Spurred by the brave students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are speaking out on the need for gun control, we must return to a common sense debate about guns.

We as Americans have allowed the NRA to become much too powerful. The NRA says it has 5 million members. That’s less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. Even more telling, it represents less than 7 percent of U.S. gun owners.

The NRA isn’t a voice for gun owners and sportsmen, it is a lobbying organization for gun makers, the companies that profit from the sale of guns, ammunition and accessories. Believing the NRA speaks for sportsmen and gun owners is akin to believing that PhRMA represents the interests of people who take prescription medications or that tobacco company lobbyists have the best interests of smokers at the top of their list of priorities.

It is hard to stand up to gun-rights enthusiasts. We know. They have threatened the lives of BDN staff members, their families and even their children. They have threatened family members of children killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a former student shot 31 people, killing 17, earlier this month. They have threatened students from the Florida school who are speaking out for gun control. This is not humane. People with empathy and consciences don’t behave this way.

It is time for the majority of Americans, who have compassion and decency, to regain control of this debate.

We have also allowed fealty to the Second Amendment to overwhelm the rights guaranteed by other amendments. The Second Amendment right to arms should not negate a child’s right to attend school without fear of being killed. It does not overrule a family’s freedom to attend church without being murdered. Our daily pursuit of life, liberty and happiness cannot be held hostage to the right to bear arms.

There is a common sense middle ground. The right to bear arms is not absolute. Even strident conservative Justice Antonin Scalia believed that.

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Scalia wrote in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case that defined an individual right to own firearms under the Second Amendment. “[C]ommentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Scalia also reiterated the court’s deference to “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

The Supreme Court, through its most conservative member at the time, reaffirmed that limits can be placed on gun ownership. The job for Congress, then, is to determine what limits are warranted to stop the continuous, periodic slaughter of Americans at schools, movie theaters, concerts, churches and other venues.

A limit on the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and their ammunitions is a good place to start.

Another conservative icon, former President Ronald Reagan, became an advocate for limitations on gun ownership. After a 1989 shooting at a school in Stockton, California, Reagan said: “I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense.”

“But,” he added, “I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.”

The same logic can be extended to today’s weapon of choice for assassins, the AR-15.

As lawmakers at the state and federal levels restart a discussion of gun laws, they must not exaggerate the scope and intent of the Second Amendment, and they must keep the size and role of the NRA in perspective.

That’s the least they owe the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their classmates and colleagues for whom going to school will never be the same.

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