Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Repeal the Second Amendment

It has become repetitive to the point of being tiresome: a crazy person buys an automatic weapon and kills a bunch of innocent bystanders.  TV "news" reporters gather like vultures on a carcass.  Prayers are said.  Hands are wrung.  Soap boxes are scaled and calls for gun control are recited, which collide head-on with the second amendment and DC v. Heller.  And then, a few days later, everyone forgets it ever happened until the next crazy person buys a gun and shoots some innocent people and the whole cycle starts all over again.  And again. And again and again and again and again and again.

There is a simple solution to the problem: repeal the second amendment.  By "simple" I do not mean "easy to implement."  It clearly is not that.  I simply mean that this solution is conceptually and procedurally simple.  You don't have to argue about how to interpret the Constitution, or what a "well regulated militia" is.  All you have to do is decide that the second amendment is doing more harm than good, and it's time for it to go.  We've done it before.  We can do it again.

The second amendment has clearly outlived its usefulness.  Like the three-fifths doctrine, it is a relic of an earlier time.  Two things in particular are very different in today's world than the one in which the second amendment was ratified.  First, the U.S. now has a standing army. And a navy.  And an air force.  And a space force.  And marines.  And a coast guard.  And a national guard.  And a department of homeland security.  And a DEA and an FBI and a CIA and an NSA.  Between those and a few other government agencies, those organizations have been doing a pretty good job at protecting the territorial integrity of the United States, at least since 1865.  Whatever you think a "well regulated militia" means, it is clearly no longer necessary for the security of a free state.

The second thing that has changed is that technology and the laws of physics no longer limit the amount of damage an individual can do the way they did in 1791.  Back then, smooth-bore muskets and canon were the state of the art in weaponry.  They were severely limited both in range and firing rate.  A highly skilled musket operator can get off 2-3 shots a minute at most.  An AK-47 does that in a third of a second.  In 1791 a deranged shooter could reasonably hope to get off no more than one or two shots before they were subdued by an angry mob.

And of course there is no principled reason to stop with an AK-47.  If the second amendment really does convey an unfettered individual right to keep and bear arms, and if that right is not limited to the technology of 1791, then on what possible basis could you draw a line that includes assault weapons but not bazookas or tanks or stinger missiles or even nukes?  The right to defend yourself won't get you out of this jam, for two reasons.  First, no one has ever used an AK-47 in self defense.  They are offensive weapons (there's a reason they are called "assault rifles" and not "defense rifles").  And second, the second amendment specifically calls out the reason for the right to bear arms, and it is not individual self-defense, it is the need to maintain a "well-regulated militia".  Whatever else that phrase might possibly mean, individual self defense plainly ain't it.  The founders knew about individual self-defense, and if that was the reason they enshrined the right to bear arms, they would have said so.

The only reason that second amendment endures is a concerted propaganda campaign by the National Rifle Association (funded mainly by the gun industry) and adolescent fantasies about good guys with guns vanquishing bad guys with guns.  We saw the end-game for that this past January 6.  Vigilante justice and violent revolution plays a lot better in spaghetti westerns and other conservative fantasy worlds than it does in today's reality.

So it is time for the second amendment to go.  Repeal it now.  Stop this insane cycle of slaughter.

P.S. Note that calling for the repeal of the second amendment is emphatically not a call for "taking everyone's guns", though many will surely see it that way.  Repealing the second amendment merely allows guns to be outlawed through the normal democratic self-governance process, it doesn't require them to be outlawed.  Whether or not they should actually be outlawed in any particular jurisdiction is a totally separate question from whether outlawing guns should be allowed at all, just as the question of whether marijuana or alcohol should be outlawed in any particular jurisdiction is separate from the question of whether it should be permissible to outlaw it at all.