It’s time to get military weapons out of the hands of civilians. Yes, I know that the assault weapons ban passed during the Clinton administration was rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But, the Constitution was designed to be amended. And, if we need to amend it to get a ban on weapons manufactured with a military purpose, then amend it we must.
I am a great respecter of the U.S. Constitution. It is a brilliant document, a reflection of the Age of Enlightenment and the courage of the men who wrote it. Among its most brilliant elements is Article V, which outlines the procedure for amendments. The Founders knew that society would evolve.
The Second Amendment was written at a time when we had just concluded a revolution against the King of England. There was a legitimate fear of the tyranny of a central government. Would a new United States government confiscate private property to serve its own ends? No one could be sure.
The Founders wrote the Second Amendment to the Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights with that in mind. The United States had yet to take the form of a single country and it only made sense to grant the citizens the right to bear arms against a potentially repressive government.
Is such a fear rational in the 21st Century? And if it is, what group of citizens could defend itself against the U.S. Army? Not those guys in camo holed up in the woods of Michigan or Idaho.
Now, I have heard the argument – haven’t we all – that the school principal in Newtown, CT might have defended herself rather than sacrificed her life to protect the children. And, perhaps that’s so. But, do we really want to live in a society where our teachers need to arm themselves? Where will that lead us? Should our teachers be required to carry and use guns? What of those who won’t or can’t? Should they lose their jobs because they don’t carry weapons in the classroom?
It’s a ludicrous argument.
I grew up in New York where today anyone carrying an unlicensed gun risks going to jail. There is good reason to fear gun violence in the city that never sleeps as it is in many of our big cities.
But, I also lived in Colorado where gun ownership is routine. I worked with a guy who told me he used to go home after school to get his .22 caliber rifle, tie it to the handlebars of his bike and go hunting rabbits. No one thought anything of it. I know that ranchers and farmers consider a rifle an essential tool, and often use it to defend their livestock from a hungry coyote or to put down an injured animal. I met another guy who used a .45 caliber pistol to kill a grizzly bear while camping in the wilderness.
But, none of them owned an AK-47.
Could Adam Lanza have killed first-graders with a pistol or single shot rifle? Yes, he could have. But, not so many and not so quickly.
Do we still fear that our government might confiscate our property, as did the Founders? Isn’t it time to get past that argument?
Clinton’s assault weapons ban, passed in 1994, gave impetus to the NRA to target Congressional Democrats who had voted for it in the mid-term elections. Their campaign contributed to that year’s change of control from Democrat to Republican for the first time in 40 years. Democrats have not pressed for gun control legislation since.
However, the President expressed the feelings of many when he said on Monday, “a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals –– that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities…. that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; … that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense.”
Any measure must be able to withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, bound to interpret the Constitution and apply it to Congress’ legislation. But, Article V… well, Article V grants the power to amend the Constitution to the Congress and the state legislatures. The President has no role in the process.
Great change comes about when large majorities demand it. Will a large majority of Americans demand the change we need?
Do we have the will to do it?
WHO WILL LEAD?