Repeal, Don't Replace
March 1, 2018Repeal, Don’t Replace
So once again we’ve had to endure the “thoughts and prayers” comments of our elected officials following the horrific shooting of kids and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Worse still, as gun control advocates voice their familiar litanies the response is the ugly “now is not the time to discuss these issues”.
I would like to offer a better response.
It’s time to repeal the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one that says, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
My proposal is not quite as radical as it sounds, although I find it odd that with all the furor going on as I write, including high school students marching to state capitols and even the White House, that repeal has not come up as a talking point by evening the most liberal talking heads.
There are two critical problems with the Second Amendment.
One problem, oft-debated, is whether or not the amendment actually refers to simple gun ownership by anyone, or, rather, to the fact that in the early years of the country it might be necessary for an armed citizenry to gather together to repel some invader.
If you go with the latter interpretation, that we all can have firearms so that we can be ready to be militia-ed, then you no longer have a case. From the National Guard to the regular army we have more than enough “militia” to repel any invader. A corollary to this, used by the far right, is that we have a right to have arms in case it’s necessary to overthrow the government. I have no idea where that “right” comes from.
The second problem is the truly gnarly one.
Clearly, the bulk of public opinion resides within the former interpretation, and the prevailing view today, as promulgated by the National Rifle Association, is that every American has the right to own anything from a .22 pistol to an AR-15 automatic rifle with a bump stock to ghost weapons (those assembled from disparate parts and, thus, not having any traceable heritage). And, please, let’s have no talk about mandatory training, licensing, registration, or prohibitions on possession by felons or the mentally disabled.
None of that makes sense to hardly anybody, but it’s a view that comes out of our bizarre worship of the Second Amendment, along with an equally odd view that the Constitution is some kind of sacred, changeless document.
It is not. We forget that amendments, in fact, represent changes to the Constitution, and that there have been twenty-seven such changes with even one of those changes repealed.
The problem with the Second Amendment is that it makes virtually any attempt at legislative change a non-starter. Pretty much any gun law, no matter how moderate, proposed by any local, state, or national body, is quickly struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.
Since it’s clear that we must begin to rein in the firearm carnage on our streets and in our schools and in other public venues, it’s time, thus, to repeal the Second Amendment.
I repeat. This is not as radical a proposal as it sounds.
Does this mean, then, that we must deny the right of citizens to protect themselves, to target shoot, or even to hunt? Of course not. What it means is that various of our legislative bodies would be free, following repeal, to try to bring some sense into the realm of firearm possession and use.
The model, often mentioned and just as often ignored, is that of the motor vehicle. Because they are big and capable of immense carnage, we require them to be registered, and we require operators of them to be trained in their use and licensed. It is just as often acknowledged that operation of said vehicles is a privilege, not a right. I won’t rehash this here, other than to say it’s a logically sound argument, and has been chewed over many times.
What I find a bit puzzling, though, is the resistance of those on the far right to repealing the amendment since, generally, they are not fond of any intrusion by the federal government into the rights of either the states or individuals. Repealing the amendment would allow any state to be as liberal or conservative as they wish in the matter of gun rights.
States with serious gun violence problems such as New York, Illinois, Florida, Colorado and others could, if they wish, become highly restrictive and/or regulatory with respect to the conditions under which gun possession is allowed, while other states, perhaps viewing gun possession as more important than the potential for gun carnage, would be free to be as non-restrictive as they wish. Even there, such states would be free to begin imposing restrictions should such a liberal view of gun possession become problematic.
Above all, whatever direction a state or locality decides to take, their wishes would be law since, without the Second Amendment, their laws could not be deemed unconstitutional.
I am not naïve about the reality of this proposal, but I do think our most sacred cows need to be put on the table – even if it requires a very big table – if we are to have even a remote chance of preventing future massacres.
G. K. Wuori ©2018
Photoillustration by the author