This one sentence has caused more trouble than it’s prevented.
I propose that it be repealed.
I spend a lot of time and energy on this blog discussing religion. Most religions are simply cults that feed on the natural and historical, yet ultimately irrational desire of humans to find meaning and comfort in an uncertain and uncomfortable world. But in secular areas, there are cults too. The cult of guns and gun worship is one that I think people also flock to because of uncertainty and fear in a fearful world. Bogeyman galore are propped up to rationalize the need for guns, and even a hint of regulation causes mass hysteria among the gun worshipers in the cult. Think of the attitude that fosters “…not until you pry it from my cold, dead hands“. Really?
It makes common sense that in the face of statistics showing that America is close to the top in countries with excessive gun violence, something needs to be done. Everyone from the NRA to The Policeman’s Benevolence Society would agree with that, albeit with radically different perspectives on the solution side of the argument. Those opposing any, or even minimal, regulation have one powerful argument in their camp – The Second Amendment. It is touted as providing a right, rather than a privilege, to own a gun, and any regulation smacks of infringement on that right. The word “right” is right there in the language. We have a right to bear arms, and no less than our Founding Fathers endorsed that right. And the Supreme Court has provided its imprimatur.
Of course, there is the rest of the language of the Amendment that tends to be ignored, or glossed over, when declaring the individual right (as opposed to the collective right) to own a gun as sacrosanct. That niggling little bit about a well regulated militia, for instance. There is even a good argument that the Second Amendment had nothing to do with protecting anyone, other than slave holders in the South, in order to win their votes for ratification of the Constitution.
But, even if, for the sake of argument, one assumes that there is an individual right to bear arms, it still presents an impediment to rational gun regulation. I doubt the Founding Father’s could have possibly foreseen what the Industrial Revolution, which came later, would do to the technology of creating lethal weaponry, nor could they have predicted what the rise of populations and societal changes engendered by massive urbanization would do to the proliferation and use of guns. The Second Amendment has not grown with civilization; it’s locked in the 18th century while we try to apply it to the 21st.
I think this is why we need to seriously consider repealing the Amendment, or at a minimum, revising it. Here is why:
- It seems somewhat incongruous to place the right to own a material thing like a gun in the same category as those rights we attribute to the essence of humanity, i.e. human rights, like those enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right to vote, the right to be free from unwanted constraints, the right to due process of the law, etc. To say that we also have a right to a gun diminishes those other really important rights. There’s really no logical equivalence. Had the Founding Fathers known about cars, trains, airplanes, computers and refrigerators, would they have declared the possession or use of those items a right also? We certainly have far more need for many of them, if not all of them and others, than we do guns. It’s the rare American who needs a gun, but try living without your car or your refrigerator in the 21st century. Ascribing gun possession as a right makes no real sense, not compared with actual human rights or material items we need.
- So, owning a gun, given its lethality, should be a privilege, not a right. It should be a privilege that we should earn with a combination of financial wherewithal, stability, and need. We should not be born with the right to own one. (Do we put one in every bassinet at the maternity ward?) The Second Amendment prevents that, by making it a right. Once we remove its status as a right, we can license and regulate the transfer, shipment and use of guns in a more rational manner, without the hysterical backlash we see every time there is even a hint of gun control. The Amendment sets up not only a practical block to effective regulation, but also a psychological impediment to rational discussion. If we didn’t think we had the right, and treated guns like we do cars, we could create societal fixes for the problems guns create without the sense that we were losing something.
This is something that will take time. We need to take a generational approach to the matter. It will require some time to enact and ratify the Amendment through the Constitutional process. There are an estimated 300 million guns in this country alone, and it will take time to reduce that supply, because it’s that supply that is causing the problem. People who have not yet been born will need to be brought up in a society thinking they have only the privilege of gun ownership, in order to create the attitudinal shift that will be required to wipe out this cult of gun worship. Only after that can we have enlightened, rational discourse about gun regulation.
I hold no illusions that it will happen in my lifetime. In fact, it may never happen, because the attitudinal shift needed to get it done will have to happen, in part, before the repeal, not after. Without repeal, though, I can see only more unnecessary death and destruction of families and lives. I fear we will need not one, or two, but dozens of Newtown-like massacres before people wake up and agree.