In the days following the killings in Newtown, Conn. I find myself, along with many others I’m sure, contemplating the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution.
As found at Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute website, 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.
Some folks will be reiterating a belief that it no longer applies to our nation in the 21st century. Some will be holding the view that despite these tragedies, “It is the price of a free society”. Still others will be preparing to defend it, fueled by a belief, real or imagined, that there are those who wish to disarm them as a prelude to their subjugation.
Let me take a moment to express my view as it was on Dec 13th 2012, the day before the events unfolded in Newtown. I have held, and still do, that the two major reasons for individual citizens to keep and bear arms are defense against wildlife, and defense against the government.
In the time that the 2nd amendment was drafted, OUR military didn’t exist really, but other nations did have armies and they were armed with weapons that were largely the equal of those possessed by the general citizenry of the fledgling United States. We were a small nation, arguably 13 small nations bound together, with some very powerful enemies in the world. We were also keenly aware of the dictatorial rule that we had just freed ourselves from, so “defense against our government” was definitely a big part of WHY the 2nd amendment was made a constitutional amendment and not simply a law.
There was a related law that was passed at the time, it read in part:
Each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia…[and] every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear, so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise, or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack.
When viewed together, it seems logical that as our military was formed and grew into the institution that it is today, one not only fit to defend the physical homeland, but also able to effectively mount and dispatch an expeditionary force to foreign lands, that the 2nd amendment has become increasingly moot in so far as being about the defense of our country.
Since that time the power and complexity of military weapons had grown exponentially, and given that private citizens can not (quite correctly) own mortars, howitzers, tanks, shoulder fired SAMs, bazooka’s etc. we have already granted the concession private citizens should not be armed as an army would be.
It is also true that if the government were to turn tyrannical to such extremes as to motivate the population to take up arms against it, they would already be criminals for such an insurrection and therefore the violation of any firearms ban would be a minor addition to the crimes of treason.
This leaves, in my mind, the sole consideration of defense against wildlife. I say this is the sole consideration because, while I have up until now, believed in the right of private citizens to arm themselves in defense against criminals, I have never myself owned a firearm for that purpose – I simply did not want any law to tell me I could not do so if I wished to.
The need for defense against wildlife, or criminals, is a largely regional one. An attack by a grizzly bear would be far more likely in some places than in others. So too is the likelihood of a home invasion or robbery.
In consideration of these facts, I conclude that the 2nd amendment should be repealed and replaced
This would allow a local population to decided if arms are to be allowed or not within their jurisdiction. It would allow citizens who feel they should live in an area when weapons are NOT readily available to the impulsive, unstable, and criminally intended to live in such an area, while those who feel it is an acceptable risk could also live in such an area. Those who live in a wilderness area could be armed, while those in urban areas could be in an area where possession or ownership of a gun was illegal – and the use of “legally purchased and owned firearms” to commit atrocities would not be an issue.
Would this avoid another Newtown or Aurora? No. But it would make it substantially more difficult while providing a way of handling the overall matter of gun control in a manner that is equitable to all, regardless of their position on the matter.