By Cliff Heseltine
When debating with people who oppose Second Amendment freedoms, no matter what they say or what red herring they introduce, the responses should be as follows:
- Can you define the English term “well regulated” as it was used and understood in the 18th century?
- Can you define the English term, “the people” as it was used and understood in the 18th century?
- Can you define the English term, “bear arms” as it was used and understood in the 18th century?
- Can you definite the English word “infringed?”
All arguments in favor of gun control or against the Second Amendment are essentially moot, since the amendment itself indicates that the government is in fact prohibited from infringing on this natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right. That being the case . . .
the government has no authority to alter, modify, amend or repeal the right to keep and bear arms by legislative action, executive order, or judicial review. End of discussion.
Talk all night if you must, the fact remains that the only legal recourse for those who oppose the RKBA is to use Article V of the Constitution to amend the Constitution itself. Meanwhile, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has proposed that the Second Amendment be amended as follows:
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.
It’s a shame Justice Stevens doesn’t know his history. During the debates leading up to the adoption of the Second Amendment, similarly intended wording was suggested. On September 9, 1789, it was proposed that “for the common defense (sic)” be inserted following “bear arms”, but that modification was defeated. Instead, the Senate passed: “A well regulated militia being the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Then there’s this: the Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791. And in the 222 years since there have been only 17 additional amendments, not one of which alters any of the original ten, much less repeals them. Realistically, since these are natural rights, even a successful effort to repeal their Constitutional protection wouldn’t repeal or revoke the right itself, only its Constitutional protection.
Here are the Amendments that followed the Bill of Rights:
11. Suits against states
12. Election of the President
13. Abolishment of Slavery
14. Due Process, Equal Protection
15. Voting Rights
16. Income Tax
17. Direct Election of Senators
18. Prohibition of Alcohol
20. Women’s Voting Rights
20. Terms of Office
21. Repeal of Prohibition
22. Term Limits
23. Appointment of Electors
24. Abolishment of Poll Tax
25. Succession to Office
26. Voting Age
27. Compensation of Legislators
So in all these years there have been only 27 amendments to the Constitution and of those only one — the 18th Amendment prohibiting the production of alco — has been subsequently repealed. By coincidence this is the only amendment ever ratified with the intention of the federal government telling the American people something they were prohibited from doing. (The 13th Amendment abolishing slavery can hardly be viewed in the same light as a prohibition against alcohol.)
Considering that the intention of the Constitution itself was for the people to tell the federal government what it was authorized to do (Article I, Section 8), and in the Bill of Rights to tell the federal government what it was NOT authorized to do, the existence of the 18th Amendment was in itself anachronistic. It’s no wonder that this is the one amendment that it was later repealed.
So all of the amendments — other than the 18th and 21st (prohibition and repeal) — were alterations, adjustments, or additions to the establishment and operating instructions granted by the people to the federal government. Therefore, any attempt to modify or repeal any of the Bill of Rights must be considered as a major precedent in Constitutional modification. While Article V gives instructions on the amendment process and doesn’t limit what may be amended, it does set a high bar for ratification (two-thirds of congress and three-fourths of the states).
While it seems highly unlikely that any attempt to modify or repeal the Second Amendment could meet this high standard, it must be understood that even the attempt to change one of the rights guaranteed and protected by the Constitution would be an admission that all of those enumerated rights were subject to modification at the whim of the majority, a dangerous precedent indeed. So perhaps a new amendment really does need to be proposed:
An enumeration of certain inalienable natural rights being necessary to the continued liberty of a free people, no branch of government nor any government agency may modify, restrict, tax or attempt to repeal any of the first ten amendments to this Constitution.