Time to question the 2nd Amendment
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “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.” The question is whether a dictum written nearly 220 years ago has any validity today. We need to look at the circumstances of that time which prompted its inclusion as one of the first ten amendments, referred to collectively as The Bill of Rights.Recall that both the Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted less than ten years after the cessation of hostilities in our war for independence from Great Britain. This was a war that was in large part fought by citizen soldiers, many with their own firearms, a strong distrust of the British and a concern that we might have to fight them again to defend our hard-won freedom. There was also uncertainty whether the experiment in government framed in the Constitution would adequately serve and protect people’s freedoms, and that it might be necessary for the people to take up arms against their own government to protect those freedoms.
From the practical point of view, at that time most people to a large extent depended on hunting to put meat on the table. In addition, it was necessary on the frontier for people to be able to defend themselves against Indians who did not take kindly to having their land usurped by the westward migration of those people.Another fact to be considered is that guns at the time were ball and powder muzzle-loaded single-shot weapons, requiring 20-30 seconds to reload before being able to be fired again.
How times have changed since the late 1700s! There is no way that handheld weapons are going to be able to defend our country from an attack by bombers or guided missiles launched by a foreign power, or to defend us from our own government’s overwhelming military power. The frontier has been gone for more than a century, and hunting has become more a pastime than a necessity. And the development of cartridges and automatic weapons, particularly assault weapons, has increased firepower to permit mass killing on a scale never envisioned when the Second Amendment was written. The recent Virginia Tech massacre, numerous school shootings, and almost daily random drive-by shootings clearly show that “the Right to Bear Arms” in its present form is an anachronism that needs to be modified in response to current circumstances. There is no logical reason for automatic or semiautomatic weapons to be as readily available as cigarettes. This easy availability puts excessively lethal weapons in the hands of mentally disturbed individuals and those whose minds are filled with hatred, including political or religious terrorists bent on the destruction of our society.We also need to greatly increase the penalty for merely using any gun in the commission of a crime, and impose automatic life imprisonment without parole for firing a gun in the commission of a crime.
Like the Electoral College, which is also being questioned as a relic from an earlier time, no longer appropriate under present and future circumstances, the Second Amendment to our Constitution is in need of revision – only more so. How much longer do we have to endure this domestic terrorism that is becoming all too common?Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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The time is now.