It’s time to repeal the Second Amendment
Shootings in movie theaters, schools, shopping centers, offices, homes, and on highways occur daily in our country, resulting in more than 30,000 deaths and 60,000 injuries annually. Guns are putting the American people in fear and in danger. It can no longer be denied that guns are destroying our country. And yet, the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment to mean that people have a right to have guns in their homes. In Illinois, no training is needed and people do not have to demonstrate that they are proficient with guns or have any concept of how to safely store or operate guns before they are allowed to own guns.
Laws in all 50 states allow people to carry guns outside their homes, either concealed or in view, where they pose a danger to the public. In Illinois, the concealed-carry law was passed under the threat of a court order that was based on a peculiar reading of the Second Amendment. That Amendment was added to our Constitution in 1791 to address concerns that are no longer relevant today. It was intended, in part, to assure that slave owners could recapture escaped slaves and suppress slave rebellions and so that people could kill Native Americans. It was written at a time when we had virtually no national armed forces and the country anticipated that it might have to rely upon state militias, which no longer exist, for its defense. When the Second Amendment was adopted, people were also afraid that Britain might attempt to reclaim its former territory in America or that the Spanish would impede our westward expansion. We don’t need to worry about any of those things today.
When our Constitution was written, it contained a mechanism that would allow future generations to make amendments to it. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in response to changing attitudes and conditions. It was amended to give voting rights to African Americans, women, and people over 17 years old, to guarantee people’s civil rights, and to allow our government to meet various needs of the American people that arose over the years. Our Constitution is not supposed to be a static document. It is supposed to be a reflection of a country that changes with the times.
A steadily declining percentage of Americans owns guns, and an overwhelming majority favor stricter regulation of guns to promote public safety. If we were writing the Constitution today, it is clear that only a small minority would want it to guarantee people the right to have guns. But because the amendment is still in our Constitution, it has become almost impossible to enact any gun control laws. Now is the time to repeal the Second Amendment, so that Americans can once again be safe in their own country.
It is time for us to reaffirm the essential concept that the United States was formed to promote the general welfare, not just individuals’ desires. Our Constitution allows us to make laws that will insure domestic tranquility. Our country exists so that we, the people, can work together to form a more perfect union. The first sentence of our Constitution makes it clear that we are relying upon each other for the common defense, not on our individual stockpiles of weapons.
It is time to make it clear to the pro-gun lobby, which rejects these fundamental American principles as spelled out in our Constitution, that the United States is a country, not a place where lawless individuals can use lethal violence at their own discretion. We are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As written in the Declaration of Independence, to guarantee us these rights, we established a government. We do not live in a land where people are responsible only to themselves; we are each part of a nation wherein every citizen has obligations to the larger society, and where everyone’s rights are understood in relationship to the rights of everyone else.
Many Americans today are facing difficult challenges. Our economy is weak, and increasingly the wealth of the land is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Inequalities and injustices abound. People feel isolated and ignored. But if America is to survive, the answer is not and cannot be for people to turn against one another. We should also not let ourselves get carried away by the delusional rants of people who imagine that their problems are caused by a tyrannical government. We must not give up on the idea that is at the heart of our Constitution, which is that we can influence our leaders and government institutions so that they serve our needs. We should not arm ourselves in anticipation of having to violently resist and overthrow our own government, as gun advocates repeatedly claim as a central reason for their need to “bear arms.”
What we should be doing is petitioning, voting and working in other peaceful ways to reform our government so that it serves the people. We should be helping one another to live in peace and without fear. This has always been the American way, and it still is today. We are the people.
Lee Goodman organized the Stop Concealed Carry Coalition, which opposed enactment of Illinois’ concealed-carry law. He continues to promote peace and nonviolence through Peaceful Communities, a grassroots organization that he has helped to form. He can be reached at [email protected]