The recent incidents involving death by firearm have the nation all riled up. And rightfully so. Though this seems to be a cyclical kind of thing that ebbs and flows according to current events.
Disclosure: I am a firearm owner. That firearm is a Remington Express 870, 12 gauge, pump shotgun. Primarily, this weapon has been used to shoot clay pidgeons, but also has been fired in the general direction of pheasants and ducks to little effect. Let’s say marksmanship is not one of my towering strengths. This legally purchased and registered firearm is stored in my home unloaded with a trigger lock. In other words, I’m responsibly exercising my 2nd amendment right to bear arms.
Since we have repeatedly seen the dark side of weapons mixed with unstable people and have seen it recently with graphic and horrible results, it does bring up the question “Is this the kind of society we want to live in?” A valid question and most reasonable people would say a society where unreliable people can easily be armed with powerful weapons is a stupid society.
The problem we have at present is the 2nd amendment:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Prior writings of mine (around the Aurora incident for instance) have been misconstrued. My position is that the law of the land unambiguously permits unrestricted firearm ownership and thus we should not be surprised by these incidents and we should adjust our outlook on these incidents to reflect that reality. This latest incident has perhaps created an environment where a change of the law of the land is possible.
Fortunately, the Founders of the United States of America put in place a mechanism to change rules that have outlived their utility or are no longer valid in the present context through the amendment process. As a matter of fact, we’ve seen instances where amendments have been made and then a few short years later repealed as a whoopsie (see the 18th and 21st amendments for instance.)
Since the politicians will now blow a bunch of hot air around this subject, I suggest that we embark upon the simple process of amending the Constitution repealing the 2nd amendment and replacing it with the 28th amendment that has more relevance to the age we live in. (And while we’re at it, we should seriously consider repealing the 16th amendment too and replacing it with some caps about how much and from whom the federal government can tax.)
What would the 28th amendment look like? I’d propose something like this: “US Citizens, free from conviction of felony offense or diagnosed mental illness, have the right to own and use firearms for the purpose of recreation and defense. Citizens who choose to exercise these rights bear the full responsibility for the use, storage, and disposal of these firearms. Ownership of weapons with military capabilities or design will not be permitted for Citizens.”
This approach creates a test for ownership, excludes ownership from high risk individuals, places responsibility (legal and civil) on the owner throughout the firearm’s lifecycle, and removes weapons with military applications from the discussion.
Now, we need to be realistic about enforcement. The relatively few regulations we presently have around firearms are routinely flaunted by the criminal element and we have every reason to believe that new, stricter regulations will also be ignored. We have to implement strategies and penalties to correct this situation consistently at the local level.
Furthermore, while this kind of approach could stem the tide of new weapons, it does nothing to address the vast pool of firearms already in the wild so to speak. An acceleration of firearm buy-backs, retirement, and disabling (in the case of a collector who wants to keep say an M-16 as a display item.) Given the sheer number of firearms in existence, this would amount to a multi-generational effort to be able to demonstrate progress and reduce the weapons population to a more reasonable level.
To be clear, I’d like to preserve the right to bear arms. But the 2nd amendment as written needs to be revised for our present context. Comment away.