It’s time to amend the Second Amendment

Someone has to come out and say it: It’s time that we change the Second Amendment.

I don’t mean a complete repeal of the right to bear and keep arms. I support those rights, and believe them to be inherent and natural rights that cannot be dictated or limited by any document, even the U.S. Constitution. What irks me is the belief that the rights held in the Second Amendment are immune to regulation of any kind, and the errant belief some hold that this allows individuals to pursue dangerous weaponry should they deem it necessary.

The word “regulated” even appears in the damn text! But that doesn’t seem to deter gun nuts who are hell-bent on defending unfettered rights to own any and all weapons, without regulation of any kind.

When I say “gun nuts,” I don’t mean most gun owners, or even gun enthusiasts. I mean the type of people who believe that gun ownership is next to Godliness, who attack safeguards like government background checks for gun purchases. Not only do they defend the gun show loophole, they celebrate it. All the better to organize the next rebellion, right fellas?

Their numbers are far and few between. And they shouldn’t prop up the Second Amendment like it’s some sort of Sacred Cow.

Most people support common-sense regulations to gun ownership. In January of this year 51 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with current gun laws. More than nine in ten Americans support requiring background checks for all gun purchases, and nearly six out of ten support banning certain types of weapons like assault weapons.

Many gun nuts — again, those who invoke the Founders against any and every regulation on gun access — oppose these measures, citing Second Amendment rights as inalienable. But restrictions are rightly placed on all sorts of rights. You can’t yell “bomb” in a crowded plane and claim your speech rights are violated when you’re detained. You can’t use religious freedom to justify a human sacrifice in your backyard. Likewise, we shouldn’t use the Second Amendment to claim that gun rights are untouchable.

Every right deserves the utmost defense and protection when regulations are being considered. Even the right to defend oneself, through the rights derived from natural law and the Second Amendment, deserves a sense of cautious consideration when it comes to regulations. But that doesn’t mean that common sense legislation shouldn’t be proposed and passed on gun ownership. Otherwise, all bets are off.

As Jon wrote in April:

tommy gun

Tommy Gun via Shutterstock.

If you really can ignore the whole first half of the Second Amendment…then why not Uzis? Why not RPGs? Why not frag grenades and anti-tank missiles and M24 Sniper Weapons Systems (the M24 is a sniper rifle so powerful that apparently the military doesn’t think calling it a “rifle” does it justice)? Hell, why not your own Black Hawk attack helicopter? I’m sure Sikorsky Aircraft, the company that makes them, would sell you one if you could afford it.

As soon as you say that any gun new gun restrictions are off the table because Americans have a universal, comprehensive right to bear arms, you’re also saying that all existing gun restrictions are off the table because Americans have a universal, comprehensive right to bear arms. There is no gray area as to which arms are and aren’t allowed. Combine that with an anti-government itch, and why wouldn’t you be filibustering bills over your God-given Constitutional right to play with your Call of Duty weapons in real life?

 

Since this concept is apparently too confusing for some, it’s time we amend the Second Amendment to make this point clearer: You have a right to basic tools for your own self-defense, but the public has a right to keep military-grade weapons out of the hands of mass shooters. The Founders could not have possibly envisioned the weapons we’d have at our disposal today, and some of those weapons are way too dangerous for ordinary citizens to own.

We can take steps from each extreme continuously down to the next level and so on, until we finally reach conclusions about what weapons are safe in the hands of the public. Weapons already owned should be grandfathered, allowing current owners the right to keep them in their own hands, but not to transfer them any longer.

Justice John Paul Stevens, a former Supreme Court Justice of the United States, once suggested amending the constitution to change the Second Amendment by adding five extra words. His proposal read as such (emphasis in italics his proposed change):

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

His argument for the change provides context for the original meaning of the Second Amendment. It was, after all, derived out of the immediate need to protect the nation from foreign invasion. Over time that need became less necessary, especially as the military became increasingly nationalized.

I would propose a different change to the Constitutional text. I think most Americans recognize the basic right to individual protection, and I wouldn’t go as far as Justice Stevens suggests. I would, however, add my own five words to the Second Amendment (my emphasis in bold):

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to responsibly keep and bear Arms necessary for their protection shall not be infringed.”

This keeps in line with the belief that most have regarding rights to self-preservation. But it also leaves open two possibilities. First, by adding the word “responsible,” it allows states to come up with their own qualifications for who can and cannot own weapons. The hordes of self-described law-abiding, quote-unquote “responsible” gun owners should have no problem with this — they’re literally written into the amendment. But this kind of language makes it easier to provide for more comprehensive licensure of certain weapons, rather than an all-too permissive process that too often allows unqualified individuals get ahold of dangerous weaponry. We license cars, so why can’t we license guns?

Second, the qualification “necessary for their protection” ensures that weapons beyond this scope can be regulated as well. The people and the courts can help determine what it means to be “necessary,” but it does leave open an easier avenue for restricting or regulating certain weapons that may be (pardon the pun) overkill.

It’s clear that America has a huge gun problem. We don’t see this type of problem anywhere else in the world. The misinterpretations of the Second Amendment are partly to blame for the epidemic of mass shootings across the country.

When there’s a problem — when “stuff happens” — we need to address it and fix it. Our country’s pseudo-religious commitment to one half of the Second Amendment has become a problem. It’s time to fix it.


Chris Walker has been a political writer for more than ten years, contributing freelance opinion pieces to several online publications as well as managing his own blog, Political Heat, for more than six years. With a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism, Chris tries to bring a unique angle to every article he produces, including Millennial perspectives on the issues he's covering. Chris resides in Madison, Wisconsin, and proudly owns both a cheesehead and stock in the Green Bay Packers.

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15 Responses to “It’s time to amend the Second Amendment”

  1. Skye Winspur says:

    The founders, who were all familiar with Latin, began the text of the 2nd amendment with an ablative absolute. “A well-regulated militia BEING necessary to the security of a free state…” Properly understood, the text is already very clear that the right to keep and bear arms exists ONLY in the context of serving in a militia.

  2. Hue-Man says:

    How do you get 50 Canadians out of a swimming pool?

    Say, “Please get out of the pool.”

  3. Einstein says:

    Yea Canadians are a compliant lot

  4. zorbear says:

    or order one from Amazon, who will ship it from China…

  5. Ol' Hippy says:

    There are a lot of gun laws on the books that are never enforced. Those are put on the books by politicians who want to be re-elected to their positions. The hardest crimes to prevent are the ones that make headlines and get talking points by politician’s pointing out poor gun policies and blaming the guns. In my state an entire family was slaughtered by a fourteen year old sociopath who took his father’s rifle and systematically murdered his mother his four sisters one who was only three and sat there for seven more hours waiting for his father to come home, Then he killed his father got his girlfriend and was on the way with her to murder her family too, This was stopped because the priest didn’t see the boy’s family in church. The priest alerted the cops who then stopped the rest of these young people’s plan. I don’t know any law that would of prevented this except keeping the guns locked up so a child doesn’t get them. That law is on the books in many states but not all. So for those who want to enact unenforcible laws go ahead, it won’t stop young men from getting hands on guns and committing mass murder on campuses. These acts started back in 1966 in Texas with a mentally disturbed young man going to the top of a tower and picking off students with a hunting rifle. The confiscating of guns will NOT stop these acts. There are many other ways to kill, only the gun does make it easier. In Switzerland almost everyone has a gun and there’s very little gun violence so to blame guns is not the answer. We do have mostly sensible gun laws, what we don’t have are sensible people. We DO need to keep guns out of hands of dangerous people so maybe licensing people not the gun could be a start, i.e; like getting a license to drive a car. If guns are registered though all the people in charge can go to your door and threaten to kill you to turn over weapons and then we have a police state and citizen’s are powerless to stop government control of all aspects of our lives. So no knee jerk unenforcible laws but a discussion about how to keep these young men from wanting to kill as many people as possible while committing suicide with legally obtained guns.

  6. baboomba says:

    Make a deal with all of you…let’s both amend the 2nd amendment and repeal the abortion law. That way we save lots and lots of lives. Deal?

  7. Don Chandler says:

    And we’ll make them pay for the wall.

  8. Jim Olson says:

    We could just allow Texas to secede, and build a large wall.

  9. Indigo says:

    Amend it? We could always enforce it. Now about those “militia . . . “

  10. Riccardo Cabeza says:

    Doesn’t matter if you change it or not. Supreme Asshole Scalia will shrug his shoulders, mumble something about ‘strict constitutionalism’ which is baseless, go to lunch and have a Benson & Hedges.

  11. Don Chandler says:

    Best way to regulate guns is through Socialism and Education and job creation–making people feel less threatened and more capable and less fearful. Tinkering with the Constitution will not disarm Texas.

  12. JaneE says:

    How about adding “Nothing in this amendment may be construed as a limitation of the governments at any level to restrict or regulate possession of firearms in order to promote public safety.”

  13. BeccaM says:

    Here’s the thing though: The courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, have upheld the right of both state legislatures and the federal government to regulate gun ownership to a considerable degree.

    We have at times had the beginnings of fairly effective gun control laws, up to and including the banning of military-grade weapons, automatics (and some semi-autos), and large capacity magazines. The government could, if it wished to, institute a formal nationwide licensing scheme at either the citizen or individual firearm level, or require liability insurance. Open and concealed-carry could be restricted considerably. Special taxes could be levied on firearms and/or ammo. The laws could be crafted in such a way that changing the appearance of a gun or a few parts does not suddenly exempt a firearm from the control laws, by referring instead to functions, capacity, and firing rates.

    And of course, it is entirely possible to ban gun ownership for the incompetent, the insane, and convicted criminals, as well as to institute a robust and comprehensive system of universal background checks. On top of all this, there is no reason why gun owners could not be held criminally liable when crimes are committed using their firearms — such as that incident the other day when a bullying boy killed a little girl. As far as I’m concerned, when an 11-year old has access to a gun and then kills someone with it, there are likely accessories to that murder.

    Up until a few years ago, we had an assault weapons ban, and a ban on large-capacity magazines. Unfortunately, in an act of civil cowardice, the relevant federal legislation was allowed to expire.

    Yes, it would be nice if that 2nd Amendment was clarified in some manner to make it clear that ‘arms’ does not necessarily include sniper rifles and missile launchers and that ‘well-regulated’ does confer regulatory powers. However, the government has been cowed already by the forces of the gun manufacturing lobby and their legions of purposely-made-paranoid followers.

    We don’t have the laws we could already have because the people running our government are cowards when it comes to gun control.

  14. Hue-Man says:

    “I don’t mean a complete repeal of the right to bear and keep arms.”

    Why not? Rhetorical and impractical question but why shouldn’t guns be treated the same as automobiles? I would say the right to vote should be enshrined in the Constitution before the right to own 13 killing machines and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

    “In Canada, such a right is not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, although proponents of the notion argue that such a right exists.

    But does it?

    According to the Supreme Court of Canada, it does not.

    “Canadians, unlike Americans, do not have a constitutional right to bear arms,” the high court stated in 1993, in a decision over the possession of convertible semi-automatic weapons.

    “Indeed, most Canadians prefer the peace of mind and sense of security derived from the knowledge that the possession of automatic weapons is prohibited,” said the court.”

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/is-gun-ownership-a-legal-right-in-canada-1.2723893

  15. The_Fixer says:

    I wish that we pro-gun control folks would stop using the analogy “We license cars, why not guns” when discussing this issue.

    I’m not picking on you, Chris, I see it everywhere. The problem is that guns are designed to kill, cars are not. Cars are designed for transport, In no way is that comparable to what a gun is intended to do.

    The replacement analogy? Is there one? Could there be one? If there is, it would have to be military specific weapons, also designed solely for killing. We don’t allow people to have bombs. Explosives are closely regulated – you can use them if you have a legitimate purpose. Like a construction company that needs to blow up a big rock to build a road or something like that. While people can own a tank (like military hardware collectors), they can’t own a tank that is capable of being armed and ready for combat. And of course, they can’t drive it on the street without getting regulatory approval.

    We already regulate access to that kind of deadly weaponry, and a gun is a deadly piece of weaponry. It is illogical not to control it, and that is an argument that becomes clearer with every mass murder carried out by someone who is unstable and carrying a gun, or in more than a few cases, multiple guns. It’s a logical point to make when arguing gun control. Point out over and over that guns are solely designed to take a life, or at least, ruin it.

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