As the debate over guns and gun violence protection continues, there is a constant search for new angles from which to attack the issue, and more specifically, the Second Amendment, which is at the very heart of the conflict.
As the left argues that the Amendment is obsolete, written by men with muskets, the right counters that all guns are not only protected, but necessary in order to preserve their freedom. But, this week, a new narrative has emerged. The accepted line of thinking has long held that the Second Amendment originally referred to the necessity of a militia to aid in the defense of a young nation with no standing army against foreign threats or potential government tyranny. But, the hallowed “Right to Bear Arms” has been given a new origin, as seen in stories like this one or this one.
According to these accounts, the Second Amendment was enacted to protect against a threat much closer to home, namely the fear of an uprising by the slaves who were an essential part of the American economy of the time. I don’t have any dispute with this spin, and actually find it to be an interesting theory. But, I do object to the attempt to use this origin story as a reason to overrule the amendment.
First, the obvious disclaimer: slavery was awful, reprehensible, shameful, and unforgivable. But, with that said, the vileness of slavery does not in any way discount the validity of a law enacted to protect it. No matter the circumstances under which it was written, the fact remains that it is part of the Constitution of this country. Pointing out its disgusting origins does not bring us any closer to overturning it.
And that is the heart of the matter. Instead of focusing on where this law came from, we should be looking at where it has brought us. We now live in a country with nearly as many guns as people, all justified by a single sentence written more than two centuries ago. But, I would argue that what is needed is a different kind of history lesson.
The world has changed since the writing of the Constitution. And the document itself has also changed. Its true genius is not in its content but in its construction. By allowing for it to be amended, the Founders made it possible for the Constitution to reflect the changing times.
Our sacred Constitution once legitimized the institution of slavery and the oppression of women, allowed for the prohibition of alcohol, and restricted voting rights for most Americans. All of these things were seen as mistakes and were remedied by passing various amendments. It is time for another.
The Second Amendment is a bad law, plain and simple, not because of where it comes from, but because of what it does and where it has brought us. And the focus should not be on the past, but on the future, on a new amendment that would regulate or even outlaw guns.