What if the Second Amendment was repealed? What would happen? Well, nothing, to begin with. No one would be authorized to take guns away from anyone. Guns would achieve the same status as TVs or cars. People would continue to own their guns. They just would not be able to claim a “right” to own guns, just as there is no constitutionally protected “right” to own a car or a grenade launcher.
What would change, would be the ability to pass reasonable laws that limit what kinds of guns may be produced, sold and owned. Local governments could more easily limit where guns can be carried, just like in the old “Wild West” days, when places like Dodge City, Kansas, required guns to be checked at the city limits or banned from saloons. If Washington, D.C., wants to place similar limits on gun possession in the district, they should be able to decide that with a popular vote.
There could be federal registration of all guns, so that every gun can be identified in case of accident or violent crime or in case of theft. If a child brings a gun to school, the owner could be charged with endangerment of children, which should be a felony. Background checks could be required every time a gun changes ownership. Gun owners could be licensed, and required to pass an exam, just like we do with motor vehicles. Not only felons, but people with a record of violent behavior or threats against others could be disqualified from owning guns.
In the United States, the majority of households don’t own guns. So the idea that we can get along just fine without them is nothing new to most Americans.
Many who do own guns are engaged in hobbies, such as target shooting, hunting or because, like me, they find a gun interesting as a unique kind of machine or specialized technology. I bought a small shotgun a few years ago because I was impressed with its design, and I welcomed the challenge to clean it up and restore it to working order. It is not needed for personal defense. I can call the local police for that. Evidence demonstrates pretty clearly that guns are next to useless in case of attack. Households with guns are more likely to suffer from a tragic accident than stop an intruder. I keep mine locked up and unloaded.
Guns are strictly offensive, not defensive. Guns are not a magic shield. President Ronald Reagan was attacked and almost killed by a stupid idiot with a gun, while he was being escorted by armed, trained secret service police. James Brady, one of Reagen’s staff, was struck and permanently disabled. His family is responsible for the Brady Act, and has a current organized effort to reduce gun violence and achieve stronger gun laws.
Thirty thousand deaths per year, nearly 100 per day, including the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, should be good enough reason to at least have a rational discussion on the need for an archaic, obsolete, dangerous right to keep and bear arms. As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently proposed, a simple amendment of just five words could cause the Second Amendment to be more rational in keeping with its initial purpose: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”
We owe it to ourselves, and our posterity, to at least have a conversation.
Mike Harman is retired from the W.Va. Bureau for Public Health.