The Right to Bear Bazookas
Based on the actual wording in the 2nd Amendment of our Bill of Rights and the “individual rights” interpretation of that amendment held by the current U.S. Supreme Court, each person in this country can legally possess any weapon that is available to the U.S. military.
Any effort to reduce gun violence through new legislation will prove to be an exercise in futility. New gun control laws will most certainly be tested in the courts. And, given the history of the court’s tendency to side with gun-advocacy groups based on their antiquated interpretation of the Second Amendment wording, any new legislation will prove to be unenforceable. The only way that concerned citizens of this country can change our current violent gun environment is to seek to change (amend) the wording of the amendment that allows this violent environment to exist.
The Founding Fathers sought to protect the states from a potential tyrannical central government by limiting the federal government’s ability to maintain a standing army, except during wartime. To ensure that adequately trained forces were readily available in the event of a national emergency, the states were given the right (through the 2nd Amendment) to arm and maintain “state militias” which could be called up by the federal government to meet wartime needs until a national army could be trained and deployed.
Thus, the framers penned the following 2nd Amendment words to support the right of state militias and state citizens to maintain “armed parity” with the federal government:
“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”
But, does the wording in this amendment apply in today’s America?
The term “Arms” was never fully defined in the Bill of Rights. It basically meant whatever arms were necessary to be held by state citizens to maintain parity with the powers of the federal government. Taken literally, this sentence says that each citizen of this country has “a right” to possess any weapon that is currently available to the U.S. military (standing army). Today, this means that each of us is legally allowed to possess not just military-style assault rifles, but grenade launchers, surface-to-air missiles, M1 Abrams battle tanks and even nuclear weapons.
This wording may have made sense to the framers at the time that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written, but it doesn't make sense today.
The framers were rightfully concerned about the powers of our new central government vis-à-vis the tyrannical powers of the kingdoms of Europe (especially England) at the time of the American Revolution.
By establishing a system of checks-and-balances, setting limits to a national standing army, and by maintaining state-controlled militias, the framers felt that tyrannical central power could be avoided.
Today we have, by necessity, a large standing army. Conservatives, liberals and centrists all agree that a permanent U.S. military is essential for the common defense of the people. Furthermore, no one (except an anarchist) feels that it is necessary for the citizens of this country to have weapons that maintain parity with the U.S. military. However, the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution remains written in such a way as to allow for this right.
I’m certain that the framers felt that, as circumstances changed, the federal representatives of the people would modify the right to arms ownership to reflect contemporary moral and ethical needs. But that never happened. Today gun-advocacy groups, funded by the massive arms industry, have used the last fourteen words of the 2nd Amendment to justify the most lax gun-ownership environment in the history of the civilized world. Plus, their efforts to control the courts in regard to shutting down gun-control legislation have made it impossible for lawmakers to correct this situation (as evidenced by SCOTUS's recent ruling overturning a 32 year old ban on handguns in the District of Columbia).
Despite the gallant efforts of the White House, a few senators and gun-control groups in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, it must be recognized that new gun-control legislation will simply not work. The NRA has made certain that their second line of defense, the courts, will overturn any laws that limit, in any way, the free-flow of weapons in this country.
The only way that the judicial obstruction to gun control can be alleviated is to change (amend) the antiquated constitutional wording that the courts feel supports their opinions.
There is no time like the present to initiate an A2A (Amend the 2nd Amendment) movement. A majority of the population is in favor of some form of gun control. Like the movements which led to amendments allowing African Americans and women to vote, the supporters of “sensible gun rights” have now reached critical mass.
A new definitive, unambiguous wording of the Second Amendment has become a necessity.
As Ed Schultz says at the beginning of his show:
“Let’s get to work!”