Essay №14: The 28th Amendment

‘The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.’

Recently, former Chief Justice John Paul Stevens published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for, “a repeal of the Second Amendment;” electrifying the debate over gun control a day after the March For Our Lives rally. Those who have thrown their hands up over this op-ed have used this point as a rallying cry for how “liberals are looking to take our guns.” This faulty opinion suggesting that a repeal of the Second Amendment would result in the mass exodus of guns from America in your homes, from your waist pocket and in your safe is wrong. The object permanence of a gun is the only tangible object that we have a Constitutional right to — no other object do the citizens of the United States have, that matches the tangibleness of the Second.

But what would an America with a 28th Amendment to the Constitution actually look like? The veil that the Second Amendment was constructed behind, was not created in order to protect against the Government that sits before you in 2018. Nor was it written to protect from the vision of Government in which the framers ratified in 1781. The goal of our union should not be to arm our citizens, but to create a Government in which the civil reliance on arms becomes obsolete. It is in my understanding that the provocateur that once drove the need for such an amendment is now vox nihili. The need for the Second Amendment was built on the desire not to protect from our form of government but from tyranny.

The security of a nation is not defined by the soundness of its institutions but by its ability to provide safety to its people. Our global community and the web of international reliance from nation to nation has acted as a powerful force for peace and democracy within nations. This notion of international dependence on other nations is in part responsible for the obsoleteness of the Second Amendment. The private ownership of a gun may once have been an important governing right of the people of a young nation, in which the world order was dominated by oppressive monarchs and the struggle for power existed in a vacuum — this is no longer the case. Our world today calls for no such right as a means of conflict resolution. It is not in the interest of the people to take arms against another nation, it is the role of our Government. And it is not the responsibility of our citizens to hold arms against democracy.

The civil anxiety over the Second Amendment is fueled by a necessity for the protection of personhood. The safety of a person and that of a nation is not contingent on the birthright ownership of a weapon. A full repeal of the Second Amendment wouldn’t mean the dissolution of all guns in the United States. Allowing for gun ownership to exist solely within the stream of commerce rather than under the discretion of Constitutional authority would allow for a change in the lens to which we view and debate gun ownership. In fact, the repeal of the amendment would be more symbolic than anything. In a debate, we would no longer promiscuously dance on the line of what form or type of weapon meets constitutional muster — we would debate only under the legislative procedure.

In our current state, the text of the Second Amendment casts a long shadow across all debates because it is rooted in this notion that we have a right to it. If we altered the calculus of the right and removed the label “right,” the structure of how we identify problems related to guns, would be changed. It is false and foolish to believe that a departure from the Second Amendment would result in an oppressive government. As mentioned before, the powerful forces that promote Democracy from within and around the globe, are too powerful to overturn. To believe that you are the check on government with your AR-15 is foolish, and I can promise you that the greatness of all the world powers is mightier than your angst.

The new world that was set up after World War II emphasized the lackluster need for such a right. The path beyond the Second World War was underpinned by notions of a common humanity possessing universal rights. To which an idea spurred that humans had universal standards, even in times of war. And was emphasized in the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the International Court of Justice in 1946 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. An international order that made barbaric and guerrilla war rights obsolete.

I am suggesting and advocating for a 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution that reflects the American democratic republic of the 21st Century: a repeal of the Second Amendment. A chance to debate guns through the only lens in which they should be debated, a lens of privilege and legislative procedure. The need for such an amendment is no longer and the proper channels of possessing a weapon should be drafted under the discretion of commerce and privilege. No longer do the citizens of this country need the Second Amendment to protect themselves from the demons of tyranny — instead, we should embrace 21st-century practices of international peace, checks and balances and expand the right to vote. The right to vote is a stronger check on the potential for an oppressive government than that of the trigger.

Purchase a gun and entertain your musings at a shooting range if you must. But do so under the responsibility of common sense reform that puts the purchasing power of guns to the most responsible of citizens, not those who assume a blanket right to weaponry.

Image taken by: Nicholas Lepore

I believe in a United States, in which the ownership of a gun is a privilege. An America that removes the bulwark of institutional obedience to obsoleteness. An America where your access to a weapon comes with a burden of responsibility, not a right. That the chance to own a gun comes from opportunity, not birth.