To say that we have an issue with guns in this country is to make the understatement of the year. At the risk of being labeled as “one of those liberals who want to take all the guns away,” I believe it is time to reassess the Second Amendment.
I am not a Constitutional literalist, the Founders clearly left us with a mechanism to change the Constitution and we have used that mechanism where we later decided that the founders had not gotten things quite right the first time, for example with slavery, the indirect election of Senators and women being denied the vote. So, the Constitution is not sacrosanct, it can be altered and changed — even the Bill of Rights.
That being said, I am a big fan of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and would agree that any changes have to be made carefully, thoughtfully and democratically. The other thing that has to be said is that no right, Constitutional or otherwise, is absolute. Famously, the First Amendment does not protect my “right” to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Individual rights are balanced by the rights of others.
With that in mind, here is my reassessment of the Second.
The first thing that we have to look at is: What is the actual purpose of the Amendment? Like the other items in the Bill of Rights it must be there to provide protections from government “tyranny” (Where, of course we have another defintional issue).
So, it does not protect the “right” to hunt. They would have said: “Hunting, being necessary to feeding of a free people…” but they did not say that. It also does not seem to be about self protection, if so it would say: “The police, not being able to be everywhere…” which it also does not say. So, what do guns have to do with government tyranny?
Some historians say that the “Well ordered militia” clause means that the government should not keep a standing, professional army as that army could be ordered by a despot to institute and enforce a dictatorship. A citizen army would be less likely to fire on its neighbors. Another school of thought, taken from Jefferson’s comment that the tree of liberty is to be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots, is that an people armed could rise up against any despot that came to power. Either of these reasons have little to do with our modern National Rifle Association and its defense of the Second Amendment.
In Minneapolis, the first accounts of the shooting seemed to indicate that the officer shot Castile after being informed that Castile was carrying a firearm. If so, this is what the NRA should be up in arms about. For example, it might be that net neutrality might have some theoretical First Amendment impact, if police raided my house because I blog on this site, that is a direct affront to the First Amendment. The same way for the NRA. A law limiting the number of bullets in a magazine is one thing, but police shooting someone for carrying a gun is a direct affront of gun rights. So where is the NRA outrage?
Talking about Dallas is even a more tender issue, but I feel I must go there. Let me make a devil’s advocate argument here. IF police are acting “tyrannically” towards people of color in American cities and IF the political process is not effective in changing that, then according to NRA logic, the shooter in Dallas was using his Second Amendment rights in the just way Jefferson intended. Is this not the logic of the Bundys that the right wing defended, like in this article? Something like, when the government tramples on my rights we will respond with guns. Dallas is what that looks like in practice.
Which is why I say it is time to consign the Second Amendment to the dustbin of history.
In modern democracies, we do not need the threat of violence to ensure change in our political system. Black Lives Matter is a non-violent movement and that is the only way they will succeed. Accomplishing political change at the point of a gun is the logic of ISIS, not modern democracies.
Dallas also seemed to show that even the “self protection” possibility of the usefulness of the Second Amendment is also fallacious.
According to the Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings, a number of open carry advocates were attending the peaceful Black Lives Matter rally when the shooting began. Like everyone else, those armed guys ran. They did not prevent or stop the actual shooting. But they did cause problems for the police because it was certainly possible that anyone with a gun was a part of the problem. So, police spent time chasing down innocent people and trying to figure out which side they were on. This adds to the problem, it doesn’t solve anything.
Guns, per se, no longer prevent tyranny. The idea that citizens could somehow compete with a professional army is clearly ludicrous. An AR-15 versus a drone? Get serious.
Allowing armed groups or people, be they the Bundys, ISIS or those who feel they are fighting police tyranny, to use guns as part of their political arsenal is not democracy, it is terrorism, pure and simple.
I think it is time to scrap the Second Amendment.
Now that is not to say that we need to eliminate guns, certainly guns have legitimate purposes, hunting and home defense certainly. But the idea that guns are some kind of human right, that they have some sort of political purpose, that violence is a legitimate political act, is an idea whose time has passed.