Rewriting the Second Amendment
A comprehensive account of the facts relating to our long history of firearm killings in the United States demands that a new second amendment to the Constitution be enacted that bans ownership of firearms.
As the original Second Amendment states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
James Madison, the father of the Constitution, wrote this amendment more than 200 years ago. He and the Founding Fathers were all proficient in Latin rules of grammar. Madison, who also wrote prose in Latin, used the ablative absolute construction in writing the amendment. Under this rule, the first part—“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State”—is inseparably connected to the second part–“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” One part cannot exist without the other. Therefore, one has the right to keep and bear firearms if, and only if, one is a member of a well-regulated militia.
In 1975, the District of Columbia City Council passed a strict gun control law. In 2008, Dick Heller, a D.C. special police officer, applied for a registration certificate for a handgun he wished to keep at home. The 1975 statute prohibited possessing a handgun in the home without a license, and it also required any lawful handgun kept in the home to be rendered inoperable through use of a trigger lock. The District of Columbia denied Heller’s application based on its law. Heller then filed a lawsuit, arguing that the city’s bar on the registration of handguns, its prohibition on guns in the home without a license and its requirement of trigger locks for guns in the home all violated the Second Amendment. The district court dismissed Heller’s complaint, but the District of Columbia Circuit Court reversed the decision on the grounds that the Second Amendment grants an individual the right to bear arms. The Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, granted a review of the decision.
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia completely violated the Latin rule of grammar by declaring that the first part of the Second Amendment was merely “introductory” and that it could be ignored, thereby leaving only the second part active. The full court voted 5-4 in favor of this blatantly erroneous interpretation.
Before I proceed, it is essential that every American know the following facts.
1. The number of firearms in the United States is between 412 and 600 million. This amount greatly exceeds the total small arms inventory of all U.S. military forces. (In what follows, I will use the 412 million figure).
2. In 2017, the Pew Research Center reported that within the country’s 251.4 million adult (18 and over) population:
(a) 42 percent (105.6 million) own at least one firearm;
(b) 3 percent (7.5 million) own half of all firearms;
(c) 39 percent (98.1 million) own the other half;
(d) 58 percent (145.8 million) own no guns, but 36 percent of them are considering getting one.
3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of firearm killings in the 49-year period from 1968 to 2016 was 1,585,678. By contrast, the number of soldiers killed in all wars in the 240-year history of our nation is 1,396,733.
4. In 2015 and 2016, the number of firearm killings was 36,252 and 38,658 respectively. This exceeds the number of highway accident fatalities by nearly 6,000 per year.
5. The number of mass killings in which automatic assault rifles were used in the period from 1968 to 2017 is 7,956. This means that 99.5 percent of all firearm killings were not caused by the use of automatic assault rifles.
6. The Violence Policy Center’s latest study on the defensive use of a gun reveals that the number of defensive firearm killings is rare—less than 1 percent.
How should we characterize these shocking and scary facts? Are we lawless? Gun-crazed? Violence prone?
And what do we do now?
There appear to be two basic factions on this issue: One is for the creation of laws that would prevent the “wrong people” from owning a gun; the other would abolish the ownership of guns altogether.
There are hundreds of studies by dozens of professional organizations—such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association—that seek a foolproof methodology for identifying people likely to commit violence, but no definitive method has been found. Therefore, the quest for a gun control law that would accomplish the reduction in firearm killings to near zero is delusional.
Clearly, the only way to reduce the number of firearm killings to zero is to abolish gun ownership.
My proposal for a humane, revised second amendment would read: “No person may own, keep or use a firearm. Only members of well-regulated law enforcement organizations and the military may bear, but not own, firearms.”