To the editor: The real Second Amendment

If the Founding Fathers were around today, they would be flabbergasted by our inability to take even the most basic, common sense steps to protect our children from being murdered at school. Passively accepting, year after year, horrific
school shootings, like the recent slaughter in Uvalde, Texas, would strike them as collective madness, which it is.

In any sizable segment of the population there always will be some people who are so emotionally unbalanced, mentally ill, isolated and distraught, or politically radicalized that they will lash out given the opportunity and a set of circumstances that triggers their violent impulses.

Allowing nearly everyone in the U.S. unrestricted access to assault weapons that can snuff out dozens of innocent lives in a few seconds virtually guarantees that some of those guns eventually will wind up in the hands of the wrong people at the wrong time, with predictable, ghastly results.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Founders did not add the Second Amendment to the Constitution to arm Americans so they could resist the central government if they felt it was oppressing them. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Citizens
were guaranteed the right to bear arms so they could defend, not resist, the government. This is plainly stated in the first clause of the Second Amendment, which refers to “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

The Founders added the Second Amendment to the Constitution because they wanted to avoid creating a “standing army” (i.e. a permanent, professional military establishment). History had shown over and over that armies often became the
tools of tyrants. Indeed, the Founders fought for nearly eight bloody years against British and Hessian professional soldiers to win their independence. Instead of a standing army, the Founders preferred to rely upon the militia to defend the state against its enemies, domestic and foreign. It is for this reason that the second clause of the Second Amendment says “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Alexander Hamilton made this very clear in Federalist #29 when he wrote “…it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it…This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it…”

Relying upon a militia was a nice ideal, it just didn’t work especially well. Even during the Revolution, George Washington often complained that the militia were undisciplined, poorly trained and had an annoying habit of going home in the middle of a military campaign when their enlistments were up. Clearly the militia had moments of glory (Lexington and Concord among them) and contributed to the Cause, but without the Continental Army (the seedbed of a standing army) we would not have won our independence. As the United States expanded and became more involved in international affairs it became obvious that a permanent army and navy were necessary.

Times changed, we adapted. Today a permanent military establishment controlled by a civilian government is accepted as a matter of course by almost everyone. Indeed, polls indicate that Americans respect and admire the military more than just about any government institution (certainly far more than Congress). Because everyday civilians are not expected to drop what they are doing to respond to a domestic insurrection or invading army, they do not need to be armed with AR-15s.

Nevertheless, the NRA, gun rights advocates and even some Supreme Court justices conveniently decouple the two halves of the Second Amendment, ignoring the first clause altogether, or dismissing it as if it were some meaningless rhetorical
flourish. It is commonplace to read blogs and tweets which claim that the amendment’s original intent was to arm citizens to resist governmental repression, and that the right to possess any weapon for that purpose is virtually unlimited and sacred.

This interpretation is not just historically inaccurate, it is dangerous and it’s getting our children killed. There are far more guns circulating in America than anywhere else in the world (well over 300 million; 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents) and we have far more mass shootings than any other nation. That’s not a coincidence.

What is a coincidence is that in the wake of the slaughter in Uvalde the NRA will hold its annual national convention in Houston over Memorial Day weekend.  Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will be there trolling for money and sound
bites that will play well on Fox News. The air will be thick with NRA slogans such as, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” (Actually, in the U.S. people kill people with guns, and they kill a lot of soft targets very quickly with
semi-automatic guns.) Attendees surely will be warned that any compromise on gun control is a slippery slope toward socialism and that the radical left is “coming for your guns.”

Ironically, all firearms will be banned from the convention hall for Trump’s safety (except for vendors who will be hawking their wares). Apparently, the NRA has no problem banning guns in order to protect themselves, they just don’t want to ban them to protect children.

Bill Dunkel

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  1. Keith Stern says:

    Many of the same politicians who are pushing for gun control have armed security as they travel. If they believe what they are saying then they will become unprotected just as they want the rest of the people to be. Of course they are hypocrites and live in their ivory towers looking down on us as below them in. Steps can and should be taken to help protect innocent lives but draconian measures won’t work. Just look at Chicago, NYC, and other cities where their gun laws aren’t working.

  2. Nathan Adams says:

    ‘Do Something’ Joe,
    You say the 2nd Amendment is not Absolute. Someone needs to remind you that neither are YOU, thank God!!!
    ‘The Second Amendment, “Preserving the Inalienable Right of Individual Self-Protection”‘, a book highly recommended by David Barton. ,
    Sad to see there are still over-educated idiots hiding in the safety of the Hills, hiding along with all the other Bernoids.
    Cannot an ASSAULT WEAPON be anything from a toothpick to an Abrams Tank?

  3. We don’t have a “gun problem”, we’ve got a culture problem. Decades ago school kids brought their rifles to school, often to use in shooting sports classes, sometimes just to have them in their cars for plinking or hunting after school. What’s changed since then? Not the guns (except in meaningless cosmetics). Our culture has changed. We glorify violence and revel in division. We’re extremely quick to cast ill motive on anyone not in our own “tribe”. The war on drugs has decimated families and militarized police, and turned neighbor against neighbor.

    If we want to solve our cultural addiction to violence, we’re going to have to look in the mirror and look in our hearts. Banning the tools of violence while not healing the people who would commit it isn’t a fix, it’s only a guarantee they would choose something else. And as we live in a high energy industrial society, there are many options for those who seek wanton destruction to sate their lust of violence.

    Archie Flower, Hancock Vermont

  4. Randy Gray says:

    Bill, do you know what an AR is?
    You’d like us to relinquished our Right to self defense while crime is on the rise and police are Ill equipped to protect us? Who’s side are you on?

  5. Stu Lindberg says:

    50.5 percent of Vermonters own guns. The vast majority of these people, myself included, are law abiding and peaceful. We simply want to be left alone to pursue our lives and protect our families and our property.
    Not sure what world Mr. Dunkel lives in but in my world violent crime is growing at a frightening rate, the police have been defunded and demoralized. Most law enforcement agencies are operating on skeleton crews. The courts in Vermont have a policy of catch and release for even some of the worst offenders.

    Who exactly does Mr. Dunkel think is going to confiscate guns after he and his frothing band of tyrants erase the Second Amendment? Most of the police I know are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, especially the “shall not be infringed” part. The same goes for the enlisted ranks of the military.

    How willing are the people, cops and military, that have derided by the left as Nazis for the last decade, going to be when you order them to take guns away from their friends and family? Not very willing.

  6. Robert Sartini says:

    I agree with the letter writer. But while we wait for politicians to dither and wring their hands about the 2nd Amendment and shooters mental health we need not wait to take action. We can make schools difficult targets NOW with improved security and armed guards who are willing to stop an intruder.

  7. John McCorry says:

    Dear all. I live in Scotland where the one&only tragic school gun massacre was 20 years ago.
    I would like to suggest the solution suggested ten or twenty gun massacres ago by comedian Chris Rock:
    “Make bullets cost FIVE thousand dollars! ”

    If bullets cost as much as a car, only the vastly wealthy could afford to massacre a large group of people. The government or federal exchange could buy bullets and enrich a whole load of people.
    Buy a yacht don’t cost a life.

    The prayers of an atheist.

    John ×

  8. Raymond Makul says:

    Your analysis overlooks the fact that the SCOTUS, through the Heller case, has already established that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to firearm ownership to individuals, regardless of their membership in a militia.

    I think instead of focusing on the elimination of categories of firearms and/or their accessories, it would be more useful to concentrate on the “well regulated” provision. We deny firearm ownership to felons and mental defectives. Clearly, “regulation” of ownership is permissible. This suggests licensing of gun owners, not guns themselves, to weed out the unstable.

    In the present debate, there is little discussion of the impact of violent video games. Over the years, these games have become more realistic. Starting at a very early age, children can engage of the virtual murder of hundreds of people, day after day. Desensitizing children to virtual mass murder makes it a short hop to the real thing.

    The AR-15 and similar semi automatic weapons have been around for decades, without weekly mass murders. But in recent years, these tragic events have become a regular occurrence, coinciding with the development of mass murder simulation software and the hardware to play them on. Coincidence?