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It is time to repeal the Second Amendment





bought-back guns
REUTERS/David McNew
While we try to believe the Constitution is sacrosanct, it is in fact a 
"work in process" — and repealing the Second Amendment would serve our 
country well in the 21st century.

A radical idea? Yes. Beyond reason and logic? No. And not unprecedented.

But
 first a disclaimer. Those who drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights 
were bright, thoughtful and creative. It is a document that has served our 
nation well for more than 200 years. But, having said that, it is not without
 flaws and weaknesses — and the Second Amendment, in particular, is the 
subject of numerous interpretations and challenges.


But beyond the confusion of the amendment, there are several other excellent
 reasons to repeal it. Among those are the enormous changes in America since 
Colonial time, changes in the American character the past 200-plus
 years, and weapon development. All are worthy of consideration. But, first
 the amendment:



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.

Many interpretations

While simple and succinct in it drafting, its brevity is also the subject of a wide range of interpretations. Those who support strong gun control claim the amendment has strict limitations. As recently noted in a New York  Times 
editorial: "The Supreme Court has made clear that the right to bear arms is
 not absolute and is subject to regulations and controls. Yet the NRA clings
 to its groundless arguments that tough regulations violate the Second
 Amendment. Many of those arguments serve no purpose other than to increase 
the sales of guns and bullets." The NRA, of course, claims there are no 
limitations as to ownership, type of weapon, or purpose of use.



But the fact is the Second Amendment is subject to vague interpretation. Indeed, 
since it was adopted in 1791, it has been the subject of more than 31 federal
 court cases of various kinds: six in U.S. District Courts; 19 in U.S. Courts
 of Appeals; and six that ended up in the Supreme Court. To describe the 
outcomes of these cases alone proves the confusion surrounding the Second
 Amendment — but suffice it to say, it presents a situation that will never
 be fully decided, and will probably remain a source of confrontation forever. Unless it is repealed.

While the confusion of the amendment is reason alone to suggest its repeal 
and/or amendment, the better reason is the enormous change in our nation 
since the "right to bear arms" was first adopted.

A rural populace

America in 1789 (when the
 Second was first drafted) had a population of about 2.5 million, not 
including slaves or Native Americans. Less than 1 percent of our population
 today. It was a rural country — the largest city was Philadelphia, with
 40,000 inhabitants. The rural inhabitants, while mostly farmers, also used
 their arms to shoot game — not as today's sportsmen do, but to put food on
 the table. And the reference to a "well regulated militia" clearly was
 related to the fact that we had just fought a brutal war of independence,
 with a tiny standing army, and a dependence on multiple state militias.



Admittedly, repeal itself would not stop the bloodshed of recent mass
 murders, but that still does not address its relevance today. Our
 forefathers could never have imagined, back then, densely packed cities with
 many times the entire population of 18th-century America. How could they
 imagine an area like the south and west sides of Chicago, where most of the city's 506 homicides occured 
last year?



They never foresaw the push westward, the multiple frontiers, the effect on
 the American character as it developed from the homogeneity of the
 Colonists. They never had an opportunity to consider the molding of the 
"new" American character as the early settlers pushed into frontiers that
 were wild, untamed and without established laws. And obviously they did not
 ever imagine the development of individual weapons capable of killing dozens 
in barely a moment

.

An anachronism in today's world

All these factors — the massive increase in population, the urbanization of
 our country, the changing character of our citizens over the centuries, and
 the increasing devastation of weaponry — have also changed the dynamics of an
 amendment written for the conditions of the 1700s, but still in play today. 
It is clear that the Second Amendment as written is an anachronism in
 today's world,  a part of our constitutional rights that has outlived
 itself.



Further, our Founding Fathers would almost certainly not object to
 modification or even repeal of the Second. Indeed, they made provisions for 
just such a possibility. Since 1791, when the Amendment was adopted, there
 have been a total of 27 amendments to that great constitutional document. 
Moreover, repeal itself is not unique or precedent-breaking. In 1933, the
 21st Amendment did repeal the 18th.



While we try to believe the Constitution is sacrosanct, it is in fact a 
"work in process" — and repealing the Second Amendment would serve our 
country well in the 21st century. Such repeal/amendment could also include
 retention of those types of weapons we would all likely agree on: such 
things as rifles for hunting, pistols for target shooting, certain approved 
security reasons for owning weapons, etc. But it would end forever the 
argument that virtually anyone can own any weapon of any devastation, for 
any reason, because of some vaguely defined "right" granted two centuries
 ago.





Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.

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Comments (18)

A very interesting analysis

A very interesting analysis of the amendment from a grammarian viewpoint is found at:

http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/essays/guns.pdf

On initial viewing, the amendment is of an unusual structure where there appear to be unrelated portions of a thought strung together.

While the modern interpretation dismisses the portion of sentence relating to "well-regulated militia" as prefatory and not related to the intent of individual rights, the grammarian take clearly demonstrates that the "well-regulated militia" is the key of the sentence.

There are very specific meanings to the words used in the sentence that were readily apparent at the time of writing. The variant use of punctuation at the time as demonstrated in this sentence are not unusual for writing at the time and are found in other places in the constitution.

In short, the amendment relates to the arming of a specific type of Militia for specific defense purposes, not a "get out of jail free" card for the removal of an unjust government (otherwise, why would that same Militia's purpose be defined as to put down insurrection elsewhere in the constitution and why would the crime of treason be punished under that same constitution?)

Repeal the 2nd Amendment or honor the Constitution

from Southside Pride:
The supreme legal authority that guides the passing and enforcement of laws at all levels is the U.S. Constitution, and the guiding principles that inform all legislation and administration is the Bill of Rights. That is the basis for our understanding of our political system. You cannot operate without it, and you cannot talk about guns and the right to bear arms without talking about the Second Amendment: “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.”

And you cannot understand this amendment without understanding the historic context and the rest of the Constitution. Everyone should understand that the reason there was a need for a “well regulated militia” was because the founding fathers (and probably their more enlightened mothers) believed there should be no standing army. Article. I. Section. 8. I.e. The U.S. Constitution clearly dictates that there will be no standing army in the U.S. other than when Congress declares war, which shall not be for more than two years: “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

“There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.” —Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776. Papers 1:363

“The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.” —Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:184

I would happily agree to an unrestricted interpretation of the Second Amendment, if the supporters of that amendment would support the rest of the Constitution and do away with a standing army. Withdraw all foreign military bases, eliminate the standing armies and rely entirely for our self-defense on a well-armed citizen’s militia. That would eliminate our deficit by cutting our federal budget almost in half.
And, if we do return to constitutional purity, and the mad proliferation of Glocks, Sauers and Bushmasters would then increase, then why should I not be allowed to build an atomic bomb?

Seems like entitlements take up more than half of the budget

That leaves less than half for everything else, of which the defense is only a portion.
Sadly, only a handful of countries decide who gets atomic weapons and it is unlikely that you will be granted one before whole other nations get theirs.

Constitutional purity.

"And, if we do return to constitutional purity, and the mad proliferation of Glocks, Sauers and Bushmasters would then increase, then why should I not be allowed to build an atomic bomb?"

Because, Mr. Felien, it is understood that "arms" are defined as common, hand carried weapons of war. Rifles are, nuclear weapons are not.

This is an interesting demographic

I can't relate to those who want to tear the constitution down. They are; to me, communists. They seek power and control over others. We've seen this before.

"Tear the Constitution down"?

Talk about a "take it to the other extreme" response.

No one is talking about wanting to "tear the Constitution down". They're having a reasonable discussion about a possible repeal of one Amendment (and presumably replacing it with another).

This has happened before with other amendments, and our Constitution is still with us.

You really should learn that making such alarmist and overblown reactions does a lot to hurt your credibility.

To this man, you are talking

To this man, you are talking about "tearing the Constitution down." He believes so vehemently in the Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments), that removing or changing any of them is equivalent to going over to the dark side. You, obviously, do not have the same level of belief as this man, particularly in regards to the 2nd Amendment, and as such you probably won't be able to understand. There is nothing wrong with that, but please keep in mind that there's also nothing wrong with his point of view and your belittling tone is not warranted.

That said, this concerns an amendment in the Bill of Rights, these 10 amendments are considered to be above all other amendments, and if you disagree with that then I question your knowledge of the Constitution and how (and why) it was drafted. Because of the weight of these amendments, changing or removing one cannot be compared to changing or removing essentially any other amendment in the Constitution.

I'm not saying we cannot, or should not, have this conversation, but based on your post it appears that you have failed to grasp the gravity of the conversation. Maybe you do and I have misunderstood your intent and inflection, I apologize if that is the case.

For the record, although our interpretations of the 2nd amendment may change over the years, I do not believe we should change it. Let the different societies of the times interpret the words as they wish, do not pigeonhole the future.

Ginny

"It is understood" is not a legal concept.
If the men who wrote the Constitution were to come back now, they would laugh at the idea the Constitution is sacred. And definitive. Or we wouldn't need the court system. Why not rewrite what needs to be revised and take a load off the Supreme Court?

Excellent

What an excellent, relevant, and cogent reference, Neal. And it goes back to my key point that we may never get effective gun regulation as long as there is so much controversey and fog regarding what the Second means (and what was intended).

The Colonies Were NOT So Settled As We Like to Believe

There were many conflicted skirmishes within and among the colonies after the US was formed. The anti-treason and anti-insurrection sections of the constitution make it clear that the founders had in mind a militia that could be called upon to act in support of the government to settle down such conflicts and put down such insurrections,...

i.e. the purpose of gun ownership was to be sure a group of loyal citizens could be called upon to protect and restore order whenever an individual or group of citizens took it upon themselves to set up their own rule over and against the properly-elected rule of the rightful government itself.

No doubt they knew the history of such local and regional conflicts in Europe and the devastation they caused and sought to provide a way to avoid them here in the U.S.

Those who so often call themselves "freedom-loving" (gun loving) patriots and love to play at being "militias" in our current day are precisely those whom the founders would have seen as dangerous insurrectionists.

In their statements, and occasionally their actions, they and their leaders (on weasel news, Limbaugh and Beck's media shows and the NRA, itself) make it clear that they are itching for the opportunity to cast the constitution aside and begin a treasonous insurrection.

They are completely erroneous in their belief that the 2nd amendment or anything else in the Constitution supports them in their desire to use violent means to bend the government of our entire nation to perfectly match the will of the minority of citizens whom they represent.

Our Constitution supports governmental change through the ballot box. If you can't convince your friends and neighbors to vote with you in order to accomplish the changes you desire, you need to work on your ability to persuade others, double check the evidence upon which you base your desire for change, and take yourself to the nearest mirror to look yourself in the eye and ask whether your perspective on things might be clouded by events in your own past; events which have left things buried in your own psyche which are making it impossible for you to see reality accurately or react to it in appropriate (non-temperamental, non-belligerent, non-violent) ways, since that approach will not win you support but drive away those who might agree with you to some extent.

So...

You were there???

You are a rogue scholar in Congressional and Constitutional law and interpretation?

Learning from history

I thought you valued the study of and learning from history (see http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2013/01/tallying-gun-deaths-one-...).

Criticizing Greg for engaging in what you bemoaned a lack of in the other thread makes no sense at all.

Please make up your mind - either you understand and appreciate the idea of studying and learning from history or you don't.

You make good points...

The NRA uses a variety of fear tactics to stimulate the ownership ( and purchase) of guns. One, as you note, is protection from some sort of tyrannical government. Of course there are such governments, but we have had over 200 years of democratic rule-- without ever a hint that such a government could or would come into power. Our greatest constitutional crisis in recent history, the resignation of a president (Nixon) was transitioned without a blip.

Further, if violent means were ever required to overthrow our government, I doubt that the proliferation of Saturday Night Specials would prevail over the best Army/Navy/ Air Force on the planet. The whole idea is absurd.

The other threat and fear the NRA uses is that we must arm ourselves against OTHERS WHO ARE ARMED! A totally circular argument. More arms...to protect your self from others who are armed...thus we need MORE arms for more protection...etc !

In fairness, I realize the repeal of the Second is a very long shot. Mostly because the NRA has captured the majority of those who would have to write it. But recently Obama made an observation regarding something Lincoln said (and I paraphrase): with public opinion there is nothing that we cannot do; without public opinion, nothing gets done in Washington. Maybe like the common alcoholic, we have to hit bottom before we can "get well". Unfortunately, that will mean more lives lost --senselessly --as our gun violence continues and increases.

Another minor point

A common rule of interpretation of documents is that a person who drafted it used the same terms consistently. I have heard gun rights advocates claim that the term "militia" in the Second Amendment is the 1789 version of our modern armed forces. But look at the Fifth Amendment:
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;. . ."

And look at Article I Section 8, clauses 15 and 16 giving Congress the power:

"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

"To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;. . ."

Gee, words like "training" and "discipline" sound like "regulation" and maybe "well regulated." And Congress has the Constitutional power to provide for "arming the Militia"? Unless you think the right to bear arms is for an "insurrection", I'd say it's pretty clear that a people's "right to keep and bear arms" probably just meant once people got arms from Congress, they had a right to keep them in case they later got "called forth" to execute the Laws and suppress insurrections and invasions.

But I agree with Mr. Spicer. Time to give the heave ho to the Second Amendment as long as it seems to provide a sense that the "people's right to keep and bear arms" is some special, sacred right.

White House petition to repeal the Second Amendment

White House petition to repeal the Second Amendment:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/create-28th-amendment-united-s...

Please sign and share with everyone. We should do anything and everything we can to protect the safety of the American people.

Suggested amendment

I response to the fear that "we are going to take everyone's gun away", I would like to suggest that the 28th Amendment read perhaps like this:

"This amendment repeals the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and replaces it with the following:

The right to bear arms shall remain, with limitations to include a ban on any arm that can fire more than 7 rounds in a single clip or magazine.

This amendment shall not restrict rifles or arms which are used solely for hunting; this amendment shall not exclude pistols which are used for target practice; this amendment shall restrict pistols carried by the public in venues other than target practice areas, except to transport such weapons to and from that venue.

Arms may be purchased and carried by those persons who can show a security need to carry such weapons, but such persons must pass a background check for mental stability, must be properly licensed, and certified to effectively fire any such weapon approved to carry."

errors need correcting

I feel inclined to point out that the assertion that the writers of the Constitution could not foresee huge cities, westward expansion, or efficient firearms is not only ridiculous, its historical error. Reasons?

A. Westward expansion was the very point of getting on a boat and going west over the ocean. Once in America, westward expansion began immediately, and was only checked by hostile tribes and OTHER Europeans who were already in the west. The Royal Proclamation of 1763(that's 13 years before the Declaration of Independence, and 24 years before the Constitution) forbade expansion by English colonists over the Appalachians. Why? Because it would start another war with the French who had already totally missed the boat on westward expansion, but managed to get there somehow anyway. Never mind the fact that George Washington was illegally buying land in the west waaaaay before independence, in direct contradiction of British Law. As well, it was the writer of the Declaration who decided to do things all legal, and bought half of the lower 48 from Napoleon in 1803, and then promptly sent a couple of Army officers out to take a look. They are known as Lewis and Clark. So, I get the feeling they may have had a clue and possibly may have had some small role in instigating westward expansion.

B. Big A$$ Cities- London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin... All extant in 1776. All much larger than the average American "city" of today. All vile cess pits of violence that made South Central L.A. look like a utopian dream. Many of the founders were educated in England. Many(especially the wealthy southern planters) had taken the prerequisite Grand Tour. The assumption that they could not envision Boston or Philadelphia as massive metropolitan areas is like saying we can't possibly envision the existence of some force in the Universe that we can't see but has to be there. Yet today, dark matter is accepted as tentative fact. Big cities and the plagues of massive concentrations of humanity are not new.

C. Individual weapons the can "kill many people is barely a moment": well, you got me there. I guess H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Thomas Edison were just narrow minded provincials too. Fact: Major Patrick Ferguson had an oppurtunity to shoot George Washington in battle with a rifle he designed which allowed the user to reload in two shakes of a lambs tail. Major Ferguson had tried to sell the idea to his own army, but unlike their American cousins, the British are known to be a bit hidebound, and they refuse the greatest weapon design of the age for their old muzzleloaders that still worked after all. Fact, within the lifetime of many members of the Constitutional Convention, America had become the greatest hotbed of firearms innovation on earth. Before the century was close to over, a weapon known as the "volley gun" a seven or nine barreled rifle that could wipe out a squad of soldiers with on trigger pull. By 1836 Samuel Colt was producing the first practical revolver ever. That's almost exactly one decade after the deaths of Jefferson and Adams.

In summary your assertions are incorrect. The presumption that the founders were merely clever neanderthals, that lucked up and had to have brutish laws for brutish times with NOOOO capacity for a vision even beyond ourselves today, is fantasy. It is in no way supported by their own words, or the commonality of history throughout the ages. Please.... For the love of all that's factually accurate... Read a damned book on occasion.

I also humbly demand, with

I also humbly demand, with nemesis, citation of any amendment to the constitution that repeals anything in the Bill of Rights. It is the first assertion you make so I assume you have evidence. It's called th Bill of Rights because it is sacrosanct, and the states refused to ratify the Constitution without it. Thankfully that precedent has never been set, but if it ever is, the 2nd amendment is there to ensure that such blasphemous tyranny is quelled.