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Tags: second amendment | tyranny | assault weapons | ban

Amend the Second Amendment: Protect Schools, Homes, Hunters

united states constitution rolled up on an American flag with bullets scattered

Paul F. deLespinasse By Wednesday, 08 June 2022 12:47 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Recent massacres have again drawn attention to the tragedies enabled by the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the courts.

This amendment is one of the most problematical parts of the Constitution: "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."

In 2008, downplaying "well-regulated" and "militia," and reversing precedents, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the amendment protects individuals' right to have guns. Abusing this right, a few people have used military style "assault" weapons, rapidly firing hundreds of shots, to kill hundreds of people including many young children.

Attempts to prohibit owning these weapons have been stymied by legislators claiming devout allegiance to the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment diverts attention from the costs and benefits of legislation attempting to make gun ownership "well-regulated." Instead of focusing on proposals' merits, it sidetracks us into arguments about constitutionality.

If there were no Second Amendment, legislators could focus on the benefits and costs of proposed legislation. But repeal is impossible. People wanting guns for self-defense or hunting fear that repeal would "let the camel's nose into the tent" — a "slippery slope" argument. What if legislatures decided to ban all guns?

Some gun owners, however, now believe that we should ban assault weapons. This would become possible if, rather than trying to repeal the Second Amendment, we amend it. A tightly drafted change could protect the right to own hunting rifles and handguns for self-protection, subject to reasonable regulations, but leave regulation or prohibition of more powerful weapons completely up to legislatures.

An amended Second Amendment would guarantee that the whole camel could not get into the tent. It would eliminate the danger that future Supreme Court majorities might uphold legislation banning handguns and hunting rifles. And it would allow proposals to prohibit ownership of assault weapons to be considered on their merits.

Such an amendment — unequivocally protecting the right to own handguns and hunting rifles — could not be dismissed as anti-gun. True, these kill a lot more people than assault weapons, but they do it in many small daily episodes (rather like car accident fatalities) rather than in a small number of mass slaughters (like passenger plane crashes).

They destroy many lives, but do not enable unhappy people to gain attention by committing large-scale atrocities. They don't inflict comparable damage to the national psyche.

Amending the Constitution is usually harder than merely enacting laws. But here the opposite could be true. Meaningful legislation is now impossible. But opposition to amending the amendment should be minimal since the changes would eliminate fears of legislation or court decisions banning handguns and hunting rifles.

Opponents of revising the Second Amendment may argue that banning assault weapons would not reduce the number of mass shootings, but this is refuted by recent experience in Australia, the United Kingdom, and other countries.

They might also argue that we need better treatment for mental illness, which is an excellent idea in its own right but a distraction here. There is just as much mental illness in countries with far fewer mass atrocities. The availability of assault weapons in the U.S. is obviously the critical variable here.

A few might argue that privately owned military-scale weapons are needed so we can overthrow our government if it becomes tyrannical, but this idea is terribly misguided. Regimes resulting from forcefully overthrowing a government are invariably worse than their predecessors.

And for those who are concerned, there are effective ways to protect ourselves from tyranny, at much lower cost, nipping bad tendencies in the bud: civic education, widespread attention to and participation in public affairs.

We shouldn't let a vital part of public policy depend on the whims of future Supreme Court majorities. Amending the Second Amendment could be a win-win, protecting schools, home security, and hunters.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. Read Professor Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.

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If there were no Second Amendment, legislators could focus on the benefits and costs of proposed legislation. But repeal is impossible.
second amendment, tyranny, assault weapons, ban
Wednesday, 08 June 2022 12:47 PM
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