In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and the subsequent dialogue that occurred for the weeks after, I did something that I only do in rare circumstances: I wrote a letter to my Representative, Jim Matheson (D).*
*Though he is not currently my Representative, he was when I wrote the letter in December. I’m now “represented” by some guy I didn’t vote for, which is par for the course living as a Democrat in Utah.
I don’t remember what I specifically wrote, though my letter was prompted by the good Congressman being the leading Utah recipient of funds from the NRA during the last election cycle (see the full list here). I actually reached out to all the folks on the list, asking them to consider returning the money to an organization that is the primary reason why we can’t have a valid gun control debate in this country.
On Thursday, I finally received a response from Mr. Matheson, and like the last time my elected official reached out to me, it was a form letter that didn’t actually answer what I was asking. Unlike last time, however, it took nearly two months to get a response. You would think that with a form letter response, it could have been fired off within a week, but I digress. At least I got a response.
Since it is not a personalized letter and is probably like every other letter sent out regarding this issue from his office, I am going to reproduce it here. While I do appreciate the Congressman expressing his views, I was a little disheartened by his interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, which is one that I don’t subscribe to. Nevertheless, just because we share a political affiliation doesn’t mean we will see eye-to-eye on every issue, and this is one where we have a difference of opinion.
Here’s the letter:
Dear Mr. Eberhard:Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding firearms issues. I appreciate hearing about your interest in the issues facing our country and state, and I am glad for the opportunity to respond to your inquiry.The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes the right to bear arms, which more commonly means owning or possessing a firearm. Our Founding Fathers recognized this right when they included it as one of the original 10 Amendments, or Bill of Rights, to the Constitution. The ability to purchase and own firearms can be traced to the founding and defense of our nation, and I believe in the continued importance of the Second Amendment today. I feel strongly that the vast majority of gun owners in Utah and across the country understand the serious responsibilities associated with gun ownership, and they possess and use firearms legally.Across our country, we have all been shocked and saddened by recent tragedies involving gun violence perpetrated by disturbed individuals. As a result there has been a great deal of discussion in the public policy world about possible steps to prevent tragic acts of violence. I believe responsible individuals have a constitutional right to own firearms, and that this right should not be limited. However, even the staunchest defenders of Second Amendment rights are deeply troubled by acts of senseless and brutal violence. It is here that we need to start, as a country, a broad discussion about how to reduce acts of violence in our society. Each of us should have the expectation of safety in our daily lives.There are three general topics that should be considered in this discussion. First, we should examine our existing gun laws to determine their effectiveness as they are currently being enforced. Second, we should address the current mental health system in our country and evaluate options to make improvements. Third, we should examine the culture of violence in today’s society and seek out ideas to counteract that culture.As we attempt to find common ground on efforts to reduce violence in our country, we should keep in mind the importance of seeking pragmatic, bipartisan solutions. Any meaningful proposals should be based on facts and with data demonstrating how they will reduce incidents of violence. For example, the so-called Assault Weapons Ban was in place for ten years before it expired in 2004, and the consensus of dozens of studies of that law demonstrate that the law had no real effect on reducing acts of gun violence in our country. The discussion should be deliberative and not reactionary, broad based and not simplistic, and formed through consensus of a wide range of interests and not from a small group of people.Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with me. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact my office.Best Wishes,
Member of Congress