People frequently reference the Constitution of the United States as their basis for any number of arguments related to the rights, protections and privileges afforded the residents of this country, rightfully so. Few would argue that the founding fathers of the United States were anything short of genius when it came to their ability to understand the failures of “man”, the weaknesses, the prejudices, and the proclivities that would be faced as our country progressed from an idea into an actual fully functioning system of governance. Personally, I believe that the simple fact we are still here as a nation, not to mention, arguably the greatest nation on earth, after more than 240 years of existence as a testament to that genius.
At the same time, these same founding fathers were not infallible. They recognized it themselves, with great forethought, when they wrote and ratified the Constitution by including Article 5, wherein, they offered the opportunity to add, delete or change as necessary ANY element of the Constitution, with the only exception being that no state shall be deprived of its equal representation in the United States Senate. And under the procedures as outlined in Article 5, there have been 27 instances where it has been determined that the Constitution needed to be altered, including the first 10 occurrences that were ratified simultaneously with the Constitution itself. In our history, we have even witnessed amendments proposed and ratified to change previous amendments, in the case of the 18th and subsequent 21st Amendments.
My point is that while the Constitution is the basis for our entire system of governance, there is no element of it that need be considered permanent, without options, or not subject to change if circumstances dictate (with the exception of representation in the Senate as previously mentioned). Of course, opinions at any time will vary greatly when it comes to deciding whether circumstances dictate the need for change or modification, but the system exists to resolve those arguments.
Now, backing up a few steps, there are two things that I believe remain the foundation of our nation.
First, in the Declaration of Independence, aside from the many enumerated grievances of the day, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Second, and certainly no less important, is the Preamble of the Constitution itself, in which, the founders share the overall vision and purpose of our union.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
That’s it. These are simple, direct and clear expressions of what this nation stands for and is based upon, and at the same time, they are incredibly lacking in expressed details of how to achieve these lofty goals. The sheer ambiguity of certain elements of these passages will leave people debating their meaning long after we are all gone from this Earth, however, they may still be used as a measure of all current and proposed legislation, as well as specific elements of the Constitution itself.
So, with that in mind, I would like to call attention to the frequently debated 3rd Amendment ratified on December 15, 1791. (And yes, I am being sarcastic when I reference the 3rd Amendment.) In the mid to late 18th Century, though, this was a significant issue. Imagine living in the American colonies, likely in a home built with your own two hands, and working the land surrounding your home to feed yourself and your family. At any time, the ruling power, could decide there was a necessity to place soldiers representing the government within your home, allowing them access to the limited resources that you depended upon to feed and shelter your children. You were not given a choice in this, and it could prove to be detrimental to the very existence of your family. Under those circumstances, given what we know of that period in our history, this was a very serious threat and it needed to be addressed, hence, the 3rd Amendment. Today, 227 years later, you will never see a newspaper article discussing the 3rd Amendment, you will not hear it discussed on the floor of Congress, nor will you see it debated on Facebook.
At the same time, I would like to suggest a debate about what constitutes a right. We all draw upon the unalienable rights cited in the Declaration of Independence of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and while it does seem to be forgotten in practice these days, we generally accept the notion that all men are created equal, at least in theory. I raise these points because it is my belief that this portion of the Declaration of Independence makes clear that the rights of one person cannot circumvent those same rights held by another, and when they do, corrective action is not only needed, but mandatory under the system of beliefs we collectively choose to abide by. You can observe this everywhere in our laws…my freedom to drink and throw a party does not allow me and my friends to trash the neighbor’s yard in the process. My freedom to own and drive a car does not allow me to run pedestrians over because they are in the way of where I want to drive. My freedom to use my money to buy what I want and can afford does not allow me to buy the possessions of others that choose not to sell them. My freedom to believe whatever I want with regard to faith or religion does not allow me to dictate to someone else what they must believe, nor even to prevent them from enjoying their own beliefs, regardless of how diametrically opposed to mine they may be. Some will laugh at my examples, but I purposely included several that seem so obvious they may be considered ridiculous to even mention because it is important to illustrate how our society functions, by the consent of everyone who chooses to be a part of this society.
Finally, when it comes to the Preamble quoted above, we cannot lose sight of the underlying purpose of the government created by the Constitution, specifically establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare, when it comes to the suggestion I am about to make.
With all of that in mind, it is time for this country to stop talking about the minutia of the 2nd Amendment. Stop the debate about whether it is anyone’s right to own “military style assault weapons”, and stop wasting the time of legislatures debating whether bump stocks should be banned, or what kind of background checks should be required before allowing someone to buy a gun. ALL of that ignores the most basic truth. That truth that no one seems to have the courage to say out loud is that the 2nd Amendment, much like the 3rd Amendment, served its purpose for many years. It was needed, it made sense, and now, that time has long passed. The intent behind the 2nd Amendment, and the situation is addressed was during a time when there were no standing armies, and having recently thrown off the “tyranny” of the British government, there was a very real need for a militia…”a well-organized militia” to be more specific. Today, as has been the case for at least 100 or more years, the idea that we are going to rise up as a citizenry to a tyrannical government (i.e. the United States government) is laughable. As a citizen, you can own as many assault rifles as you want, and that battle will last about 5 minutes. After that, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t provide for anything else. It does not reference self-protection, nor property protection. It does not reference hunting. In fact, nowhere in the entire Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or in any other founding document will you find a reference to shooting a home invader or a mugger, deer season, or target shooting.
THAT is the only gun control law that is needed. Repeal the 2nd Amendment. Anything less than that is to ignore the very principles this nation was founded upon. If you have some internal need to possess a gun, join the police force or join the military. Use your gun for a higher purpose. If you believe in law enforcement and support them the way so many say they do, then make their job safer and easier…make it clear that if they encounter someone with a gun that is not carrying a badge as well, they are a criminal and have bad intent. People will say the criminals won’t abide by the laws against guns and only the good guys will be disarmed. That may be true…for a period of time, but it won’t last long. The risk of being caught with a gun will cause a significant majority of “criminals” to think twice about carrying them or even owning them, and the ones who don’t give them up will be dealt with in a fairly short period of time. If people want to shoot at targets, or go hunting for sport, there are ways to allow those activities without every participant owning a gun. For that matter, in a capitalistic society, there will be a wealth of businesses cropping up to offer such activities, and they can both possess and provide the firearms needed to participate to their paying customers, and those same guns and ammunition can be left on site when the customers are done hunting or done shooting at targets. Just as importantly, those businesses can also be regulated for safety, because the mere existence of any gun out amongst the general public represents a clear and present danger to the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of every single person living in this country and every single gun out in the world, regardless of the owner, or the background check, represents a direct threat to domestic tranquility and to the general welfare of the people of the United States.
Everyone qualifies their statements regarding gun control laws by leading with “I am a proponent of the 2nd Amendment” or “I believe in the 2nd Amendment”, and then follow it with “but…” Someone just needs to say it…to tell it like it is…so today, I am choosing to do that regardless of how many people may agree or disagree. There is no benefit of civilians owning guns that outweighs the dangers to all of us. The right of a parent to send their children to school and trust they will come home again FAR outweighs someone’s right to hunt. The right of a person to attend church without being shot during a sermon FAR outweighs your right to defend your jewelry or your car. The right of a person to attend a concert or a dance club, or even go to work, and have it not be the last thing you ever do FAR outweighs your right to go target shooting. And even if, you or I end up being a tragic story where a criminal with a gun kills us because we did not have a gun to defend ourselves, our right to have that gun does NOT justify putting every single person in this country at risk while they do nothing more than go about their business of going to school, going to work, going dancing, going to a concert, or simply driving down the road.
Finally, for all of you who think you carry a gun to protect yourself…how exactly does that work when everyone around you is carrying a gun as well? How do you know who the bad guys are? When do you pull out your gun and shoot someone because they are a bad guy? Here’s the fact of the matter…no one carrying a gun is a bad guy until they raise it up and shoot someone else with it. Until they do that, what justification would you have for shooting them? How do you know they are just not a fellow good guy who is standing his or her ground because they think you are the bad guy, and you represent the threat to their life? And if you wait for them to shoot someone, you already lost the battle…and innocent person has died, or many innocent people have died.
There is no argument that stands up against logic, including self-defense, when it comes to civilians owning or carrying guns, so while you are contemplating how to tell me I am wrong, please save your “thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families.” Your thoughts and prayers are hollow, meaningless, and completely offensive to everyone…if you truly care, give up your guns and repeal the 2nd Amendment.