Saturday, December 15, 2012

When A Constitutional Amendment Outlives Its Usefulness

"Why should a private American citizen own an assault rifle?" asks the city girl.

Good question.

"Because it's my Second Amendment right," answers the farmer.

Good answer.

Does the U.S. Constitution contain amendments that have outlived their purpose?
Certainly. The best example is the 21st Amendment which repealed the 19th Amendment on Prohibition.

What about the Bill of Rights? No Amendment in the Bill of Rights has ever been repealed.

The Third Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which prevents soldiers from being quartered in a home without the owner's consent, has certainly outlived its purpose. The U.S. Military is so large and well funded that there's no need to quarter soldiers in private homes. Repeal the Third Amendment and America doesn't skip a beat.

Surprisingly, yesterday's shooting isn't the largest K-12 massacre. In 1927, a disgruntled tax payer used dynamite to kill more than 40 people, including 38 elementary school children in Bath Township, Michigan.

So, what about the Second Amendment which gives American citizens the right to keep and bear arms? Could that, too, have outlived its usefulness? What were our forefathers thinking when they drafted this amendment?

The Second Amendment serves several purposes. In 18th Century America, a typical citizen may own a firearm for hunting and protection. Constables didn't cruise the suburbs to maintain law and order 200 years ago. And there was no way to call 911 for help. Big chain supermarkets and grocery stores didn't exist with stocks of food that you could store in your refrigerator. Hunting was a big part of survival. 

But, beyond these reasons, there was another key purpose for 18th Century Americans to own firearms which was to keep the government in check. With the exception of the cannon, private American citizens were on even footing with the government when it came to weapons. Automatic weapons didn't back then, nor did weapons of mass destruction.

In colonial American, firearms didn't even have what we now think of as traditional bullets. In the 18th Century, firearms like handguns and rifles were single shot flintlocks with a hammer that held a rock mineral (flint). When the trigger was squeezed, the hammer hit a frizzen that threw sparks into a pan of fine gun powder which set off the weapon. If you turned a flintlock firearm sideways the FFFF gunpowder fell out of the pan making it unfireable. A flintlock firearm couldn't easily be concealed nor would it work in the rain (hence the phrase keep your powder dry.)

In the 18th Century, a battle between private citizens and government backed troops was nearly an even match in terms of firepower. It's clear that this is no longer the case. The U.S. Government has weapons of mass destruction and no reasonable person could make the case that private American citizens should own tanks, bombs, or missiles.

Question Without Answers

At this point, we only have complex questions without simple answers:

How does the current state of military hardware affect the Second Amendment? A matchup between the U.S. Government and its private citizens is not even close to a fair fight.

Should Americans own any firearms? Should private firearm ownership be better controlled? Could it be better controlled?

Even if private firearm ownership was eliminated, would people take to other forms of attack such as the Bath Township massacre or the Shoe Bomber? Bad people can always find big ways to hurt good people. Look no further than the 9/11 attacks to see how machines of peace can be turned into weapons of mass destruction.

Could schools be made more secure, similar to airports? Even if that's done, kids will still go outside to play which is where two elementary students were shot, two years ago, in my own town of Carlsbad.

Here's something important to consider… think critically of your ideas. If you think the Second Amendment should stand as is, consider yourself wrong. If you think the Second Amendment should be repealed, once again, consider yourself wrong as you think consider workable solutions. Not being able to critically examine your own thoughts and ideas leads to closed-mindedness. 

One final thought to ponder as the Constitution tries to keep pace with technology...
Which is more important: your privilege to drive a car or your right to keep and bear arms?

(Not that they're mutually exclusive nor am I suggesting the prohibition of all firearms. I'm merely making a point about the difference between rights and privileges. Driving, in Saudi Arabia, is a privilege that women don't have.)

There's no simple solution – but at least all sides agree that something needs to be done to prevent a repeat of yesterday's tragedy.

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