If the country wants to infringe on the citizen’s right — not just the citizens who have been perfect, but also citizens who have done wrong — to keep and carry arms, then we should amend the constitution. As it stands now, an accurate reading of the second amendment clearly forbids infringement by the government on the citizen’s right to keep and carry. Yes, sophist (and often ridiculous) reasoning has resulted in a wide variety of constitutionally unauthorized legislation along the lines many are suggesting, but again, as these laws are in fact unauthorized, there is no salient reason — outside of fear of unauthorized, coercive violence on the part of the government — for any citizen to respect them, much less obey them.
I am not — repeat, not — in favor of the second amendment as it stands today. But I am even less in favor of allowing or encouraging the government to ignore the constitution under any circumstances. That has led directly to torture; complete inversion of the commerce clause; surveillance, search and seizure without a warrant or even probable cause; repression of speech; direct government support and fostering of religion; ex post facto law; de facto double jeopardy; the taking of land for commercial purposes; and much, much more along the same lines.
My thesis is based upon two ideas that I find compelling (and largely absent in both conservative and liberal thinking): First, that the government should act only in those ways that are constitutionally authorized, or at least not constitutionally forbidden. Second, that when we want the acts of government to extend in new directions, or desist from acts it is presently authorized to perform, we should modify the constitution accordingly.
If amendment is truly too high an obstacle to leap for such changes in the general sense, then let’s get it together and make just one amendment that modifies the amendment process itself. The founders provided these means to adjust our government. They did not intend for our government to adjust itself. However, if we truly want that to be how it all works — basically the same process of any tin-pot dictatorship — then fine, let’s make it official and authorize exactly what it is we actually want. No more of this ignoring the very document that authorizes the government to exist in the first place. If we really want a banana-dictatorship-class government where the government can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants, then let’s just come right out and make it official. No more of this pretending to be a constitutional republic. Because we are only pretending at this point.
So, yes. Today, it is a bad idea to allow just anyone to keep and carry a powerful weapon, and in particular, one that makes killing and maiming so easy you barely have to twitch a finger at a great distance.
But you know what? I am convinced it is worse to give the government carte blanche to do whatever it likes, whenever it likes. That’s exactly what people are trying to do when they ignore the very clear restriction of the second amendment on infringement on the right to keep and carry arms. The “why” of the second amendment has obviously changed — the concept of militia-as-armed-civilian is largely irrelevant today, and fighting the government with weaponry isn’t even remotely an option with any chance of success, for those who are thinking that way. But the actual instruction to government, the “shall not infringe”, has not changed. That’s the real problem. That’s where we should be putting our efforts first and foremost. Otherwise, we’re simply telling the government it can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants. That is worse — much worse — than a tiny fraction of citizens shooting other citizens, sad as that may be.
Personally, I believe we would be best off with a government that was limited in its powers by some document. That was, in fact, the idea that brought our constitution into being. I am okay with that changing if that’s really what we want. I am not okay with it changing?—?as it has changed already — without our express consent, into an uncontrolled engine for the arbitrary imposition of any power it decides is today’s recipe for convenience.