Sunday, August 22, 2010

My View of the 2nd Amendment

I finally have come to what I think is a correct understanding of the 2nd Amendment. Here, after listening to Dan Carlin, who motivated me to read some of the history, is how I see it.

The framers, and specifically here James Madison (who wrote the 2nd Amendment), left very little political philosophy for us to work with. In the context of the times, there was great fear of a centrally-controlled standing army, which could do the bidding of a government bent on dominance. Thus, the framers and others had reason to want to leave the principle defense of the country to decentralized (read "State") militias. It is probable that the states did not have the means to arm their militias, and in fact should a militia be needed, the call should simply result in the gathering of prepared, armed men. For that reason, Madison saw the need to protect both "well-regulated militia" and the right, in fact an individual right, to bear arms.

Not all of the framers openly agreed on the individual right, but not in the sense that there were arguments against it. Rather, there were no arguments on way or another. Perhaps this was a product of the times, it was just assumed that in order to allow the states to arm, their citizens had to be individually armed.

You can say with good authority that the conditions that led to the inclusion of the 2nd Amendment no longer exist, that it is an anachronism. But for the first century and a half of the existence of the US, there was no argument about an individual's right to bear arms. In fact, it was the organized crime spree of the 1920s, the development of progressively more potent firearms, and the evolution and maturization of US society and its global role during the 2nd half of the 20th century that led to the growth of the gun control movement.

So, even though I agree at heart with the gun control movement, it seems to me that the 2nd Amendment, though confusingly written, is actually quite clear in its defense of an individual right to bear arms. I believe that a Constitutional Convention could clear up this confusion, perhaps by means of a modification such as that of It reads:

Section 1. The second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The right of the people to keep arms reasonable for hunting, sport, collecting, and personal defense shall not be infringed.
Section 3. Restrictions of arms must be found to be reasonable under Section 2 by a two-thirds vote of Congress in two consecutive sessions of Congress before they can be forwarded to the President for approval.

I believe it is necessary (and possible) to convince non-radical NRA (and having read from the NRA website's discussion on the 2nd Amendment, I can see that they may be intractable) pro-gun ownership people that the 2nd Amendment is truly an anachronism and requires revision. In that way, a Constitutional Convention can produce a fair and forward-looking revision, one that clarifies reasonable restrictions, state licensing issues, and yet maintains the core of gun-ownership culture in the US.