Time to Amend the Second Amendment

This is a copy of my letter to Jim Jordan who is the Congressional Representative for the district in which I live:

Dear Mr. Jordan, Following the 129th mass shooting in the first 87 days of 2023 in Nashville I saw a quote in the media of your response to suggestions of some gun safety legislation.  You reportedly said, “The second amendment is the second amendment.”  I would argue that such an oversimplified response is totally wrong in multiple ways.  Not only is it cruel and insensitive to the pain communities keep suffering over and over again as innocent children are brutally murdered, it is historically and legally just plain wrong.  

First, the fact that we are talking about an amendment to the U.S. Constitution means this founding document of our democracy can and has been amended multiple times.  The founders had the wisdom to realize changes to the Constitution would be necessary as our experiment in democracy progressed.  And there is even precedent for an amendment, namely the 18th which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, being repealed by another, i.e. the 21st 13 years later.  As important as the Constitution and its amendments, even the Bill of Rights, are, they are not sacrosanct.  

How could they be when they were written and adopted by wealthy oligarchs who owned hundreds of other human beings?  The second amendment, as you know, is one of the ten first amendments collectively known as the Bill of Rights.  Those amendments were adopted and ratified by the states in 1791, just 3 years after the Constitution itself was ratified.  One of the many things I did not learn in my high school history classes was the impact on American history of other events in the world, both near and far.  For example, as the French Revolution was raging in Europe beginning in 1789 the enslaved people in the French colony of Saint-Dominique began a revolt for their freedom.  That revolt ended in 1803 as the only successful uprising of enslaved people in world history, and also won independence from France and established the nation we still know as Haiti.  

That unrest just 700 miles from Southern Florida was of great interest and concern to the plantation owners in the Southern states.  Just as free and enslaved Blacks greatly outnumbered their white masters on Haiti, so too did they in the Southern parts of the U.S.  

Fear of rebellion by the enslaved masses was a constant fear of plantation owners, including the shapers of the Constitution and four of our first five presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, the latter being the primary author of the Bill of Rights.

So what gets omitted in our history text books is that a primary motivation for the inclusion of the second amendment in the Bill of Rights was a purely racist and capitalistic desire on the part of the enslavers to keep their “property” in enslavement.  

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said, “When you know better, you do better.”  It took from 1619 to 1865 for us to do better, i.e. abolishing the most flagrant form of slavery by the 13th amendment.  While that horrible wrong took an embarrassing 246 years to change and while we still have a long way to go to end the systemic racism upon which slavery was founded, my point is that laws can change if there is the political and moral will to do so.

We are the only “developed” nation in the world whose children are being butchered in schools by weapons of war.  We know how to fix this.  Other countries have dwelt swiftly and successfully with mass shootings, but our uniquely American greed for power and wealth by our politicians and gun manufacturers are more highly valued than 9 year old children.  

This should not be a partisan issue, but it has become one.  And because it has become a political issue instead of a human issue, and because it is Republican members of Congress who are owned by the NRA who are unwilling to even consider common sense solutions to this problem it is time to state the sad truth.  The only ways to stop these horrific killings is to vote Republicans out of office and replace them with people who care more about innocent lives than AR-15’s.  I say that as one who grew up a proud Republican in the 1950’s, but Lincoln and Eisenhower would not recognize what Trumpism has done to their party.  Just as amendments can change, so can political affiliation.  A majority of Americans favor common sense gun safety legislation.  We are tired of thoughts and prayers without action after every mass killing.  Unless Republicans start listening to their constituents instead of the NRA they must and will go the way of the dinosaurs.