Repeal the Second Amendment?

Every now and then, an advocate for gun control will express the desire to repeal the Second Amendment.  Most say they’re not coming for our guns.  But occasionally, some will say that removing the constitutional protection of gun rights—and perhaps banning guns shortly thereafter, though that’s not as often admitted—is a good goal.  Take as one example an article published in America: The National Catholic Review in February of 2013.  “The world we envision is a world with far fewer guns, a world in which no one has a right to own one. Some people, though far fewer, will still die from gun violence. The disturbing feeling that we have failed to do everything in our power to remove the material cause of their deaths, however, will no longer compound our grief.”

But this is actually a bad idea for proponents of greater restrictions on the ownership and carry of firearms, both in the assumption being made and in the practical outcome of such an attempt.

To begin with, it’s bad because it shows a fundamentally flawed understanding of how rights work.  Let’s review the text of the Second 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.  Note the lack of words like create, grant, or establish.  Instead, the amendment enumerates for protection of a right that we each already possessed.  Repeal would only remove that protection, potentially opening us up to one violation of our rights after another.

To the thinking of some, rights are only and exactly what is currently listed in official documents.  But even if I were to adopt that way of thinking—something I certainly won’t do—there is a pragmatic reason that attempting to repeal the Second Amendment would be an exercise in expelling projectiles at their own metatarsals.

The amendment process is difficult.  It was made so deliberately.  What has to be done is laid out in Article V of the U.S. Constitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

That’s two thirds of both houses of Congress or two thirds of the states just to set things in motion.  That’s 290 members of the House of Representatives, sixty-seven senators together or thirty-four states’ legislatures.  Then thirty-eight states would have to approve the amendment.

Support for gun rights nationwide hovers around fifty percent, depending on the latest event to make the news.  State by state, things look even harder for those who seek greater gun control.  According to the scoring system of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence—maximum of 100 points, with negative scores allowed—thirty-one states are below zero.  Five more states got less than ten points.  Of the remaining fourteen states, several have accepted some new laws—Washington State’s universal background check system, for example—but are still relatively friendly toward gun rights.  In other words, if the Second Amendment is to be itself amended, the outcome is more likely to be a strengthening of gun rights, rather than a weakening or repeal.

So when gun control advocates suggest we repeal the Second Amendment, tell them to go for it.  Tell them to get every politician they support to endorse a repeal.  The backlash against such an effort would put supermajorities of gun-rights supporters in legislatures across the states and in D.C.

Or perhaps they’ll learn to be careful what they wish for.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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