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Eichenwald writes: "Some gun owners - some - will rage about this idea, saying that they have the right to protect themselves. Well, so do the rest of us - the right to protect ourselves from them."

Semi-automatic weapons for all was not what the second amendment was intended for. (photo: Julie Dermansky/Corbis)
Semi-automatic weapons for all was not what the second amendment was intended for. (photo: Julie Dermansky/Corbis)

Let's Repeal the Second Amendment

By Kurt Eichenwald, Vanity Fair

08 January 13


s news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary played out around the country, the mantra from the gun-rights folks was fairly consistent: now is not the time to discuss how the government should deal with controls on firearms. It's politicizing tragedy to talk about it, they whine.

O.K., I'll agree. Let's not talk about policy when it comes to Sandy Hook.

Instead, let's consider the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre in 1984. Following the shooting of 40 people at that time, gunnies also said it was too soon to discuss new firearms laws; it would politicize the shooting at a moment that should only be about remembrance, you see. So let's do it now - 28 years is long enough to wait.

Or we can talk about the 21 people shot at the post office in Edmond, Oklahoma, two years later. Or the 35 at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, in 1989. Or the 20 that same year at Standard Gravure. Or the 50 at Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. Or the 14 at Lindhurst High School in Olivehurst, California, the year after that. Or the 25 on the Long Island Railroad in 1993. Or the 15 at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Or the 29 at Thurston High School.

Or Columbine. Or Virginia Tech. Or Tucson. Or Aurora. Or Clackamas Town Center, just three days before Sandy Hook.

Or any of the senseless mass murders that have left behind piles of the maimed and murdered - the elderly, students, children, shoppers, worshippers, moviegoers, diners, workers, and even a member of Congress. One young woman - Jessica Ghawi - missed a gun rampage while shopping at a mall by a matter of minutes, only to be killed weeks later at the Aurora movie-theater massacre. Almost 1,000 innocent Americans have been shot in the last 30 years in these bloodbaths. And at each instance, the National Rifle Association and company try to shame us with this "not the time" argument so that we can't discuss adopting laws to protect ourselves; eventually, the horror recedes, we move on with our lives, and we walk out into the world never knowing whether our heads will be the next to explode after being struck by a madman's bullet.

Enough. We talk now. And my position is going to be direct: America needs to repeal the Second Amendment.

Now, before gunnies run for their weapons and belch out that tiresome and frighteningly violent malarkey about prying their firearms from their "cold, dead hands," let me be clear: I believe that people have the right to arm themselves. The concept traces back to English common law, which is how it made its way into the Constitution. The problem is, for a variety of reasons, the Second Amendment has been twisted and bastardized in ways that could never have been conceived at the time of the nation's founding. Just look at what has happened in states so far: the Michigan legislature passed a law allowing folks to carry concealed weapons in day-care centers, and Ohio is going forward with its plans to allow guns in the garages at the state capitol. The right, they claim, comes from the Second Amendment.

As written, though, the amendment has nothing - nothing - to do with modern America. Worse, it is the biggest mess of verbiage in the whole Constitution, making its actual meaning almost impossible to discern. We need to get rid of it and try again with an amendment that makes sense.

On the Subject of Grammar

Let's start with the words that now exist. As adopted by Congress, 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.

But is that really the amendment? Check out the version of the Bill of Rights held by the Library of Congress, and compare it with the Bill at the National Archives - they're different. The one at the Archives was passed by Congress, while the other includes the words and punctuation ratified by the states and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson. It 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.

Still a grammarian's nightmare. But notice that the comma between "militia" and "being" has disappeared. Rather than being a set of two syntactically nonsensical fragments, the version ratified by the states is much simpler: a dependent phrase, one that under the typical rules of grammar would qualify the independent clause that follows. In other words, just with the removal of the comma, the relationship between the words in the amendment becomes much clearer.

Unfortunately, the courts have tended to shrug off the difference in punctuation, instead attempting to define the amendment based on the grammatical train wreck passed by the Congress. So, how does the Supreme Court deal with the fact that the version of the amendment it relies upon is incomprehensible under any normal rules of grammar? It punts.

In the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia, in what may be a first from the Supreme Court, essentially ruled that the opening words of the Second Amendment could be ignored. They did not, he argued, qualify the independent clause that came after (as would have been obvious if the version of the amendment adopted by the states had been used). Rather, Scalia opined, the words were just a preface, a little bit of throat clearing by the framers before they got down to the business of defining gun rights.

In his ruling, Scalia calls the first half of the Second Amendment a "prefatory clause." (To get a sense of how grammatically atypical that concept is, run those two words through Google. The vast majority of the entries are quoting Scalia.) The independent clause - about the right to bear arms - is the operative one, Scalia says.

"The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose," Scalia writes. "The Amendment could be rephrased ‘Because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

That's right. To explain the meaning of the supposed prefatory clause of the Second Amendment, Scalia - who holds himself out as a strict textualist of the Constitution - felt the need to rewrite the Bill of Rights. And this incompetently written phrase does nothing to expand or limit the scope of the amendment, he says; essentially, the words have no purpose. Nowhere else in the Constitution does this supposed blaring of trumpets announcing the about-to-arrive relevant portion appear.

Even with Scalia's tortured logic, though, the words "well regulated militia" and "free State" are too specific to be dismissed as something the nation's founders just threw into the mix to be, I don't know - dramatic? So what do they actually mean?

Well, that's another problem. The term "well regulated" doesn't denote today what it did then. It's an archaic phrase that is the equivalent of "well trained." And a militia is either an army made up of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers or a military force like the state National Guard that can be called up at any time.

Then, "free State." Some gunnies seem to translate these words to mean "a free country," as if it were a generic term. They're wrong. The word "State" - capital S - appears throughout the Constitution, and it always refers to the individual states that make up the United States. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, each state had its own militia of citizens, and the fear was that a federal army would disarm them. In essence, since the states didn't trust the federal government not to abuse its power, the Bill of Rights guaranteed that these militias would maintain the weaponry needed to defend themselves against encroachment by a federal army.

So, how does Scalia's argument about the prefatory clause make any sense? Really, it doesn't. Using the "because" that he added, let's look at how the Second Amendment would be written using the modern terms and the structure ratified by the states:

Because a well-trained army of ordinary citizens is necessary for the security of the individual states that constitute the United States of America, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.

Now, the first half of the amendment starts to make sense. Not only does the supposed "prefatory clause" have meaning, it actually - as would be expected - serves to define the words that follow. Not in a way I think is appropriate; I don't believe that only Americans who serve in state-sanctioned militias should have the rights to weapons.

So, Which People Should?

"The people." That's the simplest phrase in all of the Second Amendment, but even those two words can lead to mind-numbing debate about what in the world the Founding Fathers meant.

Scalia thinks he knows. Since he tosses out the "prefatory clause," he doesn't have to acknowledge that the framers were writing about militias. Instead, to get to his desired outcome, he once again creates a definitional netherworld that doesn't stand up to the scrutiny. While ignoring the first half the Second Amendment, Scalia decides that he can use other parts of the Constitution to define the second half.

"In all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention ‘the people,'" Scalia writes, "the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset."

Specifically, Scalia cites freedom of speech, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection of rights not enumerated in the Constitution, and the powers of the states. And all of those, he points out, apply to everyone.

Slow down, and let's examine this closely. Let's assume Scalia is right - which he isn't. There are no subsets of people; all members of the political community have the right to bear arms. Just like all people have the right to speak, etc.

A week ago, I saw a man on a street corner who was clearly mentally ill, jabbering something irrational about the government. That man could not be stopped from speaking; like everyone else in this country, he is protected by the First Amendment. And if the police wanted to search the boxes the man was carrying, they couldn't. He is also protected by the Fourth Amendment.

But if that same man walked into a gun shop, the owners could lose their dealer's license if they sold him a weapon. Why? Because he is part of a subset of people whom voters and their representatives have decided do not have the right to guns.

It's that simple. Scalia is wrong because Scalia is wrong. If all people, with no exceptions, have the right to bear arms, as Scalia maintains, then this mentally ill man could buy a handgun. So could a convicted felon. And so could my 18-year-old son. Hell, kids have freedom of speech and the right against illegal search - by Scalia's logic, my 15-year-old should be able to waltz down to Walmart and pick up a nine millimeter.

But the problem with interpretations like Scalia's - one long shared by the N.R.A. - is that what has long been widely accepted as reasonable exceptions to the category of "the people" can be tossed aside too easily.

Indeed, the N.R.A. has fought successfully to expand the meaning of those two words so that even those people who have been found to be a danger to others can get a gun. Yes, the gun-lobbying group has fought on behalf of gun rights for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. Second Amendment and all that, they chirped, as if James Madison fretted about arming the type of person often left to die in chains in colonial America.

After the Virginia Tech shooting - the deadliest in American history - Congress momentarily seemed to emerge from its gun stupor and passed the N.I.C.S. Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. When it was introduced, the legislation called on states to submit mental-health records to national databases maintained by the F.B.I., which would be paid for by the federal government. Sounds reasonable.

But no, the N.R.A. manned the barricades for the rights of those who can pose the most danger to the rest of us. This, they told legislators, was a matter of defending the Second Amendment.

So the N.R.A. started poking holes in the bill. First, the group succeeded in limiting the definition of those with mental illness to only people who had been tossed in a mental institution or found by a court or other official body to be a danger to themselves or others. Even if a psychiatrist reasonably believed a patient could pose a threat, nothing could be done to keep a gun out of that person's hand. A medical diagnosis isn't enough.

Once the definition was weakened, the N.R.A. went after the restrictions barring the mentally ill from possessing guns. In the past, anyone banned from having a gun would always be banned, a concept that makes sense given the frequency of relapse among the mentally ill. With the N.I.C.S. amendments, thanks to the N.R.A., that was no longer true.

The key to that was a program jammed into the legislation called "Relief from Disabilities," which allows even people who have been institutionalized or deemed to be a danger to themselves or others to buy guns again. The way it works is this: sometime after meeting the law's standards of being too mentally ill to own a gun, a person could petition a court, claiming to be all better. If the court agrees, well, lock and load.

After the N.R.A. wedged that rule into the books, the group then went to its ground game, making sure that the states that had to enforce this law didn't bring too many mental-health experts or too much proof into the mix.

Take Idaho. After the new law was signed, a group of law-enforcement and mental-health officials - you know, experts - proposed that the courts should be required to have "clear and convincing" evidence before ruling that a person diagnosed with a psychiatric illness was allowed to buy guns again. On top of that, the group wanted what would seem to have been a requirement of the law - a recent mental-health evaluation of the petitioner. But the N.R.A. made sure that proposal died.

Instead, rather than experts, folks who know very little about mental health would be making the judgment call. The law passed in Idaho dropped the call for a psychiatric evaluation and set the standard of proof at the much lower "preponderance of evidence."

A report in The New York Times last year summed up the results:

States have mostly entrusted these decisions to judges, who are often ill-equipped to conduct investigations from the bench. Many seemed willing to simply give petitioners the benefit of the doubt. The results often seem haphazard.

Hearings could be no more than a few minutes long, the Times found. In one instance cited by the paper, a man who was barred from coming to the grounds of a local V.A. hospital out of fear he would hurt someone was allowed by a court to buy guns again. That could never have happened before the N.I.C.S. amendments. But at least a hearing was held. A number of states still don't submit the psychiatric information to the N.I.C.S. system at all, meaning that the mentally ill are free in those locations to purchase a MAC-10 semi-automatic pistol or any other gun for sale.

So, while the politicians in Washington celebrated the passage of the amendments as a giant leap in preventing another Tucson, the N.R.A. told its members - presumably the mentally ill ones - the truth: their ability to buy guns had just gotten better, not worse.

After the House passed the N.R.A.-backed version of the bill, the gun group issued a message to its members with the headline "‘NICS Improvement Amendments Act' Not Gun Control!" And for those who didn't get the point, the body of the message was explicit.

"In several ways this bill is better for gun owners than current law," the message read. "Rest assured that if the anti-gunners use this legislation as a vehicle to advance gun control restrictions, NRA will pull our support for the bill and vigorously oppose its passage!"

Rest assured, the N.R.A. got what it wanted. The term "the people" now includes the mentally ill.

What Arms?

Think about this for a second: Most of the mass murders of innocent civilians over the last three decades have been committed by people with guns that they lawfully obtained and owned. These rapid-fire, semi-automatic (and earlier, automatic) weapons with high-capacity magazines and speed loaders - guns that serve no purpose other than to hit the largest number of targets as quickly as possible - were purchased by these future killers as easily as they might buy a six-shooter.

Plenty of gun opponents have pointed out the obvious: that the Founding Fathers could never have envisioned the kinds of "arms" that exist today - Washington, Jefferson, and the rest had never even seen a bullet. Musket balls for guns that required constant reloading were the "arms" of the day. The modern bullet - a conical piece of metal in a tube that contained a propellant in its base - didn't come along until the 19th century.

Concealed weapons? Largely impossible. A robber breaking into a house with a gun? Only one shot available before reloading required.

But that rational point leads some to the ridiculous notion that no arms should be available other than those that existed in the 18th century. The Constitution has to evolve with the times; no one would suggest that television stations and radio networks were not guaranteed freedom of speech under the First Amendment simply because they were means of communication unavailable in colonial times.

Let's stick with that analogy for a second. Back in those days, I could stand on any street corner and argue for change to my fellow citizens (ignore, for now, the complexities created later by the obscene Alien and Sedition Acts). Today, though, I can't just start a television or radio station. That's because there is a limited broadcast bandwidth, and the government has an interest in making sure the airwaves do not become so cluttered that no one would be heard.

So, even though I have freedom of speech, I can be arrested if I decide to broadcast my speech on my own radio station without obtaining a license from the government. No reasonable person could contest that, even though such requirements mean that Congress has passed a law limiting an individual's ability to speak to as many people as possible. If the absolutist arguments employed by the National Rifle Association were used here - let's say by the National Speech Association - there is no doubt that broadcast licenses would be deemed unconstitutional by the group and its members.

What does this mean for the Second Amendment? The same thing. The evolution of weaponry - just like the evolution of means of communication - has created a state interest that didn't exist before. When the Bill of Rights was written, no one owned a MAG5100, 100-round magazine for an M-16. The concept of a mass slaughter carried out over a matter of minutes was incomprehensible.

Just like with the state interest created by the need to preserve the broadcast bandwidth, the appearance of new technology in the area of guns has created a significant risk to other citizens that a government must take into account. Times change. Government has to change with it. The framers never intended to convey a right that gives any American the power to wipe out dozens of people in a matter of seconds.

As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson said in 1949, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. We do not all have to risk death at a movie theater or at a restaurant or at work because of a fealty to a bunch of words. And before the patrio-philic jump all over me, just know that Thomas Jefferson agrees. As he wrote in 1803:

Strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation.

The meaning of Jefferson's comments, as I see it, is that the right of my family to live trumps some vague, tortured interpretation of a single garbled sentence that has been interpreted in ways that are contrary to the interests of many citizens. We need to fix it.

The question, of course, is how. Here's my suggestion.

Because the Second Amendment is an incomprehensible mess, because too many lobbyists have argued that it is an absolute protection of actions and items never considered at the time of our nation's founding, and because there is a clear state interest in protecting the lives of its citizens, the words must be removed from the Constitution.

But, and this is the important part, the right to bear arms must be preserved.

This is not a contradiction.

Once the Second Amendment is gone, a new amendment, one that takes account of the realities of modern times, should replace it. I think such an amendment should read something like this:

The people retain the right to keep and bear arms, subject to reasonable restrictions deemed necessary by the Congress and the President to secure the lives and well being of others.

O.K., I'm no James Madison, but that makes the point. The courts, obviously, would have to rule on what is considered "reasonable" - an extremely open-ended word that would allow for the amendment to evolve if, say, someone in the next century invents a Glock that shoots missiles. I don't, however, think that a case could be made arguing that the possession of cop-killer bullets is reasonable.

But here's the restriction I really want to impose: force all gun owners to purchase liability insurance. That's required for owning a car, despite the fact that such a rule could be deemed by the unreasonable as being an impediment to constitutional protections of interstate commerce. And, unlike government, the one thing insurance companies know how to do is assess risk.

You want a semi-automatic assault rifle? O.K., says the insurer. Where are you going to store it? Who else will have access to it? Your insurance won't apply if someone else is firing it. Have you been trained? Do you have a license? You want another one - well, your rates just went up. And by the way - you have to notify us if you have been deemed to have any psychiatric problems, because we might cancel your policy. Then, just like with a car, people who want to carry around their gun have to have their insurance card on them at all times. And folks who have a gun without insurance? Well, that's when the government steps in and deems it a felony.

These are just ideas, and there are plenty of others worthy of debate. But, unfortunately, so long as this "Second Amendment" mantra can be thrown into the gears to stop all reasonable conversation, a real discussion will never take place.

Some gun owners - some - will rage about this idea, saying that they have the right to protect themselves. Well, so do the rest of us - the right to protect ourselves from them. your social media marketing partner


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+5 # tswhiskers 2013-01-08 09:55
You might as well ask Santa and the Tooth Fairy to help repeal the 2d Amendment. But I suspect that a lot of lawful gun owners would become enraged and agree with the NRA who has built its base on fears that the govt. really wants to remove all guns from public hands. I don't think legal arguments will phase the average gun owner either. I like the idea of having to buy gun insurance, tho. There is a big precedent for it too; you can't own a car without having it insured. I have said elsewhere that the Constitution should not be strictly interpreted thanks to huge changes in communications and technology that render the 2d Amendment meaningless as it was understood by Madison et al. There has always been a lunatic fringe that will not see reason on this subject. People don't remember the John Birch Soc. In the 1960's they screamed that the Commies would take us down if we didn't have our guns to protect us. Fear is a very powerful emotion and it will always be a part of the human condition. Let's try for gun registration and push for gun insurance instead of "controlling" guns.
-14 # OldSalt 2013-01-08 10:22
The Right to bear arms (God given right of self-defense) was part of English Common Law as the result of the Peace Treaty for the Glorious Revolution of 1689, when William of Orange deposed King James II. A religious war of Protestants against Catholics, that I am sure our "Founding Fathers" were thinking of it when they called for separation of Church and State. The right to bear arms was only allowed for by Catholics under King James II. After the Glorious Revolution all Englishmen could bear arms. The US Laws and Rights enumerated in the US Constitution were based on the same Rights and Common Laws that the "Founding Fathers" had as Englishmen.
+10 # tswhiskers 2013-01-08 10:40
I find it strange therefore that Englishmen today have had the sense to curb gun ownership in the UK. Perhaps they have learned a big lesson from their own bloody history in cl. the countless religious wars beginning with Henry VIII's closing of the monasteries and the consequent burnings of both Catholics and Protestants. We have not yet learned that lesson but then we haven't had the horrible history of religious dissent that was so much a part of Western European history.
+16 # OldSalt 2013-01-08 11:40
The "Founding Fathers" preferred the "Minute Man" militia to a standing Army. They wouldn't have approved of the "Empire" that we have today of 1000's Foreign Military bases - some in existence since the 1940's. They would not have approved the unconstitutiona l FISA, NDAA or the PATRIOT ACT. Just what would be left of the Bill of Rights if the Second Amendment were repealed? Want less violence in the World then stop all the Wars on everything and reduce our Military budget to half of what it is now.
+4 # Dion Giles 2013-01-08 13:56
"The 'Founding Fathers' [snip] wouldn't have approved [snip] the unconstitutiona l FISA, NDAA or the PATRIOT ACT.

And what have the gunnies done ever - even once - to use their guns to stand up to that tyranny?
+4 # seeuingoa 2013-01-08 18:03
Quoting Dion Giles:
"The 'Founding Fathers' [snip] wouldn't have approved [snip] the unconstitutional FISA, NDAA or the PATRIOT ACT.

And what have the gunnies done ever - even once - to use their guns to stand up to that tyranny?

Important question: Have the guns ever been used against an unconstitutional
or tyrannical act?
After all, that is what the 2nd Amendment is about.
+4 # OldSalt 2013-01-08 18:45
Just what do you think the American Revolution was about? It was citizen soldiers that assembled on the village green at Lexington to fire "the shot heard round the world". The last time our Freedoms were defended in our homeland was when Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the battle of New Orleans after the treaty to end the War of 1812. Just about every war since then has been about aggression by our war mongering Elites and Politicians trying to establish an Empire. This is why today after almost 100 years of continuous warfare the US is still fighting foreign wars. Both political parties are owned by the Fascist Elites.
+9 # kelly 2013-01-08 11:42
I can't wait to see how many of us are going to win a war against the U.S. with our AK47's. Since you can't hunt with them, of what real use are they? I don't expect to see any Orangemen coming any time soon. Are you for or against the article, or just giving a history lesson? There is no doubt that at the time the law was justified in the past but now, 200+ years later, it is no longer logical. Things do change. Blacks are no longer 3/5's of a person, women are allowed to vote...but there is one thing:"the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." If that is still the case, then I hereby reserve my right to live peacefully with the knowledge that someone with an auto- or semi- automatic gun is not going to blow my brains out in a school or a library or a place of worship because of a convoluted belief that any gun is an okay gun.
I just bought a documentary on WWI. More Englishmen were lost in the last year of that war than all three prior years combine. Know why? Killing machines had been perfected. Guns which had been single shot became multi-shot. Horses gave way to tanks, Dreadnoughts became U-boats. The higher death counts are a direct result of man's willingness to create simpler ways to kill larger amounts of people in a shorter period time. These are weapons of war but not hunting...unles s you expect to be attacked by 30 ducks at a time.
+1 # OldSalt 2013-01-08 13:22
Criminals often use automatic weapons, therefore I need a minimum of a semi-auto to protect and defend myself and family.
The Police motto of “Serve and Protect” is a sick joke. The fact that they only protect and serve the 1% should have been evident to all who watched them in action against the OCCUPY WALL STREET demonstrations. The Police have no obligation to even show up when you call 911. This statement is supported by the following Court rulings and State laws: Court rulings that Police have no duty under federal law to protect citizens - see DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services; Warren v. District of Columbia ; Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department. California's Government Code, Sections 821, 845, and 846 which state, in part: "Neither a public entity or a public employee [may be sued] for failure to provide adequate police protection or service, failure to prevent the commission of crimes and failure to apprehend criminals."
So if you want to be a victim wait for the Police to show up, but then who wants to be brutally raped like the 3 women in DC who called 911.
+3 # robniel 2013-01-08 18:52
The 2nd Amendment is not the problem, although it's antiquated. It's the wing-nut interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, of which the Supreme Court is guilty.
+1 # rockieball 2013-01-10 10:16
But when it's a minority of people who own guns and a minority of those gun owners who own auto and semiautomatic weapons. I say then we can protect ourselves and not by following their illogical reason by going out and buying a weapon, but protecting ourselves by removing their gun. It might take time many years but stop making them and the ammo for them today in 20-30 years they would be out dated and the ammo old.
-10 # Doc E 2013-01-08 10:26
How about if we play a little game? Let's put Kurt on a street corner in Chicago where 500+ were murdered this year in a zone with the strictist gun control laws and see how he does. Or tell this to the lady who defended herself from an intruder recently:
-6 # reader46 2013-01-08 11:06
I support a repealing, but: "The people retain the right to keep and bear arms, subject to reasonable restrictions deemed necessary by the Congress and the President to secure the lives and well being of others." How about MYSELF?! No rights??? reasonable restrictions??? Or just an error in your "New 2nd"?
+12 # RicKelis 2013-01-08 11:11
We'll probably have to convene an Article V Constitutional Convention to pull something like this amendment re-working off. And while we are at it, let's work on re-establishing the basic Constitution -- but not "warts and all." I'd like to see the whole subject of the SCOTUS, re-worked - taken back to before the court instilled itself with the right of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison. And put in a judicial review for the justices every 12 years or so to see if they are fit for the job. Now there's a gaggle that should have mental health tests administered even before they get the job. Especially nut-cases like Scalia.
-16 # rsb1 2013-01-08 11:46
You have a choice, Sir....
If you don't like it............. .RELOCATE
+1 # rockieball 2013-01-10 10:21
OH WOW haven't heard that in awhile. The old 60's America love it or leave it schtick. NO!! America if you love it change it for the better. How about RSB 1 if you don't like it......RELOCAT E. But you cannot because all first world country's have strict gun control. but I hear their are some 3rd world countries that are great The Republic of Congo is one. Allows you to openly carry a gun. Of course their is Mexico where I hear our country is giving away assault weapons.
+4 # DakotaKid 2013-01-08 11:56
Good piece and a damn good idea but the bad news, as we all know, is that repealing anything in the sacrosanct Constitution or Bill of Rights just isn't going to happen. The good news is that it doesn't have to. There's just nothing in the 2nd Amendment about private gun ownership, full stop. It's not there. The 2nd Amendment is about the right of states to organize state militias. And as for automatic weapons: they didn't exist. Think powder horns and muzzle-loaders. Go back to the days before semi-automatic weapons and you solve the uniquely American phenomenon of non-ideological one-man massacres perpetrated by psychotic gunslingers for no known reason other than that it's possible - which in today's gun-crazed America makes it inevitable.
+3 # Smiley 2013-01-08 12:45
Not true. It was left vague because there was the same split among the framers as we have today. Worries about criminals with guns on one side and worries about a government become despotic on the other side.
-1 # pagrad 2013-01-08 12:00
The solution is really very simple.
Outlaw ownership and the carrying of ALL weaponry.

If the society does not have weaponry, there is no reason for Police to have guns. They may simply Taser the lawbreaker.

Collectors could see the weaponry in Museums where firearms are under lock and key.

Hunters may make their own Bow and Arrows.

There are such societies, who are quite secure and much happier.

The NRA is just an industry Lobby and should be taxed and legislated.

Some years ago, I came home from work at 2 in the morning. Some idiot came from behind a Dumpster, pointed a gun at me: “Give me your money.” I simply took the gun away from him. Being unarmed, he ran away. Police tell me that I was taking a risk. NO, he was taking the risk. I could have killed him.
-1 # dfy 2013-01-10 11:20
Quoting pagrad:
The solution is really very simple.
Outlaw ownership and the carrying of ALL weaponry.

If the society does not have weaponry, there is no reason for Police to have guns. They may simply Taser the lawbreaker.

Collectors could see the weaponry in Museums where firearms are under lock and key.

Hunters may make their own Bow and Arrows.

There are such societies, who are quite secure and much happier.

The NRA is just an industry Lobby and should be taxed and legislated.

Some years ago, I came home from work at 2 in the morning. Some idiot came from behind a Dumpster, pointed a gun at me: “Give me your money.” I simply took the gun away from him. Being unarmed, he ran away. Police tell me that I was taking a risk. NO, he was taking the risk. I could have killed him.

The people in the US can be organized into three groups. The law makers which is the government, the police and military, the law takers, who are the populace who would surrender their guns in the event of a gun confiscation event and the law breakers, the criminals who would not surrender their guns in any circumstance. Should a gun confiscation event occur the law takers would then be a disarmed victim population to be preyed upon by the law breakers. The law takers would also be vulnerable to democide at the hands of the law makers as has been the case where 170 million people killed by governments following gun control in the 20th century. Stalin, Mao, Hitler.
+3 # 4yourinformation 2013-01-08 12:05
"Plenty of gun opponents have pointed out the obvious: that the Founding Fathers could never have envisioned the kinds of "arms" that exist today - Washington, Jefferson, and the rest had never even seen a bullet. Musket balls for guns that required constant reloading were the "arms" of the day. The modern bullet - a conical piece of metal in a tube that contained a propellant in its base - didn't come along until the 19th century."

This is stupid. The musket WAS the M-16 of its day. General Washington mandated that all males would have one. It was a far more powerful weapon at DISTANCE than the secondary weapon, the sword or bladed alternative. Bows were also a close equivalent. Everyone had them. Today, full automatics are NOT ALLOWED without expensive permit and long wait period. People cannot and should not have cannons. All of these gun haters know nothing about this stuff. I'm a lefty and I agree with most gun owners that a lot of liberals get really stupid when it comes to this subject. They just want to take something away from someone they disagree with. I hate useless cars like Corvettes and Porsches but I'm not advocating that they be taken away. All of the best solutions to these gun related problems are right in front of us. Economy, health care access and ending the stupid Drug War, but all of the sudden it's about guns and only guns.
-2 # kelly 2013-01-08 12:52
He mandated it in order to be able to put down an armed insurrection. And, when I heard someone use the argument about that to Scalia when it came to that and why he should agree with Healthcare he said it was totally irrelevant. FYI, you can buy at least a semi- at just about any gun show you want and w/o a permit. It doesn't take much pressure on a trigger to make something like that go from shooting 1 to 30 bullets. And it's about access to guns and availability of those guns.
0 # Dion Giles 2013-01-08 14:01
"Economy, health care access and ending the stupid Drug War, but all of the sudden it's about guns and only guns.

Could it be because the huge rate of gun homicides in the USA compared with Britain is about guns and only guns?
0 # dfy 2013-01-10 11:39
Quoting Dion Giles:
"Economy, health care access and ending the stupid Drug War, but all of the sudden it's about guns and only guns.

Could it be because the huge rate of gun homicides in the USA compared with Britain is about guns and only guns?

In the 10 years following the massive gun confiscation of firearms in Britain gun violence doubled. Gun homicides are low but Britain is one of the most dangerous places to live in Europe. I will follow this up with citations.
+11 # 4yourinformation 2013-01-08 12:25
What if that Lanza kid had just jumped off a bridge instead? It would have been much better for those kids et al. He should have, but then...would we have cared any more for HIS own good? We're all real emotional when a mass of people get killed (except places like Gaza and Iraq and the Stan) but if this kid had just killed himself....just a blip in the news. OR, maybe not. Most suicides are not even reported in the news. It embarrasses the SYSTEM to have so many suicides telling us that we are FUBAR.

If Adam Lanza and these other mental cases had access to health care above what his mother was doing, he might be a fairly stable kid right now. All of these countries that people are citing for strict gun controls and low gun crimes just happen to have strong social safety nets and single-payer HC and cohesive communities.

Look at Vermont. It has NO requirements in order to carry a concealed handgun. Got a drive's license? You can carry. Very low crime, let alone gun crime. WHY??? Maybe it's the community and the OTHER things than guns, pro or con. They are going to be the 1st state with single-payer HC. They ban Walmart, not guns from Vermont. They are pursuing a state bank. They have engaged citizens in all of their local governments, not sloths and couch sitters. You can take ALL they guns away like China does and you can still have hell on earth.
+2 # tbcrawford 2013-01-08 13:31
Bravo! This should be a must-read from high-school to Congress. Deeply appreciate suggestion we should all have the reassurance that we are also protected from guns! The least we should strive for is registration, banning multiple firing assault weapons, and taxing ammunition.
-1 # dfy 2013-01-10 11:45
Quoting tbcrawford:
Bravo! This should be a must-read from high-school to Congress. Deeply appreciate suggestion we should all have the reassurance that we are also protected from guns! The least we should strive for is registration, banning multiple firing assault weapons, and taxing ammunition.

The US Department of Defense definition of an assault weapon is a firearm used by the military which has a select fire switch allowing it to be fired in full auto mode or semi-auto mode. An assault rifle as defined by Dianne Feinstein's 1994 law is a legal term and has no basis in the technical function of the rifles so defined, the semi-auto AR-15 and the semi-auto version of the AK-47
+1 # jack406 2013-01-08 13:32
Brilliant idea. I only wish it could happen.
+2 # Dion Giles 2013-01-08 13:48
Still the gun freaks cast about for excuses to own the means to blast a sassy wife or reluctant convenience store keeper, mow down a crowd or start an insurrection, and they studiously duck this:

**9000-10,000 people shot dead every year in America.
**40 people shot dead every year in

Britain has the same social ills as America. But getting a gun licence is near-impossible and having a gun without one means gaol if you're caught, and you will be caught.

That's the elephant, and it's right there in the room.

And the guns vs guns scenario is piffle. The mongrel with a gun will get the drop on the defender with a gun almost every time because the mongrel arrives loaded, primed, safety off, and about to kill. Even inside a war zone military base full of trained and armed soldiers as more than 50 soldiers in Afghanistan have found already.

Remember: USA 9000-10,000; UK 40.
-1 # Big Jake 2013-01-08 13:49
The author is simply wrong. I suspect that he is one of those limosine liberals who finds the thought of killing a deer and gutting it abhorent.

And that is the point. I am a gun owner---sportin g guns---some were my father's and some my grandfather's. In rural America including the ranch I grew up on, guns were part of everyday life. I never knew anyone who had a handgun nor an assualt rifle. The though of use such weapons for hunting or killing a skunk would have been deemed ridiulous.
The NRA is an abomination. have been for some time. Those who opposes firearms are nearly as nutty. The fear of giving and inch and losing a mile is relevant and legitimate. No sportman or rancher that I know will ever give up nor even register any firearm. Pass all the laws you want, It will not change any of us.
Any intelligent discussion here must begin with mental illness and how we as a society are willing to deal with it. As far as I know, every one of these tradjedies have mental illness as the primary cause. We have scores of mentally ill people on the streets and a completely disfunctional system to treat it and virtually no public support for the cost of fixing this. Start here and we could make some progress. Or keep doing what we are doing, raile against guns and watch more carnage. Just what the hell do any of you think the effect of endless hours of watching blood and gore by kids will be? Nothing? If you think that, I have some stock in a tapioca mine to sell.
+1 # kelly 2013-01-11 11:48
Got me at the "limosine liberals", Big. I've been hunting down here in Texas on my uncle's deer blind, am a democrat and believe that people can still have some hunting guns. That was not the question. But what you people have against registration I can't fathom. Glad you wrote about how safe your guns are before that kid entered the school in CA and shot two classmates. You are also correct in your assessment of the NRA. But, while you claim not to like them your position and theirs are clearly the same: it begins with step one mental illness and step two video games.
How many other countries have both with fewer gun deaths? Are honestly telling me that Japan has fewer video games than the US? of course, some mental illness or shall we say mental defect is going on in these people...psycho pathy or sociopathy is not a normal state of mind. But if this guy pleads insane, do you honestly think anyone is going to call the guy in Aurora crazy? He planned it for months, knew the consequences, and made plans accordingly. If we get rid of semi- or fully automatic guns and magazines that enable these guys, we take away some of their ability to do harm. Listening to the 911 tapes, hearing 27 shots in 30 seconds, it was an incredible revelation.
+2 # reiverpacific 2013-01-08 14:13
Bein' as how I'm not American, have never possessed a gun and never will -which probably makes me "Un-American" in many views, I just don't get the addiction to the things (I'm sure that some collectors sincerely enjoy and appreciate their masterpieces of history and the craft) but those who rush out to Walmart and gun stores to add to their arsenal, especially as limiting legislation is being considered- just what IS the attraction, particularly towards the military, heavy stuff (which would still look pathetic compared to the combined firepower available to BiG Brother these days)?
I really want to know and perhaps understand just a little.
I mean, do they have little wooly coats made for their 'pieces', take them to bed and coddle them like lethal teddy bears, stroke them in sensual fantasies and have gun-cabinets set up as shrines in a sacred corner of their dwellings (The "Blessed virgin of Smith and Wesson" who only appears to NRA contributors at certain times of the year and elections?)?
I have a wee personal theory that possession of something lethal confers a false but palpable sense of power over others that is hard to resist using, especially in times of stress or misfortune -but what do I know.
This is one issue in the US that never fails to make me feel foreign. OK fine -but I just dont get it.
+2 # Fraenkel.1 2013-01-08 14:15
It's a good idea. We don't have amendments which give us the right to carry baseball bats or sell modern art. There are laws. Gun ownership will not be abolished if the second amendment disappears or is declared invalid. But it should not be used as an excuse to do nothing when there is a real problem. The NRA regards the amendment as sacred and we must live with the consequences of doing nothing. Most people including gun owners and supporters of gun ownership agree we need laws with teeth to deal with he problems of misuse of guns.
0 # Cabell 2013-01-08 15:29
I made the attached video because many people just don't understand how weapons have changed since the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791. It is chilling: paste it into your browser and it will take you to the video on YouTube. Watch and learn.

+1 # ericlipps 2013-01-08 16:55
The phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" should be junderstood in the light of the medieval laws restricting the ownership of firearms, that era's high-tech weaponry, to the aristocracy, nogt only to keep the aristos from being shot by the peasants but as a status symbol. The question is, is that a good enough rationale to justify un restricted ownership of modern weapons by any maniac who hasn't yet been convicted of a violent crime?
-4 # lincolnimp 2013-01-08 18:18
"Some gun owners - some - will rage about this idea, saying that they have the right to protect themselves. Well, so do the rest of us - the right to protect ourselves from them."
Exactly....I do not feel protected or, in any way, safe with the growing proliferation of family with guns, neighbors with guns, friends with guns and especially untreated REPEAL nutcases with guns. REPEALTHE SECOND AMENDMENT AND REPLACE IT WITH THIS ONE:
+1 # Glen 2013-01-10 10:45
lincolnimp, are you a total vegetarian? You might want to consider how many living things are eaten by human beings that once were alive. Do you have an issue with some of the truly nasty ways cattle are killed to be eaten? How about calves and lambs? I could go on.

It is a bit uppity to condemn all hunting and gun ownership across the board. It is not possible to control a population such as in the U.S., most of whom are pretty sensible. Go after the ones who are demented and encourage better health care.
0 # EgoSum01 2013-01-08 19:08
The corporate media and the corporate bosses behind the government are controlling what you see and what you hear in order to divide you against one another. Divide and conquer. They use every opportunity, whether it be 9/11 or Sandy Hook, to convince you we can only be made safer by giving up something. Like a frog in a pot of cold water, you don't notice the temperature increasingly, one degree at a time, until it's too late. They have you fighting over things like guns and abortion while they fleece the nation and enslave its people. They one thing they fear most is a population that awakens to its own slavery, and having awakened, decides to do something about it. George Washington didn't protest the British. He shot them.
-3 # NAVYVET 2013-01-08 20:09
No need to repeal it, but it needs a lot of amending. Here are some ideas: PHASE I: Heavily tax new sales of lethal weapons & ammunition and make many kinds illegal. Exchange presently owned weapons for money (it's worked). PHASE II: Ban private sale of all weapons--even bows & manually cocked pistols, shotguns & rifles. For hunting or controlled practice small arms can be RENTED from municipal lockups for limited times. In general, weaponry--as the Founders intended--would be permitted issued to the National Guard ONLY under presidential martial law order. Any breach of weapons law should be a federal felony, and if convicted the felon should be steeply fined and may be imprisoned.

Think! I am sure there would be an enormous black market if weapons were banned across the board, which could quickly become far more dangerous to the public than prohibition--so watch out!
0 # OldSalt 2013-01-08 20:09
I think you either need to go read the Constitution and Bill of Rights again or you are in need of a course in remedial reading and reading comprehension. The Bill of Rights is about the Rights of the People not the Rights of States. Not until you get to the 10th Amendment are State rights even mentioned. See -
+1 # NAVYVET 2013-01-08 20:16
We should remember that we would probably have no liberal democracy except for the Statute of Winchester (1285), which is the source of the 2nd Amendment. By arming with longbows, spears, army knives, halberds and in some places swords all English males between 16 & 60, even those in serfdom, and requiring weekly target practice, most historians considered the Statute of Winchester the most democratic national statute between classical times and the late 17th century, and certainly the one that gave social radical rebels a chance to win, as they did in minor rebellions & the 1640s' English Civil War. In Vietnam and the Near East, wealthy, heavily weaponed imperialists have been defeated by homemade bombs and mines, small arms & small rockets. No dissenter should forget that. I firmly hold to nonviolent resistance, but there are rare times when rebels must fight back. I fear that nonviolence would never have put an end to Hitler's terror, or would have taken as long as ending Stalin's. If you feel differently, I'd like to hear your opinions.
-2 # The Voice of Reason 2013-01-08 20:16
Finally! Someone with nerve to do the right thing. And now all the mamby-pambies 'oh it will never happen' come out of the woodwork when there is work to be done.

Hey look, 100 years ago the Teetotalers amended the Constitution, and they were a bunch of religious people (albeit, they abolished alcohol, for all the good that did. The alcoholics went crazy, joined 'The Gangster Rebellion' and won, wouldn't you know.)

Are you going to let the Teetotalers put you to shame? Just because the NRA has a few pols in their pockets?

Now get out there and repeal the 2nd Amendment! or put down your blogger-bitchin pen and quit griping. Do it!
0 # Regina 2013-01-09 01:58
The Constitution today is not the document originally enacted. It has had many amendments, and even amendments for amendments. It has been updated when truly needed -- we abolished slavery, we finally allowed women to vote, we passed and then repealed prohibition. There is nothing standing in the way of an amendment of ye olde second amendment to bring it up to date for our preservation. But we have to get to work and devise provisions that reflect the 21st century rather than the 18th. It won't be easy -- there are far too many rootin' tootin' shootin' hee-haw males who think we're still on the old frontier. But we have to begin the process now, preferably before the next tragic massacre.

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