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Rights and freedoms come with responsibilities

Any attempt, no matter how slight, to suggest that we should consider some limits on gun ownership in the United States is typically met with angry reactions.

“Give them one ounce and they’ll take a pound of the Constitution,” the argument typically goes.

In the latest attempt to limit second amendment rights, 17 states have passed so-called “Red Flag Laws” that would allow families and law enforcement officers to utilize the court system to take guns away from people who are deemed mentally unstable or a danger to society.

Two Mississippi Senators recently introduced such a law in the state Senate that even the bill’s authors say will never see the light of day.

We the people of the United States love our guns. We hunt with them. We use them for protection. We shoot them at the shooting range. We collect them. We use them in war. It is our Constitutional right to own and bare arms.

The slippery slope argument has some merit.

I do wonder, however, if any measure of gun control should ever be accepted. I do think some people out there should not have access to guns.

On the other hand should we allow everyone and anyone with money to have a bazooka, a grenade launcher, an AK-47 style weapon? Where do we draw the line?

In light of recent mass shootings, such as the one in Dayton, Ohio, last year in which a gunman used such a weapon to kill nine people by firing 41 shots in 30 seconds, should people be allowed to have those weapons?

If the perpetrators didn’t have such weapons would they still be able to kill as many people as they wanted?

One argument goes that such people would just find another means to kill masses of random people if that’s what they were set on doing.

Another argument goes that if you pass gun control laws the only people who will have guns will be criminals.

I’ve always believed that argument could be lodged against just about any law on the books. If you pass a law, the only people it will punish are the good people who will follow that law.

As Americans we enjoy many rights and freedoms granted to us in the Constitution, which our forefathers have fought and died defending over centuries.

Some of those freedoms do come with limits and responsibilities. We are free to say and print what we want but we cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Of course we can own and carry guns, but we cannot use them to kill our enemies or random people. We have those laws on the books. Trying to figure out who is not mentally stable enough to own guns, though, is a difficult task indeed.

The answer I believe to keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill and unstable people who might use them against innocent people is to put more resources behind mental health.

Instead of locking mentally unstable people in prison and releasing them from the underfunded and overcrowded prisons, we should invest in creating mental health programs and interdiction centers for prevention and healing rather than neglect and punishment.

Not only might that be a better sell on people who value their second amendment rights, but it also might be a better plan for preventing mass shootings.

Scott Hawkins is the editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.