Dear Editorial Board,
Please accept this letter as a rebuttal to Mr. Allegretti’s critique of your Beacon gun control editorial from the 20 October 2015 issue.
Mr. Allegretti’s critique has a series of problems. It is not entirely clear what college newspapers he has been reading the last 60 years as he fails to specify which ones he has read. Your award-winning newspaper has had solid articles and opinions and as was the case with the editorial he was critiquing, had solid evidence. Mr. Allegretti may not like the “facts” of your opinion article and might rather prefer to stick to his “opinions,” but as he himself noted, that’s not a wise decision.
As a historian of crime and punishment (three books and dozens of articles) I can testify to the accurateness of the generalizations, evidence and analysis made in the Beacon editorial. When the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written at the end of the 18th century, there were very few organizations of public safety on the frontier (and even those that did exist operated in extralegal and illegal guises). Allegretti’s suggestion that there are NOW (in the 21st century) a whole host of neighborhood watch organizations only reaffirms the argument that society has changed. He has undermined his own position.
The editorial’s second assertion that animal attacks were more likely to occur on the frontier is also valid. Allegretti’s response was that there has been an increase in wild animal captures and relocations lately. This does not rebut the argument, however. In fact, it only reaffirms it again. American suburban sprawl has, in fact, infringed seriously upon wildlife habitats and the number of animal-human encounters has increased lately. This does not discount that phenomenon in the 18th or 19th century, but suggests that we have, by virtue of our careless material growth, put some Americans back into contact with wild animals, most of which are dwindling in numbers.
If Mr. Allegretti is really interested in studying the past with regard to the Second Amendment, we can correct his gross misunderstanding and pull him away from the post-1980s NRA rhetoric fairly easily, if he is willing to learn that past and the truth about the Second Amendment. First, the founders wrote the Second Amendment with the intention of creating a “well-regulated militia” because it was both too expensive for the fledgling republic to do so and there was a prevailing fear of an American “standing army” (which we have clearly gotten over). The debate over the Second Amendment at those original sessions almost exclusively focused on how certain religions might be granted exemption from militia duty. It was all about the militia and not the “right to bear arms.” Second, over the course of the 175 years, Americans understood the need for gun control and limits upon that “right.” Just as Americans limited the right to free speech (see libel laws, slander laws, safety laws on yelling “fire,” etc.), Americans understood that guns ought to be regulated to a certain extent. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on four different occasions between 1789 and the 1980s that gun regulations were constitutional. It has only been since the 1980s when the NRA ran an effective (but factually erroneous) campaign to focus on the “right to bear arms” and, in doing so, drive up gun sales that the focus has shifted. They hired a series of writers who authored articles that warped and twisted the history of the Second Amendment and have artificially spiked the body of literature in a non-gun control direction. Historians, however, have remained steadfast about the truth of our nation’s gun-control past.
Letters to the Editor, particularly from those with a vested interest in the success of the university, ought to be factual and civil and not filled with falsehood and simplified rhetoric. I applaud The Beacon for publishing Mr. Allegretti’s critique as they have been consistently open to all ideas and have not discriminated against those with opinions beyond their own. I would encourage Mr. Allegretti, however, that when he writes future Letters to the Editor that they be accurate, informed and for the common good of the student body and the body of knowledge and not just his falsely-based NRA-indoctrinated principles.
—Dr. Joseph Laythe, Professor of History, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Joseph Laythe is the father of Lydia Laythe, The Beacon Opinion Section editor.