It is time to prioritize our “Rights”

Posted on December 17, 2012


In the aftermath of the most recent mass shooting, this one located at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and one that killed 20 six and seven year-olds, and six adults (teachers and administrators), the nation is confronted with a problem that the Founding Fathers did not contemplate, and one that imperils every citizens’ right to  “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The central question is whether the right to one’s Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is more important than the rights of individuals to own and/or possess guns. This question pits the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The United States Declaration of Independence


“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.”  United States Constitution Second Amendment

Let’s first address the rights of individuals to bear arms. Justice Breyer’s dissent in McDonald v Chicago (2010) set out the Framer’s motivation regarding the Second Amendment:

“In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment  in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense. There has been, and is no consensus, that the right is, or was, “fundamental.””

Justice Stevens’ dissent in the District of Columbia v Heller, (2008) also speaks to the Framer’s intent:

“The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.”

It is my contention, as well as of at least four Supreme Court Justices, that the Second Amendment is limited to a “well-regulated militia” and does not extend to armed self-defense. In 1791, when the Second Amendment was ratified, there were no semi-automatic weapons that could fire five rounds per second. In fact, the most lethal weapon during the Revolution was a musket that could fire only four rounds per minute.

The Framers’ could not have contemplated mass shootings at elementary schools or in movie theaters. Today’s society, with respect to guns, is so far from the reality of 1791 that I argue the Second Amendment is not relevant. The “well-regulated militia” necessary for states to repel the tyranny of a federal government or to protect the freedman during Reconstruction is no longer applicable today. Furthermore, the Framers’ did not grant a “fundamental” right of armed self-defense.

The citizens of the United States deserve better than living in fear of being a victim of a mass shooting. Our right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is being trampled by the Second Amendment. We should be able to send our children to school without fearing for our child’s safety. We should be able to worship without fear of being slain. We should be able to go to a movie without figuring out which exit to run out of in the event a gunmen enters.

Is there a balance between the citizen’s right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and the Second Amendment that would allow citizens to keep guns while maximizing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?

In short – NO! We need not be terrorized by guns any longer. The senseless homicides must end. Guns provide a method of killing that is quick, precise and relatively sterile. Guns turn cowards into killers. Sure, people will still die at the hands of bad people, but by taking guns out of the equation we drastically reduce murder – a la every other industrialized country in the world.

The Second Amendment has run its course. It is no longer relevant nor useful. We must repeal the Second Amendment in order to grant citizens a real shot at Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.