I’m no historian, but I read pretty well. I am constanty confused by the apparent diefication of our Second Amendment. I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole gun issue for the last week while I tried to figure it out.
For a little backstory, I come from the south. I don’t capitalize “The South” like some do, because I believe it is a geographic direction, not a place. My family still lives in Northern Virginia, and my dad is a gun owner and avid bow, gun, and muzzle-loader hunter. He is also a champion tournament archer and president of his Archery Club. I shot archery when I was young, and dad tried to get me into hunting, but I never had the patience. I took gun safety courses and shot at targets for years. I may even still own a gun or two back in my dad’s gun safe in Virginia. I haven’t touched them in years.
There are 27 amendments to the US Constitution. I just re-read all of them.
The First is the whole freedom of speech and religion and assembly and what-not. It is pretty easy to read:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
But it is not absolute. There are generally accepted freedoms, but hate speech is not allowed. Also not allowed are religious services that require underage or multiple marriages, human sacrifice, or other illegal activities. So you can limit the First Amendment, but not the Second?
The Third Amendment protects us from being forced to house a soldier during a war. The need for this Amendment is obviated by our thousands of military bases and a defense budget nearing a trillion dollars. It is mostly irrelevant now.
The Fourth Amandment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
has been completely limited by the over-reaching Patriot Act which allows for warrantless wire taps and searches. Let’s also not forget the TSA, which does thousands of warrantless searches every day as we board airplanes after they seize our water bottles and snow globes. So, no searches and seizures or privacy violations, unless the probable cause is “being in an airport”. The Fourth is out the window to “keep us safe”, but not the Second.
If you’re keeping score, that’s three of four Amendments and ALL of them are limited or obviated in some way, but not the Second.
The Fifth is the Self-Incrimination law which is still pretty well upheld. As is the Sixth and Seventh which promise a speedy and fair trial by a jury of your peers. Unless, of course, the government says you’re an enemy combatant, whatever that is. Then, you lose that right and get shipped off to Cuba, where your Eighth Amendment rights of freedom from cruel and unusal punishment are violated. So you can limit Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendment rights based on the individual, but not the Second.
And The Ninth:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Easy enough. The Constitutional Rights of some shouldn’t interfere with the freedoms of others. I would argue that there are 20 sets of parents in Connecticut right now who feel that the whole “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” thing has been pretty well trampled by the right to bear arms. The Ninth is limited, but not the Second.
The Tenth allows for states rights.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
So, basically, if there’s not a federal law for or against it, then there can be a state law. This is how states have the right to create their own driving laws, marriage laws, and thousands of other laws. Unless a state wants to limit guns or make licensing harder. Then the Tenth is apparently violating the Second, which is not OK.
We’ve changed historical laws through Amandments before. The Thirteenth ended slavery, The Fifteenth allowed the vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (i.e., former slaves can vote), Sixteen allows our government to tax us (despite all the crazies who say taxes are voluntary because they’re not in the Constitution), and Seventeen made sure we vote for Senators by popular vote, not an electoral college.
Hell, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting alcohol was taken back just a few years later by the Twenty-First. I guess you CAN change things, but not the Second.
In the middle there, America sobered up and decided that women were just as smart as former slaves and men and gave them the vote by the Nineteenth.
Twenty-Two put a presidential two-term limit in place, despite the fact that no one had ever won (or came close to winning) three consecutive presidential terms. What about a president’s god-given right to three terms? It was put in place to limit the possibility of a dictatorship, but what if Americans want another prosporous period under a popular president? Nope. Can’t do that.
Twenty-Three gave Washington DC the right to vote, but only because of the whole taxation-without-representation thing. If they didn’t give them Representatives, the US would have to stop taxing them. As a side note, when DC tried to limit guns, they had no state’s rights, because they are not a state. Twenty-Four made poll taxes illegal, even though some are still trying to make it tough for the poor or uneducated to vote.
Twenty-Five puts presidential succession in writing. This allowed for things like Acting President Dick Cheney in 2002 and 2007 while George W. Bush was “incompacitated” due to a colonoscopy. I do find it odd that the Amendment passed in 1967, but the Secretary of Homeland Security is 17th in line, even though that office didn’t exist until decades after the Amendment was passed. Apparently, Amendments CAN be altered to fit current-day conditions, but not the Second. Twenty-Six seems to directly contradict the Tenth by taking away the state’s rights to set their own voting age by codifying the voting age to 18.
Twenty-Seven prohibits congress from giving themselves a raise until the new term begins. Unsurprisingly, it took over 200 years for this one to get through. Apparently, people like giving themselves more money.
That’s all of the Bill of Rights and the Amendments, except for one. It’s the one that confuses everyone.
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.
There is a lot of discussion of the wording of the Second. Some (including me) read it that a well regulated militia is necessary, and they should have arms. We have a well-regulated militia. They’re called the Armed Forces. That guy in Montana with a Doomsday bunker, a hundred guns and an anti-government bent is NOT a well-regulated militia. He’s a guy with a shit-ton of guns. And anyone who believes that having a shit-ton of guns will allow them to protect themselves if our government goes all crazy hasn’t seen a drone strike or our military budget. Our military is 10 times the size of China’s. A few assault rifles won’t do squat for you.
I’m all about rights. It just seems odd to me that this one “right” is so fervently defended. Maybe the Second Amendment needs a little tweaking. I’m not saying to repeal it and round up all the guns. That is not what most are advocating. But we are not a nation divided like the Antebellum years or the Old West. We are not a nation of unrest with a corrupt government and a military that attacks us. We have a three tiered system that prevents that. Part of being a democracy is accepting what the other half has to say. And sometimes, the other half is right.
Maybe Thomas Jefferson was right (as he usually was) when he said:
But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors,”
Maybe it’s time to put on our big boy coats and realize that sometimes change is good. Some things are so timeless they should never change.
But not the Second.