In light of the latest unthinkable school shooting, in Nashville, Daniel DeLong tackles the thorny issue of the Second Amendment by bringing the framers of the Constitution forward in time, and asking them for clarity.
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Every screen in the country was tuned in to the live feed, as the United States government made the big announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, the time machine works! We have managed to bring the Founding Fathers of this great nation — the very framers of the United States Constitution — forward in time!”
Cheers went up everywhere.
“And now we can finally settle the question, once and for all: What was the intent of the Second Amendment, and are we applying it correctly today?”
The camera panned to the half-dozen men in powdered wigs sitting in chairs on a raised dais. They looked a little uncomfortable, but the situation had been explained to them, and they seemed to be taking it in stride.
Across from the dais were two tables, with a podium in between. One person sat at each table, facing the great men. These were the delegates of the opposing views on the Second Amendment, here to plead their case and learn which was correct.
The pro-gun lobby won the coin toss, and got to go first. They stepped up to the podium.
“It seems very clear,” they began, “that the Second Amendment isn’t just about a well-regulated militia, and it sure as heck isn’t about hunting. All of you very wise men recognized that given the chance, any government, local or national, will always move toward tyranny and oppression. This is because a government is just people. And people are fallible and greedy and power-hungry.
“And as we all know, power corrupts. So you wisely created a system of government with checks and balances on that power.
“And the final check — the last line of defense — is the Right to Bear Arms. This is a right that, according to you, SHALL not be infringed. Nearly 250 years since we — or rather ... you … — declared our independence from England, the technology of firearms might have changed, but human nature remains the same.
“Modern examples show time and time again that the first move of almost every successful tyrannical dictator in the world has been to disarm the citizens.
“But you understood, that only by allowing the citizens themselves to be armed, can liberty and freedom be guaranteed. We are certain that this was your intent when you wrote the Second Amendment, and that it still holds true today. Thank you.”
They sat down, and the opposing side stepped up to the podium.
“You will no doubt all agree that it is impossible to recognize one part of what you wrote in the Second Amendment, but not the other. The words ‘well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State’ makes your intent crystal clear: This was about individual states having the right to form and arm militias, for the purpose of protecting the state itself against a potentially tyrannical federal government.
“It was not about individual citizens having the right to possess arms.
“And, as you might have heard, what constitutes arms has changed significantly in the past 250 years.
“Back during the Revolutionary War, an extremely proficient soldier armed with a musket could get off a shot maybe twice per minute. This was because they had to load the powder and ball for each shot individually. Some of our modern firearms can easily fire a bullet twice or more every second, pretty much indefinitely, and with pinpoint accuracy.
“Modern guns are nothing like the arms you referenced in the Second Amendment, so even if your intent was specifically to allow private citizens to possess them (which it clearly wasn’t), the killing devices that are now the No. 1 cause of death for children — children — in the country that you founded, were NOT what you had in mind. Thank you.”
So there it was: Both sides of the argument laid out.
Everyone watched expectantly as the Founding Fathers put their heads together and spoke quietly among themselves for only a few seconds. Then James Madison, considered by many to be the Father of the Constitution, stood up.
“Ahem.” He cleared his throat. “You’ll be pleased to know that my colleagues and I are all in absolute concurrence as to the answer to this question you have so eloquently posed.”
All the other Founding Fathers nodded their heads in agreement. Murmurs of excitement came from the crowd.
“And while I’ve had an extremely limited amount of time to become familiar with the nuances of speech in this day and age, I’ll do my best to express myself using turns of phrase that are appropriate for the 21st century. Here is our reply.”
The delegates, the government, indeed the entire country held its collective breath.
James Madison cleared his throat again. “Why in the hell are you asking us?!”
Stunned silence from all those in attendance.
“Seriously!” He threw up his hands. “We gave you a form of government that allows for changes to be made if You The People decide something needs to change. It was obvious to us that one set of fixed, immutable laws written in stone couldn’t possibly be applicable for all time and for ever and ever without some adjustment. We recognized that the world would change; that beliefs would change; that technology would change; that new truths would be discovered.
“These weren’t decrees handed down from on high. These were a bunch of compromises we hashed out over the entire summer of 1787. We didn’t agree on practically anything! But we locked ourselves in a room until we figured it out.”
He turned to the other Founding Fathers on the dais. “Am I right?”
They all nodded their heads emphatically. “Word,” said Alexander Hamilton.
James Madison turned back to the crowd. “We’re not trying to downplay or in any way minimize the staggering, monumental importance of this document. Nor are we suggesting that every concept contained herein might one day be considered potentially up for reevaluation simply due to the passage of time.”
“Like Freedom of Speech,” one of the other Founding Fathers chimed in. “That’s one that could be written in stone.” Again, they all murmured and nodded in agreement.
“Word,” said Alexander Hamilton.
“We’re just saying,” Madison concluded, “that the point of this whole thing, what lies at the core, is that this is YOUR country. And you, the PEOPLE, have the power.
“The fate of this nation, your fate, your freedom, the safety and security of your family, lies in your hands. That is the government we gave you. If you feel something needs to change, or believe it definitely shouldn’t change, or think maybe it just needs to be tweaked, or updated, or whatever, get involved!
“Be engaged. Use the power of your voice. Run for office! Argue! VOTE!”
The father of the United States Constitution shook his head.
Moral of the story: Get involved. Be engaged.
Daniel DeLong is a retired firefighter who does like his guns but is also perfectly willing to suffer the inconvenience of having to show he has the mental stability and emotional maturity to safely and responsibly possess them (you know, like you have to do in order to adopt a shelter dog). He’d still feel this way even if such regulations made it only a little less likely that another kid gets murdered at school. He seriously hopes you get involved and vote. His previous piece for Lookout ran in February.