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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