Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Explanation of My Proposal

So I am going to expound a bit on my petition to repeal the Second Amendment. This is addressed primarily to the gun rights advocates, many of whom fear that a repeal will be a way for their guns to be confiscated.

1. "Repeal" does not mean "confiscation."

Nobody is, ever has, or ever will be discussing wholesale confiscation of firearms from the general population. If nothing else, the logistics of such an effort would be prohibitive, but there is also the fact that the vast -- and I do mean VAST -- majority of gun owners are responsible, treat their weapons with the respect they deserve and then some, and practice the four common-sense safety rules when handling a firearm:
  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Never point the weapon at something you are not willing to destroy.
  • Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it in case you miss.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
These rules are simple, easy to follow, and make a lot of sense. Given this, taking firearms away from these people seems counterproductive ... and, quite frankly, the idea violates everything we stand for as a country.

The only time guns are confiscated, whether the Second Amendment is in place or not, is when a gun has been used in the commission of a crime or is part of a criminal investigation (for example, a gun obtained illegally may be confiscated as the act of obtaining it is itself criminal activity).

2. The Second Amendment is obsolete.

In 1791, when the amendment was passed, firearm technology was understandably rather primitive. Pistols were primarily used for duels, and were ornately decorated, with smooth bores ... not at all practical for warfare, as their accuracy was pretty abysmal. Rifles were the weapon of choice for warfare, and were breech-loaded matchlock guns -- the projectile and powder were poured down the end of the barrel, tamped down with a rod to provide maximum explosive power (this had to be done carefully so as not to cause the powder to ignite as a result of compression), then a small amount of gunpowder was placed in a flash pan and ignited by a wick or match.

Needless to say, this was not a particularly quick process. As a result, an expert marksman might be able to get two shots off in a minute.

In addition to primitive firepower, there was no standing army in the United States and national defense centered on all-volunteer militias from each state.

Finally, much of the country was frontier, and attacks by wild animals and hostile Native Americans were both very real and disturbingly common occurrences. In addition, America was an agrarian society (remember, this was pre-Industrial Revolution), so hunting game was an essential part of rounding out a Colonial-era diet. This meant that having a weapon in the home was vital to the very survival of Americans.

Compare that to the modern day. Weapons technology has progressed such that, if the Second Amendment as various libertarian groups like to interpret it is followed, then average citizens have a Constitutional right to own the same weapons employed by the government as well as those intended for the consumer market. This encompasses everything from a two-shot Derringer to shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles, drone aircraft, tanks, mortars, bombs (including nuclear) ... in short, everything an individual would need to protect him- or herself from the tyranny of government (more on this nonsense later).

Modern weapons as the AR-15 (yes, I know that wasn't used in Orlando, but it was used in Newtown, Aurora, and Umpqua, and the weapon used in Orlando is based on the same basic platform) are semi-automatic, which means that a round is loaded into the chamber automatically, but not fired until the operator pulls the trigger (as opposed to fully automatic, in which rounds are loaded an fired with a single trigger pull, and continue until either the magazine is depleted or the operator removes pressure for the trigger). This means that it is capable of firing as quickly as the operator can pull the trigger, up to 100 rounds per minute. And if the shooter uses a technique called "bump firing" (in which the recoil of the gun from the first shot is used to bounce the trigger against the trigger finger, as opposed to pulling the trigger) this can be increased by seven or eight times, simulating fully automatic operation.

Of course, bump firing is usually done from the hip, so accuracy isn't the greatest. Fortunately, manufacturers have found a way around that by providing an attachment that lets an individual use the bum firing technique while maintaining the stock against the shoulder, increasing the accuracy. Great, huh?

In addition, we no longer employ militias for national defense, and because of our burgeoning population, urban development, the Industrial Revolution, suburban sprawl, paved roads covering (in aggregate) a significant portion of the landmass of North America, and the (in many cases) outright genocide of native populations, people have to worry much less about being attacked by bears and Indians and more about being accosted by an intolerably perky, upbeat guy named Sean trying to sell you Cutco knives at Costco. We also have professional standing armed forces that, quite frankly, have enough firepower to reduce every other nation on Earth to microscopic grit.

3. "Protection against tyranny" isn't really a thing.

In Revolutionary times, governmental tyranny was a very real concern. After all, Colonial Americans had been under the thumb of King George III for decades, and had seen first-hand what happens when an imperialist despot gets annoyed, and they wanted to insure against the same thing happening with the new government. Which, as we have seen over the past 229 years or so, hasn't been an issue (despite claims made by right-wing crackpots -- and I'm including people like Mitch McConnell in this group -- that the Muslim atheist baby-killing jack-booted dictator Barack Obama is a merciless tyrant hell-bent on taking everyone's guns and forcing them to, oh, I don't know, breathe clean air, or something).

In the modern era, claiming that you have your Sig Sauer .223 (and if that isn't a real thing, I'm not concerned; I'm not into gun porn like some people) as protection against the government is ridiculous. You and your cute little rifle will be about as effective against the United States Army as trying to clean up post-Sandy New Jersey with a Swiffer.

There's also the question of the understanding of the word "tyranny." To quote Inigo Montoya, "I don't think that word means what you think it means." Dictionary.com defines "tyranny" as "a state ruled by a tyrant or absolute ruler." Our Constitution, with the checks and balances between the three branches of government, protects against this quite nicely, thank you very much. As a result, we have not had to worry about tyranny for centuries.

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The Second Amendment, intended to protect people from having their weapons taken while in service to the country in a militia, has been warped and twisted as a means to protect the profits of gun manufacturers. The National Rifle Association used to be in the business of educating people about gun safety measures, and about teaching people how to safely and effectively both use and care for their firearms. This all changed in the 1970s, when Wayne LaPierre showed up on the scene. He made it his mission to turn the Second Amendment into a way to pressure Congress to give beneficial treatment to gun manufacturers. As a result, it has become nothing more than a shield for gun activists to hide behind while making ever more fanciful arguments in favor of their position ... their reasoning being that they are perched high on this sacred mountain called the Constitution, and anyone who dares challenge them is un-American and treasonous.

By repealing the Second Amendment, we open the door to reasonable legislation to make it more difficult to get high-powered weapons in the first place. There are many who want to enact a ban on assault rifles, and there are just as many who claim that such a ban is unconstitutional based on their interpretation of the Second Amendment. This near-religious devotion to twenty-seven words has cost at least 100 lives in the most recent mass shootings in which a semi-automatic high-powered military style rifle was used, and almost assuredly many times more than that.

The common refrain that repealing the Second Amendment equals a mass confiscation operation is pure fabrication. All it does is remove a shield against future legislation ... and trust me, it would not be difficult at all to include a proviso in any future legislation -- whether it is restrictions on the kinds of guns that may be sold to the public or an out-and-out ban against a certain type of weapon -- that allows current gun owners to be grandfathered in and keep their weapons.

The Constitution is not infallible. It is not the be-all and end-all of instructions for our society. This is why the Founding Fathers included a method for updating it, so that it would remain current. Some examples ...
  • The original Constitution stipulated that the Vice-President would be the candidate with the second highest number of votes in a Presidential race. The Twelfth Amendment changed it so that the office of Vice President would be a separate campaign and not a consolation prize.
  • The original Constitution had provisions allowing slavery (even protecting it as an institution against Constitutional amendments for the first twenty years of our nation). The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, and the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed the right to vote would not "be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude ..."
  • The original Constitution had Senators being selected by state legislatures. The Seventeenth Amendment instituted the practice of direct election of Senators by the voters.
  • The original Constitution limited voting to white males. While the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed voting rights for black males, women of all races were denied the vote until the Nineteenth Amendment.
  • Originally, there were no term limits on the Presidency. True, it had been customary for Presidents to serve a maximum of two terms, but there was no legal prohibition against it, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt proved (he died while serving his fourth term of office). The Twenty Second Amendment instituted a two-term limit for President.
  • The original Constitution had no provision for allowing citizens of the District of Columbia to vote for President or Vice President. The Twenty Third Amendment allowed for the "... number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State ..." Surprisingly, this Amendment was not proposed until 1960, and not ratified until 1961.
  • The Twenty Fourth Amendment eliminated poll taxes, used in the Jim Crow South as a means of suppressing the African-American vote.
  • The Twenty Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
And, most importantly to this argument, the Twenty First Amendment, passed by Congress on February 20, 1933 and ratified on December 5, 1933, repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, also known as Prohibition. This is proof positive that repealing an Amendment is possible and is part of the normal functioning of our Constitution.

I'm sure that there will be those who point out that the Eighteenth Amendment was not part of the original Bill of Rights, which are sacrosanct. This is bullshit. There have been countless court cases in which these first ten Amendments have been examined, and in some cases had the "traditional" interpretation changed -- Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which upheld an implied right of privacy in the Fourth Amendment; Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine introduced by Plessy v. Ferguson; and (most notoriously in recent times) Citizens United v. FEC, which held that limitations on donations to non-affiliated political groups (that is, groups that do not coordinated directly with campaigns) constitute an infringement of free speech rights and are therefore unconstitutional (this is a load of crap, but for some reason Antonin "I'm Rich, You're Poor, You Suck" Scalia's "reasoning" won the day on this one ... expect it to be challenged and overturned in the near future, I promise you).

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The Second Amendment is archaic, outdated, and needs to be repealed. Please sign the petition at https://wh.gov/isJZz, and share it with everyone you know.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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