Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has come up with a new book, containing six ideas of how to amend the U.S. Constitution. The one that drew my attention most was he wanted to change the Second Amendment (I guess you can you amend an amendment) to read thus (the new words in italics):
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.
And as the Justice points out, up until very recently the Second Amendment of the Constitution was interpreted by the Supreme Court as a collective right and not an individual right. When the Court changed its tune is when we got into our current “gun nuts in charge” phase.
I have no doubt that the learned Justice knows more about the law than do I but I find this puzzling. First it would throw gun control basically back onto the states or it would allow the federal government to regulate the heck out of the use of firearms by individuals.
Having the states more in charge of gun control would result in a huge variety of regulations from state to state. We have some of that now; for example, consider Georgia’s new law that makes it okay to take concealed guns into bars, and airports, and churches, and public buildings so you can defend yourself and your property. Step across the state line, though, and you may just get arrested for the same behavior. So, it might be better to have consistent laws by having the federal government create the laws, the federal government being an arm of the people of all of the states.
I see only one problem with Justice Stevens’ idea. He offers no definition of “militia.” As soon as this amendment were enacted, the number of militias would skyrocket as gun nuts from all over would be seeking immunity from federal gun control laws by joining one. I am sure that the NRA would become the sponsor of a militia in each of the fifty states in a hot minute.
I think the end result is better served through a political process. Currently the radical NRA policies carry political clout not because of the many rabid members of the NRA who vote, but because of the amount of money the NRA gathers from the shooting sports industry to shill (aka lobby) for them. In this manner, only the NRA has “dirty hands” and not the gun and ammunition manufacturers. Ex-NY Governor Bloomberg is forming an organization to counter the NRA’s political money. If enough people donate, Mr. Bloomberg is donating $50 million as seed money, it may offset much of the power the NRA currently wields.
In addition, if the radical conservative majority on the Supreme Court can be broken, we may get the court to reverse its radical shifts in judgments back to what they were before they went collectively insane (corporations are people, campaign finance limitations restrict free speech, the second amendment is an individual right, etc.)
So, politics may be a better way out than trying to amend the Constitution in a way that will be ineffectual and hence convince people that the status quo can’t be changed.