More Americans now die annually from gun violence than from auto accidents. It is an endemic tragedy, leading more than 80 percent of Americans to demand stricter gun controls.
Yet Congress cannot even pass restrictions on banning suspected terrorists from purchasing a semi-automatic weapon in the U.S.
After every mass shooting the call goes forward for a national dialogue about gun violence. But such dialogue inevitably leads to the Second Amendment and ends there with little or no resolution.
Perhaps it is time for the dialogue to change. Perhaps it is time to ask the question: Is the Second Amendment, written in the 18th century, still relevant in the 21st century?
Exactly what inalienable right does the second amendment protect? One’s right to hunt? One’s right to enjoy sport shooting? One’s right to protect self and domain from evildoers?
Most believe these are the reasons for the Second Amendment. I recently heard a friend give an impassioned plea for common-sense gun controls stating that the Second Amendment was not intended for military style weapons.
Here is my perspective on the matter: They are all wrong.
I believe the founding fathers took for granted that every person has the right to protect himself or herself and that anyone could use a reasonable weapon to hunt for game. I believe they took those things so much for granted they were not mentioned in either the Second Amendment or in their debates on the subject.
My friend, you see, was incorrect about the Second Amendment and military-style weapons. Dueling pistols were outlawed by our founding fathers but not muskets, the military weapon of the day. For any conversation on the Second Amendment and its relevance to modern society, we need to look at the original intent of those who authored the Constitution.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia, the strongest voice for the originalism philosophy of jurisprudence, wrote the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. But his majority opinion decided that the first paragraph of the amendment was irrelevant, when in fact it was of paramount importance to its authors. In reviewing the actual debates when the Constitution was being proposed, you will find they centered around the issue of whether or not a nation’s citizens could rightfully revolt against their government.
Our founding fathers were schooled in the abuses of standing armies of the European monarchies and how those armies were used to enforce the will of the monarch. Every debate at the Constitutional Convention concerning the right to bear arms centered around the fear of creating a central government with a standing army.
The best source of determining the intent of the authors of the constitution is found in the Federalist Papers. Ironically, both gun control advocates and the NRA cite Federalist Paper No. 46 in defense of their respective positions. But putting the original debate in its original context, you come to realize that the authors wanted “well-regulated” militias available to defend against the federal government’s standing army, should the federal government become tyrannical.
When understanding the original debate and assuming the authors of the Bill of Rights naturally believed one’s right to carry arms to protect oneself was so undeniable that it warranted no mention in the document, we can then sincerely question the relevancy of the Second Amendment today. Do we want to create militias to defend against our own armed forces?
Can we then not agree that everyone has the right to protect themselves with reasonable fire power? Can we then agree that not placing greater restrictions on who can bear arms and what types of arms is insanity?
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield reporter.com.