That incessant clamor about our God-given right to carry firearms needs to stop and it needs to stop now. Isn’t it a sign of depravity that even the increased frequency of massacres committed with legally acquired guns fails to muffle or shame such importunate choruses into silence?
It is not only understandable, but rather expected, that such an uproar be heard from the usual right-wing suspects, for their way of life is based on militancy and the proliferation and promotion of arms in different shapes and forms to individuals and nations alike. The notion of developing those invincible armies does not come into being from a vacuum. A culture of violence based on the use of force against others at the personal level must be ingrained in individuals before it can dominate the consciousness of a nation. War existed as a means of settling differences among competing factions since the dawn of time. But since then, and in spite of some steps taken to acknowledge equality and promote understanding among nations, we remain steadfast in our inability to recognize the obsolescence and limitations of war, where both vanquished and victorious share in its cost.
What is not understandable, let alone expected, is the embrace of the use of guns by those who pour all their God-given energies into the promotion of peace only to undermine their own efforts by ignoring the parallels between the obsession to possess weapons as individuals and the obsession to possess them as a nation. These two obsessions are driven by the same rationale, thus yielding harmful products that differ only in the extent of their lethality. War makers are the only beneficiaries of war. They glorify war. They glorify killing. They instill the notion that there is honor in killing and getting killed. And those who accept the use of violence in their personal dealings are, by default, embracing the institution of war, for they are extending to the nation what they already accepted in their daily lives as a legitimate way of resolving conflict. Their extolment of the devastating ability of their country’s arsenal is only an extension of their reverence for those handguns on which they rely to validate themselves.
Among those who work to promote peace among nations, there are those who still insist on their right to bear arms because the Second Amendment tells them they are entitled to that right. They also go to such lengths as to claim that the right to bear arms is second only to the right to free speech as evidenced by the sequencing of these Amendments in the grand design of our infallible forefathers — our forefathers, the slave owners.
It can be argued, and it has been, that the Constitution, prior to the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, allowed slavery. According to some, that Constitution provided the right to own slaves and engage in the slave trade. Those constitutional rights came in all shapes and forms and some of them brought shame to the human race. And even with the first Amendment in place, it’s hard to imagine how much free speech a slave could have exercised.
So the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment could not have been enjoyed by the whole citizenry, even theoretically, until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.
This goes to show that the sequence of the Amendments is not an indication of their importance but rather a reflection of their chronological development as the political climate of the times allowed.
To argue that the Second Amendment is more important to the Constitution than the Thirteenth is simply absurd, especially when the Thirteenth is the one that extends the benefits of the First to the rest of the citizenry.
Using that same (now amended) Constitution, we now hear about the right to bear arms the same way we heard about the right to own slaves back then. Both rights were guaranteed by the Constitution at one point or another. But does that make them right?
It was only when our morality, courage and political will converged, that the Thirteenth Amendment was born and we started the journey to regain our conscience and remedy the ills of the past — a journey that seems to get longer and longer every step of the way.
The fact that there is a Second Amendment doesn’t make bearing arms any more right than owning a slave was when there was no Thirteenth Amendment.
The Constitution may have been the best document we could come up with, but that does not make it perfect. It never was; it is not; and it may never be! The question we should be asking is whether what the Constitution guarantees, or is purported to guarantee, is right. That was the question we should have asked long before 1865 and that is the question we should be asking today.
Those who insist that the Second Amendment gives them the right to bear arms as a protection against an oppressive government need a reality check. If there is going to be a conflict between the citizenry and the government, will it be a conflict that can be resolved militarily and by the personal weapons of such a delusional lot? If they contemplate an armed struggle against the government, they might as well recruit those young men and women who were duped into joining the military in the first place. It is a lot easier to deprogram them and tell them what their real duty should be. They’re quite susceptible to suggestions (thanks to their military training) and they’re already armed. And I know for a fact that we bought them the best arms money could buy.
And there is yet another obstacle facing those who want to carry arms to protect themselves from the excesses of the government. They may have awakened to these excesses a bit too late. What stands between them and accomplishing their goals is quite a hefty document called the United States Code.
So those professing the need to bear arms so they can mount a rebellion against the government are already violating the Constitution as codified in the U.S. Code. Specifically, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 115, Sec. 2383 of the said Code states: “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
And to further illustrate the limitations of arms, let’s ask ourselves some questions!
Had the students at Kent State been armed, would the final outcome have been any different?
Had Jesus brandished a machine gun as he preached his message of peace, would he have avoided crucifixion?
Would history have yielded a better world had Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. been versed in bomb-making techniques?
We need to take a hard look at the Second Amendment and interpret/amend it in a manner consistent with the other high ideals we hold so dear to our hearts.
There is a major difference between our natural right to breathe, to express and exchange ideas and our willingness, desire, ability, or perceived right to carry a man-made device intended simply to cause harm to others.
Constitutions are like flags; their value lies in the ideals they represent. By equating a natural right with a desire to carry a harmful man-made device, we are being contemptuous of what really matters to humanity. Even if the Constitution says so, it is time to change the Constitution. We did it when we dealt with slavery, and I hate to think of ourselves any less capable of doing what is right now than we were some one hundred-fifty years ago.