My Turn: ‘Constitutional cafeteria’ needs a varied menu

  • Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013 2:49 p.m.

By Todd Paris
Back when I was 18, I worked at a local department store and was assigned over Christmas to the sporting goods department. We sold a number of firearms over Christmas. I remember speaking over the counter to an Irishman working with a local company here in Rowan County. Looking at the huge rack of shotguns and rifles behind me, he expressed surprise that the government trusted our people to have guns, considering it could allow the people to commit revolt and rebellion.

I explained that a number of our founding fathers insisted on a Bill of Rights that tied the hands of government on infringing on certain rights, one of which is the right to keep and bear arms. In England and the Commonwealth nations (former English colonies) that do not have such a document, their citizens only have those rights from day to day, asParliament affords them.

I told him that I thought we trust our government with guns because the government trusts us with them and that this mutual trust probably contributed to our lack of revolts and uprisings. I asked him how strict English and Irish gun control laws assisted his people in “the troubles.” He told me it had no effect, as the Irish Republican Army primarily smuggled in vast numbers of fully automatic military weapons. He thanked me and as he left, he said he was considering becoming an American citizen.

When I was in my early 20s and working my way through undergrad, I worked at the full service gas station where the Wilco-Hess is now. We carried station wallets out to the cars and often had hundreds of dollars on us. That corner was even wilder than now. Criminals would run by and try to knock us down and snatch the station wallets. There were knife fights and even a shooting. I began to openly carry a .38 revolver, with my supervisor’s permission. No one bothered me except for one time when an individual pulled out a hawk-bill pocket knife and tried to come around the counter. Merely drawing my weapon was enough to send him on his way.

In law school, my constitutional law professor introduced me to the concept of the “constitutional cafeteria.” He said the Bill of Rights was kind of like the line at the K&W. You get your plate, take what you want and sit down and enjoy them. You maybe can’t use or don’t personally need them all, but the next guy in line might differ. The problem comes when you get someone in line who says, “I don’t like the potato salad, and I’m not moving until it’s no longer offered.” These “line standers” exist on both the right and the left and it would appear that the only thing both political parties can agree on is that Americans have too many rights. They just differ on which ones to take away. People need to fill their plates with what they enjoy and sit down and shut up.

As far as quickly and efficiently preventing a Sandy Hook massacre from happening here, I propose: that we ask for teachers and administrators to volunteer for Basic Law Enforcement Training this summer at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and swear them in as reserve deputies with the Sheriff’s Office. The taxpayers could pay the one-time expense of the classes and give them a stipend for the time they are there and install a jail quality lock box for their classroom. The school board could transfer those Educational Reserve Deputies out as needed. These individuals would be as well trained and screened as any new deputy sheriff and would have full arrest powers. I have been questioned about whether there would be enough teachers interested. I ask that any teachers that would be interested in this sort of thing to email me at and I will pass this along to community leaders and stakeholders.

The Associated Press recently reported that some lunatic had filled a weed sprayer with gasoline and set five people on fire. A few years back, a nut drove his SUV through a group of students at UNC. We will have to give up a lot of rights to prevent those persons who suddenly run amok from being able to get something dangerous to harm a group of people. Let us try to fix the problem quickly and efficiently without trying to breach that mutual understanding inculcated in the Second Amendment between a free people and their government.

Todd Paris is an attorney in Salisbury.

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