Repeal The 2nd Amendment, Then What?
As the gun debate fires up again in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, several have called to up the ante and repeal the 2nd Amendment. Most recently, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. In his NY Times op-ed, John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment he argues that the recent protesters have set their sights too low. He wrote:
…demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.
Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “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.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.
He’s not alone in his call for the repeal, nor is he the first. Here’s just a few other headlines, from major news sources, (not rightwing gun nuts):
- Over a Third of Democrats Would Repeal Second Amendment – National Review, March 2, 2018
- To Repeat: Repeal the Second Amendment – NY Times, Feb. 16, 2018
- KURT EICHENWALD: LET’S REPEAL THE SECOND AMENDMENT – Vanity Fair, Jan. 3, 2013
- Repeal the Second Amendment – America Magazine, Feb. 12, 2013
That’s just a small sampling.
Repealing the 2nd Amendment is no small feat, in fact only ONE Amendment has ever been repealed, PROHIBITION. The 18th Amendment began Prohibition and the 21st Amendment repealed it. All you have to do is propose an amendment that repeals, rewords or clarifies the 2nd Amendment to meet your needs. Then just a 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the states (38) to ratify it. Then Voilà, you have a clean slate, no 2nd Amendment, then what?
What does America without the 2nd Amendment look like?
To be honest, it won’t look much different at all. To understand WHY nothing would really change, you have to look at the 2nd Amendment itself. The operative clause of the amendment reads, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” So, what does the 2nd Amendment actually do? It doesn’t create the right, it merely protects a pre-existing right from government infringement.
Repealing the 2nd Amendment would not give government power to infringe the right, it would merely remove the prohibition. Most gun control proposals could still be fought on other grounds. In fact, most opposition to gun control measures is NOT based on the 2nd Amendment as it is now. They are fought on grounds of due process, equal protection under the law, privacy rights, etc.
Not to mention the fact that you would still be left with over 300 MILLION guns in circulation in America. You might be able to ban future sells of some weapons and you might even get some voluntary surrenders or buy backs. However, you STILL have millions of unregistered guns in play. Good luck trying to get any force surrender or confiscation. That would LITERALLY be a bloody mess.
The RIGHT to self defense has no qualifiers as to how or with what. It is a natural right based on the first law of nature, self preservation. Or, if you prefer, a God-given right to life. It is a right that exists independent of government. Governments can only choose to protect the right or infringe upon it. Government has no power over the existence of the right, only how they address it.
Its not likely that any effort to repeal the 2nd Amendment will gain any real traction, much less pass the constitutional hurdles. However, IF it did, little would really change. Except perhaps to start a civil war or revolution, which would NOT bode well for those pushing the repeal.