“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Whether or not you learned it in History class or from a “Schoolhouse Rock” video, the preamble to the Constitution is familiar to almost any American citizen.
When I was in school, there was a copy of the Constitution posted in every classroom, a replica of the original, written in script with curly, burnt edges. Beside it hung the Bill of Rights, and an American flag, which we stood up and pledged allegiance to every morning. For my entire public school career, I knew those documents were there, and I knew they protected me and people had died for the right to print, display and abide by them. But I never really read the whole thing, and I never understood the process of amending those documents. Until now.
There is much talk about our Second Amendment rights on television, the radio and especially the CB. I’ve heard everything from “the president is going to sign a bill today and the Army is coming after your guns tomorrow” to “Congress is declaring war on American citizens.” Granted, you can’t believe half of what you hear on the CB, and the other half is probably suspect as well — but there does seem to be a current of misinformation in it all about what process would actually have to take place to disarm the American public.
The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791. It was part of a nifty little thing called the Bill of Rights, a document our forefathers put together to ensure our basic rights and freedoms were not infringed upon. The Second Amendment is the only one which states a purpose, and is the shortest amendment in text.
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.
The text leaves way for much discussion about what a “well regulated militia” is. Also, when the Amendment was ratified, there wasn’t any such thing as an automatic assault weapon, so the type of arms this amendment protects has been the subject of many screaming sessions on Capitol Hill. There is a huge difference between a black powder rifle and an M-16.
Here is a very basic, bare bones answer to the question of what process is required to make a change in the Bill of Rights: It’s not easy to do.
Either the House of Representatives (435 voting members) or Senate (100 members) can call for an amendment with a two-thirds vote, or two-thirds of the state legislatures (50 total — 27 Republican controlled, 17 Democratic, 5 split and one nonpartisan) can call for a Constitutional Convention. There hasn’t been a Constitutional Convention since the first one, so it usually starts with a proposed amendment in Congress (535 voting members). The proposed amendment would have to be passed by three-fourths of states to become law. This law can still be defeated by the Supreme Court, if challenged and taken to task.
So it’s really not that basic, but it’s as close as you can get without going on for five pages and taking up 15 minutes of your time. Bottom line: it’s a convoluted process and no one is coming to get your guns tomorrow.
The U.S. has the best-armed civilian population in the world, with an estimated 270 million total guns. That’s an average of 89 firearms for every 100 residents. It seems highly unlikely there would ever be an argument strong enough to sway that many people toward voting themselves out of the right to bear arms. No one in their right mind is going after your guns in totality — what they’re going to do is restrict the terms surrounding the actual ownership. And that’s where the fun begins.
Politicians and lawmakers are insidious in the ways they’re going about gun control, because of the public outcry and volatile nature of the argument. The issue isn’t going to be taking the guns away, it’s going to be getting ammunition for them. I went to three gun stores today and could not purchase 9-mm rounds at any of them because they didn’t have any. None of the three had loose black powder for loading a press, and all of them told me they hadn’t had it on the shelves since Sandy Hook.
This isn’t the result of new laws. It’s because the minute anyone starts talking about restricting gun rights, firearm and ammunition sales skyrocket. People stockpile, because they’re unsure of the future of their rights. Demand goes through the roof. Nothing sells guns better than a politician coming out with anti-gun rhetoric — nothing fuels the market for munitions better than an announcement from the White House regarding gun law.
Again, no one will be banging on your door tomorrow, but there has been a steady chipping away at our basic rights under the guise of homeland security. It’s been going on for a long time. It’s time for a frank discussion about the difference between a well-armed citizen, a lunatic and a terrorist.
Responsible gun owners should be informed and vote accordingly, there are some very un-gun-friendly politics right now. If politicians want new gun laws, they need to make them clear and put them in front of the citizens for a vote, like the process says they must do to amend the Constitution.
They can’t take anything away from you that you don’t give them.