We Are Not Powerless

Repealing The 2nd Amendment is Possible

By Eilene Lyon

Here’s a pop quiz for my American readers: In which decade was the last amendment added to the Constitution? No cheating!

A.  1930s

B.  1950s

C.  1970s

D.  1990s

Some might say that the 27th amendment is inconsequential, and the fact it took more than 200 years to ratify, a trifle absurd.1 My point, though, is to emphasize that the Constitution is not an immutable document. Every part of it is subject to modification by the will of The People. Even the Bill of Rights, including the second amendment – Right to Bear Arms – can be changed or repealed.

Four amendments were ratified in the 19th century. Twelve amendments were ratified in the 20th century, but none have been ratified in the 21st. The last amendment was added to the Constitution in 1992, thanks to a proposal and determined campaign by a Texas college student.

Despite those low numbers, hundreds of amendments are proposed during every congressional term. Most never make it out of committee. Some recent proposals would overturn the Citizens United ruling and abolish the electoral college. I’d certainly support both of them!

Gun rights/control has become a serious topic of debate in this country as mass shootings dominate the news cycle. Even conservative pundits have proposed repealing the second amendment.

If you want a historical perspective from a former Supreme Court justice, be sure to read this opinion piece.

Is it a realistic possibility? Yes, it is…IF “We The People” wish it to be so.

Why Repeal the Second Amendment?

Surely something that was added to the Constitution by the founders must be best for the country, right? They could hardly have imagined what this country is like today.

The second amendment was important in an era where there was no standing army, and where a large population of blacks were held in slavery by a small group of whites. Those whites needed to keep themselves armed for fear of a slave rebellion. Our constitution was written by slave-holders. Don’t forget that.

This amendment is poorly worded and frequently misunderstood (sorry, James Madison). It hasn’t weathered the test of time well.

Repealing it, or superseding it with something better, will help us get to saner gun laws. Without a constitutional argument based on the “shall not be infringed” phrase, states will have the ability to pass sensible laws like those found in other developed countries which do not have a mass shooting problem.

Support for the Second Amendment

Obviously the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights organizations pull out all the stops to ensure that gun rights in America are not restricted. They do this by spending their money on ad campaigns to defeat candidates who are likely to pass such laws.

Arguing with these people is futile. Don’t bother. At best, they will simply state that the second amendment is the only “reason” they need to own as many or whatever type of gun they want. At worst, they will engage in straw-man fallacies.2

Fortunately gun owners are a minority in the U.S. Some of them just happen to be fanatical, and they VOTE.

Getting an Amendment Passed

An instructive case is the passage of the 18th Amendment, arguably one of the most costly laws ever created, both financially and in loss of human lives. That was Prohibition.

Like the 27th, the 18th was passed largely due to the efforts of one man.

Wayne B. Wheeler could have written the NRA playbook on how to influence congress. Nowadays, some of his tactics would probably be considered illegal. But he was highly successful at making sure that politicians who disagreed with the Anti-Saloon League agenda did not get elected or re-elected.

One key aspect of his campaign was its simple, unwavering, and emotional theme. “Nothing mattered to him but making America dry…Wheeler never strayed from his single monotonous message: that drinking was responsible for poverty, broken marriages, lost earnings, and all the other evils of modern society.”3

If a politician didn’t agree with Wheeler’s demands to rectify matters, he would come across as heartless and lost appeal among voters.

Fortunately, another amendment, the 21st, repealed the truly awful 18th. Considering how toxic and deadly the second amendment has become to our society, surely we can find sensible candidates who will support a repeal.

That is the first step in getting an amendment. Get the right people in office. Or more importantly, get the wrong people OUT of office. I hate taking the negative tack, but it works. Make the representatives and senators who do the NRA’s bidding feel the disapproval. Let them realize they won’t get re-elected with a pro-gun stance.

Then get out the vote! Use the Indivisible resistance network. They helped get Doug Jones elected in Alabama last fall. They have progressive strategies you can use.

Then you have to hammer the message, until it sinks it. It has to be emotional and not just facts. Facts do not change minds. People will act in their own self-interest, so keep it real for them.

The right amendment at the right time, sold with the right appeal, CAN pass and be ratified. Do you have the will to make it happen?

Making laws is not a pretty process and you may need to invest in cases of Pepto-Bismol, but if the carnage in our schools and other public places isn’t nauseating enough to motivate you to action, what is?

 


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_amendments_to_the_United_States_Constitution 
  2. A straw man is when an opponent in an argument distorts and alters your position and attacks the “straw man” instead of the real issue. A popular straw man meme on Facebook is “Cars kills thousands of people, but no one is trying to ban them. It’s not the car’s fault.” 
  3. Bryson, Bill. 2013. One Summer. Anchor Books, a division of Random House LLC, New York, p. 163 – 164. 

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