For decades, the United States has outpaced the developed world in gun violence. It’s a fact that can’t be ignored (though plenty of people try). And while every mass shooting has triggered a call for action, very little of substance has been accomplished. After nearly every shooting, we have failed to expand background checks. After Newtown, we failed to ban assault-style weapons. And now, after Las Vegas, efforts to ban bump stocks have gone down to defeat. With incremental policy proposals not gaining traction, it’s time that we finally call on leadership to take a much more drastic step: repealing the Second Amendment.
In our climate, it’s a proposal that’s likely dead on arrival, and not without reason. The NRA has spent decades convincing people that their rights are at stake, and an effort to repeal the source of that right would be easy to frame as “gun grabbing.” But the truth is, our right to own guns has never relied on a constitutional amendment. While constitutional rights carry a special weight, they have never been our only rights. We don’t need a Second Amendment to own guns in the same way we haven’t needed a knife amendment to own knives for the last two centuries. Asking for a repeal is just asking for the same right to debate that we have on other dangerous consumer goods. And it’s a more modern debate — one that is not suffocated by centuries of ever-evolving judicial interpretation and understanding of framers’ intent.
It’s the same kind of debate we had to regulate fertilizer transportation after Oklahoma City, or to ban Four Loko after a couple of teens partied too hard. The consequences could be anything — from a continuation of our current policies to an outright end to gun ownership, or something in between — but it seems like an unnecessary restriction of freedom to prevent us from having the conversation at all.
A decade ago, a senior writer at the Brookings Institute, Benjamin Wittes, made an argument calling for a Second Amendment repeal that takes a compelling stance, and one favored by conservatives: states’ rights. To quote Wittes, “Guns…present a legitimate policy question on which different jurisdictions should take very different approaches.” Put simply, a crime infested city and a rural Montana hunting town shouldn’t be left with the same one-size-fits-all gun policy. But broad, modern interpretations of the Constitution have forced that situation, and it’s worth pushing back on if we want to enact meaningful change.
Stripping away the Second Amendment probably seems far-fetched, for sure. But in its absence is the opportunity for honest proposals. Ones that cast away outdated ideas, and can be tailored to our diverse communities. Ones that can respect ownership in one corner of the nation, but provide valuable legal tools in another. Gun violence is indisputably a problem in America — and if we want to make meaningful progress, it’s worth considering new solutions.
Editor’s note: Here at CAFE, we don’t just talk about the issues you care about — we put your money where our mouth is. If you’d like to take action on gun violence, consider getting involved with organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, or the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. It’s the CAFE way.