2nd Amendment? How about a 28th?

Time to update gun rights in America

Longtime Chico resident Stephen W. King is a former dean at Chico State University and past board president of the Chico Unified School District.

Baldwin Park, Feb. 26—two women and four children shot, three dead. Alabama, March 11—eleven killed in four locations in two towns by a gunman, who kills himself. Santa Clara, March 30—six killed in home shooting, gunman killed himself. Carthage, N.C., March 30—eight people killed in nursing home. Pittsburgh, April 4—three policemen killed in ambush. Graham, Wash., April 5—five children shot to death by father, who killed himself. Binghamton, N.Y., April 13—gunman kills 13 and then himself in an immigration assistance facility.

Just another few weeks in a country that sees 85 people killed each day, 30,000 killed each year, 65,000 injured every year, and more than one million killed since 1964—all by firearms. The carnage continues.

Is this really the price we must perpetually pay for our historic commitment to unfettered and universal ownership of virtually any and every type of firearm?

These events have not gone unnoticed. Some have suggested, as they did after Columbine and Virginia Tech, that if only a secretary or a nurse had had a “carry permit,” these gun slaughters could have been thwarted before so many died. Others have argued that if only the existing laws had been enforced, these tragedies could have been avoided—ignoring the fact that in many of these slaughters the guns were legally owned and registered by the shooters themselves. Others simply bemoaned the fact that these events would inevitably encourage gun confiscators. Few liberals have commented, undoubtedly not wanting to run afoul of some Americans’ devotion to owning, protecting, and promoting their capacity to kill.

How can we get past this?

We must discuss a route to a safer society, while still protecting hunting, self-defense, and sport shooting.

Unfortunately, before such discussion can even begin many conservatives sputter “But, but, but … the Second Amendment”—the ultimate discussion-killing shibboleth. They are correct, the Constitution does enshrine the “right to bear arms,” participation in a militia notwithstanding. The Constitution also asserted that only landed, white men could vote and has been amended 27 times.

Would a 28th amendment dealing with guns be the end of American exceptionalism as we know it, or would it help us avert another million deaths, offer the world an example of America’s response to changed realities, and improve the lives of Americans?

The answer to that question is well down the road, and the shape of that answer is far from predictable, but the search for that answer will not realistically begin until the possibility that Second Amendment has outlived its usefulness is widely accepted as a necessary step to begin to end the unacceptable carnage wrought by firearms.