The constitution of the US is often regarded as if it were sacred, a secular version of divinely inspired scriptures. We hear its authors described as having wisdom beyond that of any more recent politicians.
While this myth may serve the purpose of restraining any too-hasty changes, it also stands in the way of correcting provisions that have proved to be mistakes.
Although the Constitution is a remarkably well-constructed basis for government, there is no doubt that it did. indeed contain serious mistakes. Some of these have been addressed with amendments, while there are others we still struggle with today.
The biggest and most harmful mistake was allowing slavery to remain legal. The motive was to get the southern states to ratify. There was an opportunity to define the US as a nation of freedom and equality, and the founders blew it.
The slavery issue was also the basis of other mistakes. Not abolishing slavery was not good enough for the South– they also demanded advantages that would help enable them to perpetuate slavery. Counting slaves as part of their population provided them more Congressmen. The electoral college was created to give them the same advantage in electing Presidents. And, the 2nd Amendment was to assure their ability to have armed slave-patrol militias.
These were not just minor technical errors. They were huge mistakes in judgment, committed for immediate political expedience. They were by no means examples of far-reaching inspired wisdom.
To be fair, they could not have known that the 2nd Amendment would be misinterpreted by future generations to create such a nationwide danger and frequent deadly results. But we have no reason to believe that the founders were infallible, nor that their words should not be amended when they have had consistently negative consequences.
The main point I am making is that there is nothing honorable or wise about the 2nd Amendment. It had nothing to do with protecting freedom. It was about PREVENTING freedom for runaway or rebellious slaves. There was only one kind of militia that had any reason to fear being disarmed: the slave patrols. Slaveowners depended on them to round up the runaways, and they feared slave uprisings, and rightly so.
They knew that if the free states wanted to end slavery, banning the armed ‘enforcers’ would be an effective tactic.
For its original purpose, the 2nd Amendment is just as obsolete as the provision of counting slaves as 3/5 of a person for determining representation in Congress. But its meaning has been twisted to say that every civilian has a right to be a deadly army of one. And for what? So we can have a revolution? That’s a fantasy. If it were ever tried, lots of guns would just mean lots more dead people.
Amending the Constitution is hard. But we don’t have to. We just need to understand that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t mean what the NRA thinks it does. We can regulate access to any device that is demonstrably dangerous and deadly in the wrong hands.