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Pioneer Editorial: Law reminds us of Second Amendment

The issue of our constitution right to bear arms -- the rights exercised under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment -- took new meaning this week as the U.S. House joined the U.S. Senate in strengthening those rights by prohibiting law enforcement from confiscating legally owned guns.

One would assume the Second Amendment already states that, but apparently the measure is needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of people were left to fend for themselves in New Orleans and problems occurred with looters and others who illegally possessed firearms.

We want to make a strong stand that illegal use of firearms should not be condoned, and the public safety remains a key priority for law enforcement. But so does our constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms, making the House and Senate action necessary.

The House voted 322-99 on Tuesday, joining the Senate in its 84-16 vote earlier this month to prevent law enforcement officers from confiscating legally owned guns during a national disaster or emergency. It is limited, however, to federal law enforcement or military officers, along with local police that receive federal funds.

The most stir is coming from lawmakers who represent heavily populated urban areas, such as New York City, who envision crowds of gunmen roaming the streets during a disaster or blackout. One called the prohibition bill "insane." But most of us in the West understand survival and personal protection, and would want to be armed in situations of disaster or terror attack to protect ourselves and our families. To us, it's a way of life -- but to be used lawfully and legally.

The Fraternal Order of Police approved of the congressional action, with its national president noting that "a law-abiding citizen who possesses a firearm lawfully represents no danger to law enforcement officers or any other first responder."

It is precise situations like Hurricane Katrina that prove the need for law-abiding citizens to keep their firearms. Sitting in their homes, surrounding by rising waters, and cut off from electricity and telephone -- and therefore from 911 response -- the protection of one's property from looters and others who would do harm must be guaranteed, even if that means the use of firearms legally possessed by that homeowner.

It seems that such situations were exactly why our Founding Fathers penned the Second Amendment. It's just sad that we have to pass a law to restate that amendment to remind law enforcement that it still is in force.