One of the fundamental nuggets of wisdom that the Founding Fathers captured in crafting the Constitution was that things would change. While one can argue that the basics of human nature, against which they carefully crafted numerous safety valve checks and balances, has not changed much in 250 years, so much else has. That is why the Constitution — and its first of many changes, the Bill of Rights — are considered a “living document.” Like a primitive form of AI, they have built within them the rules for their own learning and adaptation.
There have been substantial changes that affect the much-debated Second Amendment.
If it was really meant to encourage the stubbornly independent-minded Americans of the day to feel empowered to oppose tyranny, to maintain their own local militia as a final check and balance against centralized government, should it stray from its appointed purpose or become corrupt… Well, the days when individuals, or even a state, could realistically expect to oppose federal authority on a playing field of brute force are long behind us.
The guns in question when the amendment was written were almost secondary — the right was to bear arms, in concert with local militia. Guns or pitchforks were simply tools for accomplishing that. And those tools have changed — a lot.
And if, instead, as some interpret it, it was simply meant to protect an individual’s right to have a weapon. Well, those weapons have changed a lot too.
The old saying is that guns don’t kill people — people kill people. Sure. But modern guns make it a lot easier. They make it much easier to kill a lot of people, to kill people by accident and to kill yourself. They do NOT, any longer, make it easier to oppose tyranny or protect yourself. 911, while not perfect, is considerably more effective than any law enforcement available to a farming homestead in the 1780s. The world has changed. I don’t know if all guns should be banned; arguments for self-protection and even hunting have validity. But slavish adherence to the Second Amendment is something we need to get past. It is NOT one of the inalienable rights we hold self-evident; it’s a political compromise to solve a dilemma that no longer exists. If the founding fathers had faced weapons with the same killing power as ours today, the debate — and results — would doubtless have been far different.
Taken to a somewhat crazy, but logical, extreme, imagine a not-too-distant future where nukes can pretty much be made mass-market. They would certainly be considered arms. Would you want everyone to have a right to them, extending cold war dynamics to individual interactions? How long would your local high school or road-rage friendly highway survive if our fellow citizens had a right to cultivate personal nuclear deterrents?
Somewhere between a ball-and-powder musket and a nuke, there is a line, and we need to redraw it.