The author respectfully submits the following proposed legislation for consideration by responsible concerned citizens of these United States (Section 85 of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act, known as CaFMaC).
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) When the 240-year-old language of our Constitution’s second amendment is updated into modern language, the entire meaning of the amendment changes. Of course! our federal, state and local governments can regulate guns as fully as they damn well please. 2) Neurotic gun nuts who profess to love the second amendment more than God or their mother are just blowing smoke to rationalize what they really want – to feel once again that heady swagger they vaguely remember when at age six they got their first cowboy suit complete with chaps, sagging holster and CAP GUN! Hot damn. Read on.
The Legislative version: The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, stating “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed(.),” and being couched in language and grammar peculiar to the late eighteenth century when it was adopted, and more than two centuries of linguistic evolution having passed since that time, and this arcane historical language further having long proved a source of needless confusion and avoidable dissension among the citizens of the United States, the second amendment is hereby revised and clarified in relevant modern terms as follows:
- In the phrase “A well regulated militia,” the word “militia” is hereby changed to “National Guard.”
Sense of Congress: Militias during the revolutionary era were citizen self-help organizations, typically voluntary though popularly considered a civic duty, whereby all able male citizens were honor bound to respond when danger threatened a community. Citizen militias were commendably useful for the context of their day, when attacks by Indians and British troops frequently threatened, though they were hardly well regulated – most were barely regulated at all, and might or might not obey their commanding officer or anyone else. Now, over two centuries later, militias in the historical sense no longer exist and in fact are, as non-sanctioned paramilitary assemblages of vigilante-minded private persons, generally quite illegal. In the course of U.S. history, legal militias were transformed into what is today called the National Guard, which is reasonably well regulated most of the time and, like its progenitor militias, remains at the ready to respond to threats to modern communities such as floods, tornados, and the occasional riot. Also like the militias, the existence of the modern National Guard enables dodging activation of the draft during the frequent militarily active times when Congress declines to issue, or prefers to avoid, a declaration of war.
- The comma at the end of the first four-word phrase is hereby deleted.
Sense of Congress: The comma is grammatically incorrect, significantly confusing, and should not have been used even given the iffy grammar of those early times. The whole point of emphasizing the obvious, that ‘a militia is necessary to state security,’ was to establish a grammatical condition which could then be addressed by the following phrase concerning the consequential right to bear arms of local individuals subject to unpredictable demands to quickly form up a local militia. This intent is clarified by the obverse of such consequence, which is that such right would not be necessary if state security were not under threat from marauding Indians and British soldiers, as is indeed the prevailing condition in these more modern times. The inappropriate comma distracts attention away from this condition-response grammatical device by setting aside the noun phrase ‘A well regulated militia,’ in which being armed though unstated is automatically assumed, as if it corresponded to ‘the people’s right,’ which in fact it does not.
In actual point of fact, the only true grammatical correspondence lies in the necessity of a militia’s existence to ‘the security of a free state’ in those eighteenth-century times – the fact of its armed status being a redundant, assumable given – i.e., if it were not armed it would not be a militia. In modern America, by contrast, the well armed and regulated National Guard provides one among several forms of such security. The best grammatical minds on the Congressional staff, being not a few in number, augmented by comparable expertise in the English departments at thirty major American and British universities consulted on this matter, are in unusual full consensus on the wrongful insertion of this offending comma and its grossly misleading historical consequence, today manifest as fanatical misinterpretation of the true intent of the Constitution’s second amendment. In this consequence, this particular comma is probably without equal among its peers throughout all history.
- The phrase “being necessary to the security of a free state,” is hereby updated to read “…being a useful augmentation of regular civil authorities when natural disasters or civil disorders may exceed the capacity of regular civil authorities, and a useful augmentation of regular U.S. armed forces in certain military situations,…”
Sense of Congress: The original language speaks to “a free state,” meaning one of the original thirteen colonies which had been made recently independent by the events at Yorktown (October 19, 1781) and the subsequent two years of difficult negotiations which despite severe odds culminated in the Treaty of Paris (1783). The Articles of Confederation governing the former colonies were in force eight years, from March 1 (before Yorktown), 1781 until March 1789, when our present constitution went into effect. The second amendment was subsequently adopted on December 15, 1791. During those eight years the new Americans held the individual states in paramount regard, as if they were independent nations – as indeed de facto they were, and the United States government as known today did not yet exist.
This early intense focus on the perceived “national” sovereignty of individual states persisted by inertia and mindset even after the singular and truly United States was created by adoption of the Constitution of 1789 and the 1791 Bill of Rights. The already-obsolescent focus on individual “states” rather than the collective United States persisted well beyond 1791 and was a leading cause of the Civil War seventy years later. Remarkably, this addled anti-federalist misperception persists even today among a minority of persons pathologically obsessed by a confederate mindset anachronistically fixated on “states rights,” even though those rights, ample and well defined, have ever been assured in the Constitution and the fact of their limited scope conclusively established by outcome of the Civil War. Though unable to turn back the national clock, the aberrant obstructiveness of this obsessed minority, passed on to their successive generations over two centuries, has done much to hold the United States back on the world stage and continues even now to prevent achievement of much of its great potential.
Thus the second amendment’s mention of “a free state” is an artifact of that long ago period when the depredations of George III’s invading and fortuitously cruel redcoats were fresh in memory. In contrast with the forty years 1775-1815, “security” of the fifty modern states is now a non-issue. The purposes for which our ancient militias existed are long dead with history. The modern National Guard units which replaced them, based in local communities throughout the fifty states, have useful temporary applications for local emergencies and, on occasion, for augmentation of the regular U.S. armed forces when assigned abroad. That the new second amendment language reflects modern realities, changed so utterly from the realities of 1775-1815, is hereby recognized by Congress.
- The phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” is hereby changed to read “the right of United States citizens to join the National Guard, and to own and use nonmilitary-grade weapons suitable for hunting and personal defense subject to law and regulation in the common public interest, shall not be infringed without due cause and process.”
Sense of Congress: We of the Congress collectively representing All The People hold these truths to be self evident: that the framers of the Constitution could not have envisioned a Gatling gun much less a modern AK-47 rifle or handheld launcher for tactical nuclear projectiles; that the powerfully destructive capacity of modern weapons technology, including military small arms, exceeds by orders of magnitude anything the Founding Fathers could have conceived, the deadly cannons of their day not excepted; that as honorable men who opposed and overcame British tyranny, they would not in any case have accepted that weapons manufactured for the exclusive purpose of massive wartime killing could be defined as arms that the people, as ordinary citizens, have a “right” to “keep and bear”; and that they without question would have unhesitatingly prohibited modern weapons of mass destruction from being in private citizen hands if they could have conceived such weapons. Nor are we ourselves, as inheritors of contemporary responsibility for self governing, constrained to act according to what we think the Founding Fathers intended in their time or might have intended if they lived in our time, for indeed those founders are no longer responsible for proper governance of this vast modern nation—we are.
We of the Congress, as direct inheritors of the forefathers who devised our Bill of Rights with foremost intent to protect individual citizens’ freedoms from British-style governmental/military oppressions to which they had so recently been subjected, hereby declare that the arguments of modern proponents of unregulated total access to guns of every nature, based on their bizarre misreading of history, represent an extremist mindset which is ludicrous to levels of insanity in the face of mass shootings, now become virtually weekly in their occurrence, of hundreds of innocent citizens and children by deranged lunatics and ideological deliberate murderers who should have been prevented access to the guns with which they remorselessly took the precious lives of our fellow Americans. It is the determination of Congress that, concurrent with this long overdue updating of the Second Amendment, a foremost problem to be overcome is the cancerous spread of the gun-worshipping extremist mindset to so many American citizens.
As The People’s duly elected representative successors to the ancestral signers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, we of this modern-day Congress do hereby declare our sense that the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in both its original language and as appropriately revised herewith, was intended, then as now, to guarantee a private citizen’s right to join and serve in the modern militia-equivalent known as the National Guard. We further declare that the eighteenth century intent that a private citizen may “keep and bear arms,” in those bygone days when so many citizens hunted wild game to supply meat in their diets, equates to what would be, in modern terms, one rifle and one shotgun for sport hunting and, optionally, a pistol which can only be used for self defense or nefarious purposes since pistols are unsuited for hunting. Considering the technological advances which now produce these three types of modern weapons, and given that only one weapon at a time can be practically and accurately used in any case, any modern rifle, shotgun or pistol would have been vastly more than adequate to the needs of 1791.
- The fully rephrased and modernized second amendment thus states:
“A well regulated National Guard being a useful augmentation of regular civil authorities when natural disasters or civil disorders may exceed the capacity of regular civil authorities, and a useful augmentation of regular U.S. armed forces in certain military situations, the right of United States citizens to join the National Guard, and to own and use nonmilitary-grade weapons suitable for hunting and personal defense subject to law and regulation in the common public interest, shall not be infringed without due cause and process.”
Sense of Congress: With this clarification of the distinction between private-citizen defenders and the modern local militias now known as National Guards, it becomes obvious that the first two phrases are superfluous in their entirety and should be deleted. Modern language makes obvious that the usefulness of National Guard units, and the well regulated modern military weaponry they possess in ample measure, have no relevance whatsoever to whether a private citizen may own a hunting rifle, a shotgun, a pistol, a bow and arrows, or for that matter a sturdy pocket knife for cutting the strings off modern square hay bales which also did not exist in 1789. The integral relevance of revolutionary-era militias to the flintlock-style-gun-owning citizens who voluntarily staffed them, and came running when called to ad hoc duty, has been rendered long obsolete by the passage of centuries and drastic changes in weapons technology.
The distinction being thus clarified between sophisticated military weaponry for modern warfare versus modest private homeowner firearms for sport hunting and self defense, Congress hereby acknowledges that the absolute right and freedom of federal, state and local governments everywhere in the United States through due process to regulate, control and in their discretion prohibit private possession and use of both military and nonmilitary-grade weapons is thus so blindingly obvious as to pose no need for further comment. To this self evident truth may be added the very real constraints de facto of existing modern prohibitions against possession by convicted felons of weapons of any nature, and of requiring waiting periods while a prospective gun customer’s background is checked for felony, mental instability or other good reason to be gunless, which – reflecting due cause and process – have long been held Constitutional and are legally in force in many jurisdictions across the nation.
To the foregoing may be added further fact that the fifth amendment to the Constitution reinforces the second by asserting that no person shall be deprived of “property without due process of law,” thus clearly connoting that a person may be deprived of property such as land or a gun when due process of law in fact is observed, and further forbidding the taking of private property “for public use, without just compensation,” here again and redundantly conveying the meaning that private property, including guns, may be taken provided that “just compensation” is exchanged for the loss thereof.
Thus in modern context, Congress hereby declares that only the final phrase continues to relevantly reflect the true original intentions of the original second amendment which are, lest any equivocator strain to nitpick these words, expressly that: 1) any qualifying American citizen may join a National guard unit; 2) American civilians shall not own, keep, bear, use or shoot off any modern military-grade weapon of any nature whatsoever; and 3) any (meaning any) agency of federal, state and/or local government has and is inherently possessed of absolute and unassailable Constitutional authority to adopt, at its discretion, laws and regulations concerning the qualifications and criteria which any U.S. citizen shall meet in order to purchase, own or use a non-military-grade rifle, shotgun and/or pistol; the quantity of each these three gun types, whether one or more than one, that a gun owner may be permitted to own; the manner in which such gun owner shall maintain public registration of such rifle(s), shotgun(s) and/or pistol(s); the manner in which such rifle(s), shotgun(s) and/or pistol(s) shall be safely stored by the gun owner; where, when and under what circumstances a gun owner may or may not use a non-military-grade rifle(s), shotgun(s) or pistol(s); and further declares that these specific provisions shall not be construed to exhaust other possible provisions and requirements which federal, state and local governments may at their discretion constitutionally choose to enact into law(s) and/or regulation(s) pursuant hereto.
- NOW THEREFORE, the fully clarified second amendment to the United States Constitution in its revised, modernized and final form shall now and henceforth state as follows:
“The right of United States citizens to join the National Guard, and to own and use nonmilitary-grade weapons suitable for hunting and personal defense subject to law and regulation in the common public interest, shall not be infringed without due cause and process.”, which amended language is hereby approved by Congress and sent to the respective states for ratification.
William D. Coffey