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At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, discussion about the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights was controversial and heated. Tempers flared between those who supported the Union and those who represented slave owners from the southern part of the new nation.
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.
The Amendment’s wording was changed multiple times, but its original purpose remained: protection from foreign invaders. A well-armed militia was necessary to protect the new nation without a standing army. Anti-federalists feared that if the government had a standing army, that army could be used to coerce states who opposed federal regulations into obeyance.
To continue this discussion, we must examine how the Supreme Court views the issues before them. Throughout the nation’s history, the Justices have interpreted the Constitution differently. One side believes that the Law of the Land must be taken literally, without any alteration. While the other side considers the Constitution a “living document” that must be applied to the current norms and conditions of the country.
Suppose the final draft of the Second Amendment, ratified in 1791, is to be taken literally. In that case, all Americans could legally own as many guns and as many types of weapons of mass destruction as they wish, without any restriction. As a result, criminals, the mentally ill, and every domestic terrorist in the nation would have an opportunity to become serial mass murderers.
If the Founding Fathers could have seen into the future, the wording of the Second Amendment would have been far more precise. There is no way they could have known that there would be more mass shootings in America than days on the calendar.
They would be appalled to learn that more than 33,000 innocent Americans die from gunshots each year, most of them are women and children. Likewise, they would be shocked to discover that more than 200 small children each year lose their lives or are responsible for taking the lives of other children or adults after accessing a loaded weapon left unprotected by an irresponsible gun owner.
The bottom line is that the Second Amendment remains indefensible when applied to the 21st century. Using the Amendment literally is unacceptable. Common sense must prevail — the safety of the many voids the questionable “rights” of the few.
The truth is that the Second Amendment is a perfect example of why the Constitution must be applied to life in the 21st century.
It is important here to note that although the right to bear arms was guaranteed to all Americans, slave owners added a stipulation that it would be a crime for Blacks to possess guns. Interestingly, altering the Second Amendment is acceptable when racism is involved.
However, today, the NRA gun lobby spends millions of dollars each year to guarantee that members of Congress will never change the gun laws in favor of the safety of the nation’s people. As a result, the United States continues to place profits over people.
So, what do we think about the Second Amendment and how it affects the safety of the American people?
The United States is the only nation with a serious gun problem in the free world. More importantly, the government refuses to do anything even as mass shootings become commonplace.
Contrary to lies from Fox News and Republicans in general, no one wants to prevent Americans from owning guns. However, comprehensive background checks and limiting the type of weapons purchased by the general public are necessary. No rule, regulation, or law is absolute or infinite. Times change, and laws must change as well.
To think that the Constitution must be literal is ridiculous. The Second Amendment is a crutch for gun manufacturers and gun sellers. The Supreme Court’s only job is to decide if the nation’s laws violate the Constitution, and this must be done with significant consideration of current facts and current conditions.
Op-Ed by James Turnage
NPR: Repeal The Second Amendment? That’s Not So Simple. Here’s What It Would Take; by Ron Elving
Interactive Constitution: The Second Amendment
ValpoScholar: The History of the Second Amendment; by David E. Vandercoy
Fordham Law Review: Explaining Away the Obvious: The Infeasibility of Characterizing the Second Amendment as a Nonindividual Right; by George A. Mocsary
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gilbert Mercier’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Anthony Crider’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Lee Wright’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License