More schoolchildren killed— this week in Nashville — shattered families, shooting in the streets of Miami Beach. And the Florida House has passed legislation for permitless carry? The bill requires no gun training, to boot.
I have a carry permit. I had to be fingerprinted and pass an elementary course to be sure I knew how to handle a gun. Just like driving a car.
The Second Amendment currently reads:
“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.”
This is a collective right.
However, this is what I propose:
“Citizens shall have the right to bear arms in the common defense of the United States, or as members of an authorized military organization or, as subject to regulation, designated by the several states or by the United States. Congress shall have the authority to enforce said rights and privileges by the appropriate legislation.”
This is still a collective right, but much clearer. The courts will not have to continue a Kabuki dance regulating gun sales, because of a constitutional straitjacket in which they are constricted by the original Second Amendment, written in 1787 and as interpreted by Antonin Scalia — also born, it seemed, in 1787.
This new 21st century version still will allow people to bear arms and will give the states continued authority to regulate sale and carry. It’s not as strong as it should be, but it will clarify the constitutionality of the states and federal government being able to regulate guns and do away with Scalia’s disastrous ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which created a constitutional Frankenstein.
Heller, by one vote, turned a previously meaningful constitutional amendment on its head, stating the right was individual, not collective.
Heller, egregiously, said It had nothing to do with militias, intended by the framers to protect the states, former independent colonies, against the tyranny of the crown or the central government; with Heller, it had to do with individual rights to carry guns, not a well-regulated militia.
Since then, courts, legislatures and politicians have used the misguided decision written by a conservative ideologue to cogitate over the meaning of the comma in the Second Amendment. Enough already. Children, students, worshipers and so many others are crying out for help from deaf lawmakers.
Law-abiding citizens who own guns will still be able to keep them for self-defense. I own a gun. I enjoy going to the range from time to time. And several times, late at night, when someone knocked on my door and would not identify themselves, I felt secure that I had an effective defense if necessary.
But the Second Amendment prevents meaningful gun legislation. My version still gives states power to regulate gun sales. It should be less subject to challenges that have filled volumes of law books.
Never mind the lip service paid by legislators who receive large campaign donations from the NRA, use the “mental health issue” as a convenient crutch or offer thoughts and prayers. After all, other democracies have meaningful gun laws.
Americans must be educated to understand that their rights would not be sacrificed to a totalitarian state. But ever since Scalia’s majority 5-4 decision there has been a Mount Everest of gun litigation often financed by the gun lobby, to ensure that everyone, including lunatics who want a gun, can get one.
This revised amendment would clarify and reduce the amount of litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Second Amendment, still allow gun ownership, but also allow effective gun regulation by the states and by Congress.
King George III is not coming to get us.
David Wieder writes in legal, historical and cultural affairs.