When I was a child my Uncle Jim was a Sunday basement handyman. One evening after working on his bench power saw in his basement he came upstairs and, while holding a severed finger in one hand holding a bloody handkerchief over the stump where it previously resided, he said to my Aunt Pearl, “Pearly, I think I got something here that a bandaid ain’t gonna fix.” Were he alive today I think my Uncle Jim would look at the pitiful condition of modern American life, the endless firearm violence convulsing the country, and say the same thing. Mass murder by assault weapon is clearly a problem, and a bandaid ain’t gonna fix it.
There have been in America four incidents of multiple murder by firearm in a single week, at a Northern California festival, a neighborhood Walmart in Mississippi, another Walmart near the US-Mexico border, and a popular entertainment district, each one the byproduct of runaway licentious gun laws and each one preventable. All told at least 34 people are dead and more than 50 wounded. In all four cases the murderer was white, and in three of the four cases the motive for the killings was bigotry. Hence everyone but Republicans are horrified. Republicans, including the golf-playing president, once again send “thoughts and prayers,” both of which are well road-tested as utterly without use or merit.
After all, the rationale goes, the Second Amendment protects the murderers. “The Second Amendment,” the argument typically begins, “is written in plain English, and what it says is perfectly clear.” So far so good. But somewhere between that most satisfying beginning and its thundering conclusion, the argument inevitably ends in one of two diametrically opposed conclusions, depending on who’s doing the talking. Since 1939, when the Supreme Court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun, because such a weapon had no legitimate bearing on the “preservation of a well-regulated militia,” the controversy over what the Second Amendment of the Constitution means has coruscated unceasingly across the decades between opposing partisans, with no accord in sight. It would appear that, thanks to the apparently obscure language and vague intent of the Second Amendment, no one seems to agree on what it actually says.
It’s time to put it out of its misery. There is nothing inherently sacrosanct about the Second Amendment, and it must go. It is as prone to repeal as any amendment. It’s time at last to kill it.
Assault weapons are unlicensed and their sale virtually unregulated. They exist for one purpose and one purpose alone, to kill human beings in staggering numbers with shocking speed and brutal violence. They must go. Handguns must go. The “right” of open carry must go. It’s time for America to grow up.
The NRA managed to overthrow 200 years of legal precedent when, without the benefit of legal counsel, they rebranded the Second Amendment as an amendment that protects the individual right to gun ownership, and not the right of the outmoded state militia. That perception will never change. It is indelibly imprinted on the brains of the “Second Amendment People,” an imaginary affiliation with which Donald Trump once threatened the life of Hillary Clinton, between threats of promising to put her in prison.
So persuasive has the NRA’s position on the Second Amendment become, in 2007 the Supreme Court (in Heller v. the District of Columbia) ruled 5-4 that the second amendment is an individual right, and not a right pertaining to the state militia. Nevertheless, Heller recognized that gun ownership, like all individual rights, should and must have limits, and it must be restricted to one gun each for law abiding adults for home protection, not for criminals, not for the mentally ill, not for vigilantes, not for open carry. Only the part of Heller that protects individual rights of gun ownership is ever mentioned by the NRA and its adherents.
We have Robert Mueller to thank for what should be common wisdom among thoughtful people, that ignorance is never effectively engaged with the tools of quiet equivocation and meek pronouncements. Truth must be thundered in loud, clear and easy to comprehend words.
I live in a country where guns have virtually vanished. Where they exist they are locked up in the local gun club and their access regulated to responsible adults. No one seems to mind. No one feels their rights have been taken away. Death by gun is almost as unlikely in Britain as death by lightning. It is a non-issue instead of a weekly horrorshow.
A new amendment, replacing the Second Amendment, one modeled after Britain, or other civilized countries, needs to be enacted. State level legislatures can call for a Constitutional Convention, or Democrats can wait until after 2020 to begin its repeal via Congressional action. But it’s time for the Second Amendment to go.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.