A look at the Second Amendment
January 2, 2013
What is the Second Amendment? It's exactly what it says it is. It's an amendment, a change, an addition, a modification, an afterthought to our Constitution.
It states: "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."
It's believed the original intent of the amendment was to assure that there would be a "grassroots" militia and police force in place at all times, and an assurance to the people that they would have some defense against being taken over by a king again, since they'd just thrown one out.
The second amendment was ratified in 1791; a time when the highest technology of firearms was the muzzle-loader. A skilled rifleman could fire two rounds a minute with one.
Civilians do not need assault rifles
Compare that with today's automatic weapons that easily fire 500 rounds in a minute, or more. I'm not sure our Founding Fathers envisioned such weaponry when they added the amendment.
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One of the arguments of Second Amendment advocates is similar to the original; that
gun ownership is necessary to "keep our government honest;" that, in the event our government became tyrannical, the masses would possess the firearms necessary to revolt against it.
Unfortunately, in spite of the Second Amendment, civilians aren't allowed to possess fighter jets, rocket launchers or tanks, making a revolt a bit challenging. Perhaps we should trust our government won't go rogue, and use the ballot box to make sure.
The other argument is that guns are needed for self-defense. You've all seen the footage of our soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq with weapons at the ready moving through the streets. That's the defensive position for an assault rifle, anything else and you can't defend yourself from a surprise attack. The same goes for a pistol.
Unless you're "at the ready," with the gun in both hands, at arm's length, sweeping the area around you, you're not going to be able to defend yourself either.
If, in some of our recent tragedies involving guns, the shooter could only shoot two shots per minute, instead of 500, the outcomes would have been quite different.
Civilians do not need assault rifles — period.
We, as a society, have evolved over the past 200 years and our Constitution needs to reflect that.
Just because an amendment is part of the Constitution, doesn't mean it can't be repealed or modified.
If there were never changes, African Americans and women would not be able to vote today; the president could run for unlimited terms.
And don't forget the 18th Amendment (prohibition), ratified in 1919 and repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.
There would be nothing wrong with amending the Second Amendment, if we so choose.
And now's the time, the time to start the process of reducing access to dangerous guns, to start living what we preach — that we are peace loving people.
It's time to revise the Second Amendment, and the first step is to ban assault rifles.
John Palmer lives in Nevada City.