The Second Amendment Is a dangerous anachronism

gun palm

Three days after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., I was astonished to read a hard-hitting editorial ("Ending Our Love Affair With Guns") in the Sunday issue of the Plain Dealer that ended with the following:

"Any serious discussion of preventing more slaughters has to start with significant restrictions on the availability of high-power firearms and large magazines. But it also has to examine how guns are bought and sold in this country and the terms under which people can own them. It has to be far-ranging and fearless, including the possible repeal or revision of the Second Amendment if that is what it takes to regulate private arsenals and enact meaningful gun control. It's not 1789 anymore. This is not a frontier society. It is a nation where 30,000 people a year die from gunshots. "

Evidently the horror of the event was enough to shake the normally timid editorial writers into breaking from their normal posture of apologizing and providing cover for deeply held convictions of Republican extremism.

So I immediately sent off a letter, which was published along with many others addressing the issue.  My letter said:

The Plain Dealer is to be congratulated for having the courage to call for serious consideration of repeal or revision of the Second Amendment as an anachronism that today threatens the safety and security of all Americans.

But the proliferation of assault weapons and high capacity magazines is not the result of a spontaneous popular 'love affair' with guns. It is the result of active promotion by reckless profiteers and right-wing extremists generally holding racist views and often harboring insurrectionist fantasies.

This has nothing in common with owning hunting rifles or legitimate concerns about protecting one's home or person from street crime, which are the only things that deserve protection under the law.

Anyone with the stomach to listen to right-wing talk radio and their frequent discussions about whether the U.S. Army will remain loyal to the government or "take the side of the people when the time comes" will understand exactly what these crazies have in mind. 

On Jan. 7 Alex Jones, a well-known talk show hate monger, appeared on the Piers Morgan show to discuss his national petition to have Morgan, a British citizen, deported for questioning the Second Amendment.

Jones immediately launched into a belligerent diatribe stating that "the Second Amendment isn't there for duck hunting. It's there to protect us from tyrannical government and street thugs."  From this Jones went on to denounce "globalism" and "megabanks that control the planet" and charged that Morgan was "a hatchetman for the New World Order."

Finally, shouting at the top of his lungs, Jones said, "1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms."

It's not just lunatic talk show hosts.  Who can forget Sharron Angle, Republican candidate in Nevada against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

"The Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry," she said on one occasion. "This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical."

"I hope that's not where we're going," she told talk show host Lars Larson, "but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

The fact is, the Second Amendment was hardly enacted to guarantee the right to rebel against the government.  Just the opposite is the case.  The new nation in 1787 had no standing army and the propertied gentlemen who wrote the Bill of Rights feared the uprisings of citizens, such as had occurred in the Shays' Rebellion the previous year, and wished to give the states power to mobilize citizens to crush them. 

George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, was particularly alarmed at Shays' Rebellion and immediately after its suppression wrote that if the government "shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws...anarchy and confusion must prevail."

Washington and the Framers were also concerned that domestic turmoil could tempt a return of the British and obviously also wanted to be able to mobilize armed citizens against slave uprisings and frontier conflicts with Native Americans.

That's why the amendment reads: "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."

Under his presidency in 1794 Washington used the combined militia of several states to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania.

The concerns that motivated the Framers have long ago disappeared and never in their wildest imaginations did they think the Second Amendment would be the basis for promoting a firearms industry and private arsenals of anti-government fanatics.

We can no longer afford to let Congress be bullied by gun merchants and right-wing insurrectionists hiding behind a fraudulent interpretation of a long outdated provision in the Constitution.  We need an aggressive overhaul of national gun laws shaped entirely by the safety and security needs of the American people and, if the Second Amendment as written is in the way, it needs to be revised or repealed.

Photo: Kevin Dooley // CC 2.0

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  • As a career Marine, Life long NRA member, and a tactical weapons instructor I feel the need to say this. Everyone puts the blame on the weapon.... I own more than 60 firearms close to half would be classified as tactical or assault style, not one has ever loaded itself unlocked the safe and fired itself EVER! The weapon is a tool just like a knife or any other tool. In the hand of a lunatic a car can kill just the same. Second Amendment aside for a minute I want to know why thousands of children are killed every year by drunk drivers, but yet it's still legal to own a car, and buy beer. The simple facts are high cap mags don't kill any more people than factory mags. I train men and women to do mag changes in under 5 seconds everyday. The root of the evil is the person not the firearm. On a side note a shotgun with 00 buck shot has nine 00 buck pellets that are 33 caliber and have a muzzle velocity of 1600 feet per second most shot guns hold between four and seven shells. Simple math even a stock shot gun has the potential to hit more targets than a high cap ar15 magazine. For the people who don't know ar15/m16 rifle are standard 5.56/223 a bit smaller than your 33 caliber lead ball buck shot. The ranges everyone one the last years shootings has taken place well within range of a shotgun. I have children myself and can only imagine what the people of Newtown are dealing with, my prayers are with them. I just have a hard time understanding why we blame the tool and not the sick twisted person using it. A few people want to make out AR15s and other assault style weapons illegal to own, the say it will slow down mass shootings and everything will be great. The sad truth as long as there are evil people there will be mass murder. Timothy Mcviegh had no assault weapons when he mass murdered hundreds of people to include 19 children, yet we can still buy diesel fuel and fertilizer. As American we need to take a hard look at what's making these people go insane and feeling the need to commit mass murder. I have yet to figure out why American as a whole have not addressed the amount of metal illness in the country today. Everyone knows someone on some kind of anti depressant these days.

    It just makes me sad when responsible gun owners are targeted as criminals, for simply owning a weapon that has never committed a crime. I really don't like being told I am a bad person because I choose to own assault weapons I have made a living using assault weapons my whole life. Assault weapons have put my children through college, bought my house, paid for my cars, and given me great joy over there years training people how to use them responsibly.

    The only thing I ask of anyone wanting to ban assault weapons is before you come out and start talking about them learn what you are talking about go to a range shoot one, learn its capabilitys. Get educated first yes they do kill inocent people but only in the hands of evil criminals.

    Posted by Jon, 08/17/2013 5:40am (1 year ago)

  • "Never in their wildest imaginations did they think the Second Amendment would be the basis for promoting a firearms industry and private arsenals of anti-government fanatics."
    ... The Framers *were* anti-government fanatics. The United States of America was founded by a group of men who rebelled against tax increases and used such "private arsenals" to establish militias to fight their ruling government.
    Please, think before using loaded terms to try and support your argument.

    Posted by C. Stewart, 03/21/2013 2:48pm (2 years ago)

  • Why do you need military weapons for hunting deer and ducs anyway

    Posted by tommy, 01/29/2013 1:13pm (2 years ago)

  • Efforts to reduce gun violence in the United States are focusing on banning some weapons, limiting magazine size, increasing background checks for gun purchasers, and other marginal changes. These efforts will fail because they only address symptoms of the problem, not the underlying cause -- which is the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

    A White House petition to repeal the Second Amendment has been started at http://wh.gov/EYVe Anyone willing to support this bold step should sign it.

    Posted by Academy59, 01/18/2013 7:59am (2 years ago)

  • I agree that the 2nd Amendment was not to aid in obstructing legimate and constitutional course of government affairs as was the cause of Daniel Shay. But comrade Nagin wrote that the 2nd Amendment was not enacted to guarantee the right to rebel, "just the opposite is the case." That's simply not true.

    The 2nd Amendment was, indeed, enacted to guarantee the right to rebel, but to rebel against an unjust tyrannical government. The militia, of which all abled bodied men between the ages of 17 and 45 are a part (see 10 USC § 311 – Militia: Composition and Classes), was created to 1) defend the homeland against invasion of foreign enemies and 2) to repel the tyranny of the domestic ruling class.

    And, I'm sorry to break this to you, throughout history applied communism has led to tyranny. As a libertarian, that's why I read People's World quite regularly.

    Posted by , 01/17/2013 1:30pm (2 years ago)

  • gary---

    please read your quote! It states exactly what rick said in his article. Those militias were NOT set up to aid Mr. Shay in his rebellion, just the opposite.

    Posted by bruce bostick, 01/17/2013 9:32am (2 years ago)

  • "The fact is, the Second Amendment was hardly enacted to guarantee the right to rebel against the government. Just the opposite is the case." Really? I humbly ask my communist friend to read Federalist 29:

    "...it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens."

    Posted by Gary, 01/16/2013 6:20pm (2 years ago)

  • "The fact is, the Second Amendment was hardly enacted to guarantee the right to rebel against the government. Just the opposite is the case." Really? I humbly ask my communist friend to read Federalist 29:

    "...it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens."

    Posted by Gary, 01/16/2013 5:53am (2 years ago)

  • let's start with background cks. real ones not like now.to keep guns out of the hands of criminals & mentally ill people

    Posted by jim, 01/12/2013 3:07pm (2 years ago)

  • There are opposing sides. One side wants to adjust the second amendment with laws that diminish the guns, and limit their capacity, instead of preventing the conditions that cause the unlawful use of them. The other side wants to arm more citizens without adequate measures to keep potential criminals from obtaining illegal weapons. They are both right and both wrong the answer lies in looking at the big picture of both sides. If we do not make the intent of the second amendment a priority we will have no further protection for our rights as free peoples, in this or from any other force that seeks domination. You have to face the facts that there has always been secret societies trying to instill their will over the people. We must unserstand what we are losing if we give up or change the US Constitution. We must make it right and look to the original intent. A good direction is someplace between natural law and another place, common sense.

    Posted by John Barillium, 01/12/2013 3:29am (2 years ago)

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