U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks to reporters after giving an address to state lawmakers in Juneau on Feb. 17. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks to reporters after giving an address to state lawmakers in Juneau on Feb. 17. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Opinion: Rep. Mary Peltola and the Second Amendment

Alaska congresswoman’s overly strict interpretation keeps her from supporting reasonable gun limits

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Monday, April 17, 2023 10:23pm
  • Opinion

On March 27, a 28-year-old woman who reportedly identified as a man murdered six people, including three 9-year-old children, at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. Courageous police officers quickly arrived on scene and killed him. They recovered three weapons, including an AR-15 and a semi-automatic pistol. All had been legally purchased.

“The worst part is these things just seem so commonplace now and that’s very disturbing to me as a mother,” Rep. Mary Peltola said on Talk of Alaska last week. But she utterly failed to offer an intelligent assessment as to why they keep recurring or how to prevent them from happening so often.

Then on Monday we got a reminder of how common they are. A young man walked into a bank in Louisville, Kentucky, carrying the AR-15 he legally purchased and murdered five people before the police killed hm.

The Talk of Alaska discussion was initiated by a caller from Juneau who has “been hunting and fishing for almost 70 years.” He believes there’s “absolutely no reason why any Alaskan needs to own an AR-15.”

“I do support Second Amendment rights” Peltola replied. “There are many clear steps that can be taken to protect our children without infringing on these rights of law-abiding gun owners. And it’s far past time we start implementing all of the things that can be done.”

Any listener hoping she’d agree that weapons like the AR-15 should be banned must have been bitterly disappointed.

It’s unlikely a ban on such weapons would violate anyone’s Second Amendment right. As I’ve written numerous times, in the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, U.S. Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia wrote “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” And he defended “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

But that’s one clear step Peltola won’t consider.

Talk of Alaska host Lori Townsend asked if she supported “more stringent background checks.” Eliminating loopholes that allow anyone to buy any weapon online or at gun shows is another seemingly clear step. But Peltola didn’t answer the question.

She did say she’s “very disturbed by the mental health issue,” particularly people living “isolated existences.” She described how many mass killers who probably expect to be killed by the police as a “very uniquely American problem right now.”

But to her the “more overarching problem” is people on both sides “digging in and vilifying the other side.”

“We need to be open minded” she concluded. “We need hear each other out.”

That’s true. But her overly strict reading of the Second Amendment limits her ability to listen to the valid mitigation measures supported by many concerned Americans.

Peltola and Townsend didn’t engage in the far right’s focus on the transgender shooter in Nashville. But to see another unique part of the problem let’s look at a few prominent tweets.

In a video post Donald Trump Jr. screamed about “a clear epidemic of trans or nonbinary mass shooters, people who according to the CDC make up 0.6 percent of the adult population.”

Benny Johnson of Turning Point USA named three other trans and non-binary shooters then wrote “One thing is VERY clear: the modern trans movement is radicalizing activists into terrorists.”

In response to that, a staff writer at the Dallas Express pointed out that, depending on the definition of a mass shooting, those committed by trans or non-binary individuals accounts for somewhere between 0.14% and 1.3%. And they quoted a professor who wrote “99% of mass shooters in the United States are cis gendered.”

But even that misses a major point. Men were the perpetrator in more than 98% of mass shootings. And they own more than their demographic share of the 20 million semi-automatic weapons in circulation.

That puts Peltola’s characterization of what’s unique about mass shootings in America at the tail end of the problem.

First, it’s much too easy to legally obtain AR-15s and the 50 other weapons like it. Too many American men think it’s their sacred right to own one or more of them. And now she’s joined the members of Congress who steadfastly prioritize the Second Amendment over the right to life of law-abiding citizens who might someday find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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