Repeal the Second Amendment?

I respect Ben Wittes and this argument is surely the right argument to make for those who don't believe that there should be an individual right to own a gun. While I didn't attend the discussion because I was not invited until the middle of last week, I thought that Randy Barnett's response that repealing the second amendment would open up to question all other constitutional rights was pretty weak (though possibly the reporter just doesn't correctly describe his argument). It is very hard to repeal parts of the constitution and I don't see what harm that it would do to interpret these rights correctly and then have people realize that the only way that they can be changed is through a constitutional amendment.

"The Second Amendment is one of the clearest statements of right in the Constitution," Benjamin Wittes, a guest scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution, acknowledged in a discussion Monday. "We've had decades of sort of intellectual gymnastics to try to make those words not mean what they say."

Wittes, who said he has "no particular enthusiasm for the idea of a gun culture," said that rather than try to limit gun ownership through regulation that potentially violates the Second Amendment, opponents of gun ownership should set their sights on repealing the amendment altogether.

"Rather than debating the meaning of the Second Amendment, I think the appropriate debate is whether we want a Second Amendment," Wittes said. He conceded, however, that the political likelihood of getting the amendment repealed is "pretty limited."

Wittes said the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms meant more when it was crafted more than 200 years ago than it does today. Modern society is "much more ambivalent than they [the founders] were about whether gun ownership really is fundamental to liberty," he said. . . . . .

UPDATE: Ben Wittes was nice enough to write me and point out that this was indeed not Randy's argument. Ben writes me that "His comments about the dangers of the intellectual arguments against the Second Amendment came not in response to my arguments about repeal but in response to the idea of judicial interpretation that renders the amendment a nullity. His point was that the same intellectual and doctrinal strategies used by gun control supporters in arguing against the individual rights view of the amendment could easily be deployed against any other provision of individual right in the Constitution. While I assume he disagreed with my call for a repeal, I don't believe he addressed the merits of it at all."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

*sigh* I don't know how many times I've heard this scheme before...and it's still just as wrongheaded.

Let's be clear...the constitution does not establish or grant rights *at all*...it merely recognizes certain rights and establishes constraints *upon the government* for the purpose of protected said rights.

Repealing the 2nd amendment *will not* remove the right to keep and bear arms...the 9th amendment secures its legitimacy. All that will happen is that a *constraint* is removed from government.

This would open the door for 'legitimate' *state* legislation to regulate private firearm issues. It would require an *additional* amendment to authorize the federal government to enact similar legislation (as per the 10th amendment).

Such an amendment would be a violent departure from the founding fathers' vision for the constitution, as it would be the first time that an amendment authorized the government regulation of a peoples' right.

At that point, I doubt we could claim to be living in America anymore...certainly not as the founding fathers conceived it.


6/12/2007 11:00 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Good point.

6/12/2007 3:24 PM  

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