Second Amendment--Iconic Millstone

By David T. Jones on June 16, 2013

Washington, DC - In the wake of the Newton elementary school massacre (overtaken by the Boston Marathon bombing), the usual suspects bayed and snarled.

And given a unique opportunity, President Obama misfired.

There is a military maxim associated with instructions to an Army Second Lieutenant, “Don’t just stand there; do something.  Even if it is wrong, do something.”  American politicians attempted to “do something” with little or no thought about process or consequences.

We heard again the tiresome spectrum of reaction:  Armed guards in every school so a “good guy with a gun” can thwart the “bad guy with a gun.”  Longer waiting periods to purchase firearms.  Restrictions on gun shows.  Document every firearm transfer.  Taxes, fees, registrations, obligatory training.  Elimination of “bad” weapons (“assault rifles”) and accessories such as large capacity magazines.  Ration ammunition.  Supervise the mentally impaired (or whatever the politically correct term is at the moment) to prevent their accessing weapons.

But these suggestions are politically correct posturing--and oh so tiresome/meaningless.  The existential challenge is the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It is one of the shorter amendments:

“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.”

Although brevity has not equated with clarity, one must remember the Constitution would not have been ratified without it (and nine other amendments) providing additional assurances regarding rights and freedoms for U.S. citizens.

Consequently, as long as the Second Amendment endures, citizens can legally access a virtually unrestricted spectrum of firearms.  So the conclusion is brutally simple for gun controllers:  repeal the Second Amendment and, with appropriate compensation, require surrender of all privately owned firearms.

As Ronald Reagan reportedly said, “It is a simple answer, not an easy answer.”

Other than inventing a time machine permitting return to 1789 to prevent drafting the Second Amendment, there is no way to restrict seriously the possession of firearms.  There are approximately 270 million firearms in the United States; the number rises steadily.  As long as U.S. citizens possess firearms, people will be killed with these weapons.

That is a simple, blunt reality which must condition any gun control discussion.  Some will be killed accidentally (“I didn’t know the gun was loaded”).  Some will be killed deliberately--in blind rage, with malice aforethought, or in desperate defense of their own lives.

If Americans really want to reduce death by gun, eliminating private gun ownership is the only answer.

Is repealing the Second Amendment possible?  Certainly.  Article 5 of the Constitution simply requires approval by two-thirds of each house of Congress and then ratification by three-quarters of the states.  Nor need language be “lawyerly” convoluted.  The XVIII Amendment essentially prohibiting alcohol was repealed by the XXI Amendment whose operative clause said, “The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”

Is such action likely?  No.

Is such action conceivable?  Barely.

But colonial era constitutionally protected shibboleths have been eliminated.  The XIIIth Amendment abolished slavery.  The XVIth permitted income taxation.  Moreover, social attitudes have changed massively in a generation:  drinking and driving; tobacco smoking; premarital sexual activity; open homosexuality; prayer in public schools; “free speech” sanctioning pornography, scatological language, flag burning, etc.  The “times are not a changing”; they have changed.

And we’re no longer worried about British invasion from Canada.

Thus, having already de facto destroyed the existing U.S. medical system, if President Obama wanted another overarching society-changing cause, he should have pushed to repeal the Second Amendment.  

Instead, he fired blanks.

There is no societal consensus; he would have had to build one, based on the tenuous (now dissipated) post-Newton majority support for greater gun control.  Still he would have been backed by most security/police officers who invariable desire disarmed citizens.  And certainly supported by those who would also ban bread knives and insist all loaves come pre-sliced.  But Obama was well-versed in class war, and could have characterized gun supporters as Republican troglodytes clinging to guns and God instead of embracing 21st century verities (as epitomized by Canada).

The opportunity was proximate, but now has passed.  Niggling efforts to increase checks on gun purchases were aborted in Congress.  Obama missed a defining instant in the State of the Union address to throw down the gauntlet for repealing the Second Amendment.  Instead he “nibbled at the edges” with trivial control proposals effectively sharp-shot by Congress.  

Instead of being hanged as a goat, he has been content to be hanged as a sheep.


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