Too often the power of the US Constitution has not come from what it actually says but rather from the underlying perspectives and assumptions that were made by its 18th Century authors:
- White men are superior to all other beings.
- Women are invisible and subject to the whim of (free white) men.
- Blacks are not fully human.
- Indians are savage and only marginally redeemable.
- Human sexuality is Biblical before it is biological.
- Poverty is a failure of human will.
Assumptions like this come from the perspectives of “founding fathers” who wished to enshrine in government their priorities and goals based on their specific world view. Any investigation of the United States Constitution offers a great deal to question and interrogate. Part of that interrogation must also acknowledge that the Constitution is not entirely hopeless. In it, we have an instrument of government that has a built-in capacity for the “do-over.” We have the tools to fix things and do things right. 13th & 14th Amendments, 19th Amendment, 21st Amendment, etc. It is essential that we now take advantage of this feature and move to repeal and replace…the 2nd Amendment.
We are currently living in a world where it takes only 30 seconds to kill 8 people. When the 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791, a standard rifle such as the Brown Bess could only fire six rounds in a minute when fired by a professional. The first standing army was established that same year (to quell Indian revolts) and only white men could legally possess arms. The 2nd Amendment secured access to the lethal power of guns in the 18th Century as a “right” for a specific purpose, time and a limited population. But today it has become the foundation for extreme ideology that is toxic and publicly lethal on a mass scale.
With the incredible advances in weaponry both for hunting and for warfare, any rational being can recognize the necessity to revisit the laws governing the ability to carry and use deadly force. Outside of the contentious question about whether there should be deadly force in the hands of civilians in the first place, what if we were able to have an amendment that used language such as this:
All people within the United States, have the right to personal defense by means of reasonable force so as to limit the threat to personal injury. Equal are the rights of all persons to exist without the threat of lethal force to their personal death or injury, either by accident, exposure to circumstances or perceived threat to others.
A modern 2nd Amendment will recognize that weaponry for hunting and survival (though I may personally disagree with it) is a way of sustainable life for many people in this nation. It will also acknowledge the right one has to defend themselves if they are properly trained and vetted to respond to threat. But it will also recognize that easy access to military grade weapons has created a national health and public safety crisis that is fueled by ideological perversions that leave all of us unsafe.
Legislators and language in our government that defend death by suicide, mass shootings, domestic violence and race hatred creates an environment where these tragedies are not just tolerated but expected. This is counter to everything the US Constitution stands for. We must rethink the 2nd Amendment…repeal and replace. We deserve to be much more than the land of the feared and the home of the dead.