On Friday’s Real Time on HBO, Bill Maher quoted conservative columnist George Will from an article he wrote in 1991 titled, “How Embarrassing: The Constitution Protects the Guns that Kill.” Yes folks, this is actually a George Will article. “The Bill of Rights should be modified only with extreme reluctance, but America has an extreme crisis of gunfire,” wrote Will. “And impatience to deal with it can cause less than scrupulous readings of the Constitution.” Because anyone who thinks the language of the Second Amendment guarantees their right to own an assault weapon is hiding behind that Amendment, not comprehending it. “Whatever right the Second Amendment protects is not as important as it was 200 years ago, when the requirements of self-defense and food-gathering made gun ownership almost universal,” said Will.
There are people who have not moved beyond the Second Amendment, but is that true for a majority? Has modern civilized society moved beyond the need for firearm ownership? Because that is what the Second Amendment was protecting — a need. Personal liberty might have required a firearm in 18th century America, but is that still true today?
“I just don’t hear people questioning the Second Amendment like that anymore,” said Bill Maher after quoting George Will’s 1991 column. “And they should, and maybe if they did, things would change.”
So with that question, from this moment forward I will alter my approach when talking about guns, gun control, and the Second Amendment. I will no longer hedge my position to appease gun rights advocates. Just as President Obama should stop trying to win support from Republicans who will never support him, I’m done trying to cater to gun owners who have more passion for their material right to own murderous weaponry than they do for actual human rights.
It’s not that I haven’t been blunt in my analysis of guns in America, but I feel like I’m always holding back, trying to wordsmith my sentences so sensitive gun owners won’t think I’m attacking the Second Amendment. Well you know what, maybe the Second Amendment does need assailing, or at least serious scrutiny.
“But we’ve never had a real conversation about this at all,” said Salman Rushdie on Real Time. “I would like the Second Amendment conversation because I think a country should sometimes discuss the principles on which it’s based. — If those principle are wrong, it should be willing to say so and change them.”
The problem we face is the perceived delicacy if this issue coupled with the need to circumnavigate the fears of gun rights advocates. These are the same people who use tough language — because owning and holding a gun makes you a strong person I presume — yet we feel compelled to give them special treatment in this debate. We cannot bring ourselves to have this discussion, to challenge the Second Amendment because we might upset them. Well they are the ones holding the guns after all, so I guess self-preservation could encroach.
But if we upset them, well, that’s just too fucking bad, because we need this conversation. We can’t keep traveling down this road. We need to change course as a country.
I’m not suggesting a wholesale outlaw of firearms, I’m simply asking, do we need a constitutional amendment, or more importantly, a Supreme Court interpretation of that amendment that states citizens have a right to own a firearm? Removing that constitutional amendment from existence does not mean a ban on firearm ownership. Removing that constitutional amendment simply makes it easier for each jurisdiction to regulate firearms as they see fit to combat gun violence.
Not having a Second Amendment means gun advocates must present cogent arguments in support of their absolutist views on firearm ownership because they could no longer hide behind centuries old legislation.