degree.
Why our concern? For many years we have prosecuted, defended, or judged cases in Baker County and have dealt with these types of cases. We are very aware that our concerns probably don't apply to the vast majority of the students at the high school. However, we have seen some good kids let passions get out of control or use poor judgment regarding relationships.
Many eighth-grade students are 13 years of age for all or most of that school year. To put these immature youth under the age of 14 years with older, more sophisticated youth may be a recipe for a life-altering disaster. The results of these actions, whether done with bad intent or not, will then be catastrophic for all involved. Should a 16, 17, 18, or 19-year-old youth become involved sexually with a 13-year-old eighth-grader and be convicted, the result is a mandatory 75-month sentence in a youth correctional facility or prison. This cost to society does not count the emotional price paid by the victim, community, and others.
When we say become involved sexually, we want people to understand this includes a touch over clothing upon the private parts of another for a sexual purpose.
Anecdotally we have asked many adult women what age boys they were most interested in when they entered high school. The answer is almost universally, "the older boys." When they are asked if they think their interest in older boys would be different if they were eighth- graders at a high school, the vast majority still felt they would be interested in older boys.
We choose not to paint the picture any further. We are sure you are well aware of the foibles of adolescence. We would rather see parents help their teenagers through these difficult years. Please consider the non-economic price paid by society and, specifically, the youth if these acts should occur. Placing eighth-grade students at the high school increases the risk of such a price being paid by youth making dumb choices.
Judge Greg Baxter presidents over the Baker County Circuit Court.
J. Robert Moon Jr. is a Baker City defense attorney.
Matthew B. Shirtcliff is Baker County district attorney.