Repeal and Replace

It’s time to repeal the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution

Our Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, enacted in 1791, reads as follows:

“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.”

While there has been much legal wrangling over whether this right is individual or has something to do with militias, I believe the interpretation is clear, even if the wording is sloppy: under the 2nd Amendment, the government can’t infringe on people’s right to have arms.

At the time it was passed, the amendment was likely prompted by two motivating factors: to serve as a check on the power of the federal government, and in response to gun regulations imposed prior to independence by our formal colonial power, England.  The taste of revolution was still fresh in the mouths of the drafters, and there is probably some truth to the notion that the purpose of the amendment was to reserve to the people the power to, if need be, overthrow the government.

Many things have changed in the ensuing 227 years (eleven score and 7 years ago, if you want to be fancy).  For one, our government cannot be overthrown by armed civilians.  The military sciences have evolved to the point where governments are largely immune from direct attacks by their citizenry: it would take military cooperation for a new revolution to succeed.  In an age of nuclear weapons, air forces, and tanks, an armed citizenry wouldn’t stand a chance.

Moreover, the scope of “arms” has changed dramatically.  The muskets of our founding gave way to rifles, to machine guns, to assault weapons.  As pernicious as the much-maligned AR-15 may be in the media, people forget that it isn’t even an automatic weapon: it’s essentially a cosmetically-upgraded hunting rifle.  Our guns have gotten more powerful, and with our population density and the rise of mental illness, mass shootings have become commonplace.

I know that many people identify strongly with the right to own guns.  Blaming the NRA is foolish: contrary to popular belief, they don’t contribute very much money at all to politicians.  They are powerful because people support them.  A lot of people.  Many of them are motivated to vote based on gun rights, and see the waxing and waning cries for regulation as the opening salvos in an attempt to strip them of their legally-owned guns.

While the issue of liberty versus regulation may well be a zero-sum game- every regulation results in a corresponding decrease in gun ownership liberty- it’s not a binary choice.  There can be a middle ground, in which gun ownership is legal but highly regulated.  However, that middle ground is fundamentally inconsistent with the 2nd Amendment, which proscribes any infringement on gun ownership rights.

We need a full and unencumbered discussion on what gun ownership should look like in the 21st century.  I don’t know what the shape of that regime should look like; I personally hate and fear firearms, but don’t believe my personal views should be foisted upon everyone else.  I do think I should be given a voice, as should the other stakeholders- including, most especially, passionate and responsible gun owners.

In order to have that discussion, and implement substantial new regulations, we need to repeal the 2nd Amendment.  It’s presence guarantees a court battle over every rule, and if we’re reading it dispassionately, the plain language of the amendment is likely to invalidate any meaningful gun control or regulation as an infringement on the right to bear arms.

You hardly need me to recount the extent of the gun violence problem in the United States.  It’s unique to us, and it is unacceptable.  Our allegiance to liberal gun policies makes violence worse, and more widespread.  We simply cannot continue living with mass shootings as a regular occurrence.

The historic justifications for the 2nd Amendment have long since passed into history, and repealing that amendment does not mean taking away everyone’s guns.  It means lifting a broad prohibition on any meaningful gun control.  Gun owners should be licensed, tested, and safety-screened, as they are in other countries.  We can and must work together to accommodate the concerns of lawful gun owners with the concerns of the millions of us who will not accept routine mass shootings as a cost of living in the United States.

The time for repeal has come; perhaps our leaders can summon the courage to act before the anger of the populace sweeps them from office.



Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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