13 June 2016

Making amends

Americans rightly look at the Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition) as social engineering gone awry, and discussions about amending the Constitution are likely to be dismissed. However, changing the Constitution is both American and constitutional. The framers of the Constitution wrote Article V for that reason, and in the past 200-plus years the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times, a not-insignificant number.

Many Americans who oppose rational gun control do so in the name of the Constitution, waving before a disbelieving and frustrated public a copy of the Constitution, arguing that any law that attempts to regulate guns infringes on a right guaranteed by the Constitution. More specifically, the gun lobby so manipulates public sentiment about the Second Amendment that our country is now tied up in knots over sensible gun control laws, and we are unable to move forward.

It should be illegal for a person to be able to walk into a store and buy enough weapons and ammunition to undermine our democracy.

I need a prescription from a licensed doctor that can only be filled by a licensed pharmacist in order to buy anti-motion sickness medicine, but almost anyone can walk into a store (or go online) and buy as much ammunition as they can afford.

Americans who oppose gun legislation have many legitimate arguments and a lot of data to back them up. But, it is also clear that gun ownership should not be equated with opposition to gun regulations. However, the NRA and others who oppose any restrictions on gun ownership exacerbate the differences of public opinion about gun safety by putting all types of gun ownership in the same category. It is disingenuous to continue to put hunting and personal safety and protection in the same argument as unfettered access to guns and ammunition.

If we amended the Second Amendment, several objectives could be achieved. First, we could clarify the conditions in which a citizen may lawfully own a gun; for instance, many Americans have long-wondered about the relationship between the right to bear arms and what it means to “maintain a well-regulated militia”. Second, the manufacture, distribution, and sale of guns and ammunition could be regulated and controlled in a much more stringent manner. The Constitution is silent on this issue, and an amended Constitution could create a regulatory framework for an unknown future that recognizes advances in weaponry and ammunition. And, to honor the Americans whose interpretation of the Constitution is based on our Founding Fathers, all late 18th century weapons could be grandfathered in to any new regulations.

While the American public and Congress may have erred on one amendment, we have also moved our country forward through Constitutional amendments. Constitutional amendments have abolished slavery, given women the right to vote, lowered the voting age, and have codified the evolution of American jurisprudence with laws that reflect our maturation as a democracy.

I support a 28th Amendment.