Some things never change.
One of those things that never change is that right-wing folks will consistently try to scare the public regarding the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a presidential race, a congressional race, or the aftermath of one of America’s daily mass shootings, the message is the same: You’re about to lose your 2nd Amendment rights.
Now they’re saying it about Hillary Clinton– beware of her, because she wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment.
They consistently preach this message for a really good reason– the gun lobby makes a ton of money off ignorance and fear.
It flows a little bit like this: the NRA or other gun lobby group will spend a ton of money investing in candidates or advertising to tell you that your gun rights could soon be gone. The average gun-lover, none the wiser, believes the message and begins buying up guns like they’re part of a going-out-of-business-sale. They also invest in things like NRA memberships, or donating to candidates they think will save the 2nd Amendment. And thus, the cycle works: spread some fear and the money rolls on in.
It’s actually a brilliant business model.
Funny thing is, in all this time you haven’t lost the 2nd Amendment. There’s actually a good reason for that; no individual President, member of Congress, or judge has the power to change the U.S. Constitution. It doesn’t work that way.
In fact, no branch of government can change the Constitution. The executive branch could lobby for a change to the Constitution, but that’s it. The legislative branch can propose a change to the Constitution, but that’s it. The judicial branch can interpret the words and meaning of the Constitution, but that’s it.
But no, a president can’t abolish part of the Constitution just because they disagree with it. Congress can’t pass a law that is at odds with it. The judicial branch cannot strike down parts of it they don’t like.
It just doesn’t work that way.
There is only one way the American people could ever lose their 2nd Amendment gun rights: we, as a people, would actually have to change the Constitution. This course of action is so ridiculously hard, that it has only been done 27 times in our nation’s history. And out of those 27 Amendments, only one of them was designed to repeal a previous Amendment (the 21st repealed the 18th). Ironically, this one case of repealing an Amendment wasn’t even to restrict rights, but to expand them (it repealed the prohibition of alcohol.)
But let’s say we decided to do away with the 2nd Amendment. Here’s what would need to happen:
The U.S. House of Representatives would need to come together with the Senate and draft an Amendment to the Constitution. They would then need to approve it with a two-thirds supermajority. Simply drafting and approving a proposed Amendment to the Constitution is difficult, as it requires the vast majority of Congress (including the lobbyists who own them) to be on board with it.
Once approved by both houses of Congress, the proposal is then sent to the states for ratification. This requires three-fourths of state legislatures to vote in approval of it, meaning it’s not just Congress who has to be in overwhelming agreement– the governments of the 50 states have to be in near-universal agreement with the proposed change as well.
This is precisely why there have been so few changes to the Constitution in our history– it is extremely hard to do, and it requires the vast majority of the country to be in agreement about the change.
It cannot be done by one person. It cannot even be done by one branch of government. That’s not how our system works.
In fact, I lament that legally restricting gun rights is almost impossibly hard. I would love to see the 2nd Amendment shot down. (See what I did there?) But I also know that due to our system of government, we’re going to have to continue living in fear that we’ll be randomly shot when grocery shopping until the entire nation comes together and agrees to change the Constitution.
And honestly, I don’t see that happening. We as a nation have already grown content with our kids getting shot on a daily basis, and if we’re willing to sacrifice our kids on the altar of “individual rights,” we should probably admit we are so morally bankrupt as a people that there’s little hope for us. Maybe the next generation, but not us.
So, when the fear-baiters tell you that Hillary Clinton (or anyone else) is going to abolish the 2nd Amendment, they are either exercising a profound ignorance of how the U.S. system of government works, or, they are deliberately deceiving you to get your money and support.
Because, no, the President can’t just abolish the 2nd Amendment.
Sadly, in our system of government, the President can do precious little.
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And yet, citizen’s right to bear arms has been systematically reduced since the 1934 National Firearms Act. Agreed the 2nd Amendment will never be repealed thru the amendment process. It will be eliminated thru passage of laws. Don’t insult our intelligence.
Very Good response.
And the idiot courts keep going along with the bullshit.
The courts are suposed to be the citizens last line of defense against an unconstitutional government, but we have to many activist jokes sitting on the bench.
If it is so difficult to change it as you say then how has it been done 27 times? Doesn’t seem so difficult to me.
After reading a bunch of comments from those who don’t like the 2nd Amendment, I’ve found they come in two strains:
1) What a bunch of idiots those crazy right-wingers are for thinking Hillary Clinton will abolish the 2nd Amendment! That will never happen. Great take-down Ben! I’m going to forward this brilliant blog post to all my friends.
2) When she’s elected, I hope Clinton appoints Supreme Court justices who don’t agree with the current legal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that includes an individual right to own a gun and that they’ll get overturned.
No, a President cannot literally abolish part of the Constitution. But a president, along with a willing Supreme Court, can greatly curtail rights protected by a part of the Constitution. We’ve seen it happen in our past. Don’t think it can’t happen in the future in regards to any of our rights.
Does the NRA use fear to drive donations? Of course, just like every other interest group in Washington. Ho hum.
Lest it be forgotten, there is nothing sacred about the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution that were ratified AFTER the Constitution itself was ratified by the states (~3 years after). It was essentially a kept promise to the anti-Federalists that the National Government would not infringe upon the states (sound familiar?) – explicitly stated to enshrine intent.
Just as the Prohibition Amendment was abolished later, any amendment can theoretically be amended or abolished.
As Thomas Jefferson stated about change and evolution of a republican democracy: “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
The shape of the argument has changed a great deal. Now the dead handers consider any movement toward tighter gun restrictions as an attack on the second amendment. Any such movement is treasonous and should be ignored, say them. At least that is the vibe I’m getting. These are weird times.
Perhaps its some sort of cathartic release. Like some sort of cultural cist that really needed draining. Yesss…trump is a cultural boil.
Maybe the president, the congress or the courts can’t abolish any provision of the Constitution, but, as history has shown, they can ignore it.
This uncommonly silly article makes my brain hurt. No, the President can’t *unilaterally* repeal the Second Amendment but five Supreme Court Justices effectively can. Four of the eight we have right now are on record as “interpreting” the Second Amendment out of existence in Heller or McDonald, and Hillary Clinton has promised to appoint a fifth.
Unfortunately, these kinds of fund-raising scare tactics are all too common from the right and the left. I remember some years ago as a reporter covering Jerry Falwell that the ACLU, an organization I love and respect sent out an appeal for funds based on such an exaggeration. “Falwell spells the doom of religious freedom” or some such. So, the NRA regularly warns of a tornado when the forecast is really for showers. Hillary has said in public she wishes there were no 2nd Amendment, that she will appoint judges who agree with her that the DC and Chicago cases encapsulateing that individual right were wrong, and that she will extend the use of executive privilege to further restrict that right. That is short of single-handedly repealing the amendment, but I trust you understand the threat some gun owners see. I am a gun owner and an NRA member who will vote for the sane and qualified candidate – Cinton. I’ll probably regret some of those judicial nominees, but I won’t have to wonder if we’ll send up nukes to N Korea because it’s leader disparaged our leader’s hands.
I have challenged politicians who fulminate against guns that they have a simple remedy–repeal the Second Amendment. They’re generally not amused. But a repeal, for those who oppose private gun ownership, would have the salutary effect of demonstrating widespread public support for their position. A much better way of doing things than by sleight-of-hand legal subterfuge, don’t you think?
Dr Benjamin Corey is basically correct. Contrary to popular superstition, the biggest complaint(albeit in private of course) of US Presidents dating back to Franklin D.Roosevelt is NOT that they possess too much power but in a sense too LITTLE. Roosevelt thought that the greatest tragedy of the US Presidency was the “impotence of the office”(and THIS was the man, much Obama they accused of making himself into a dictator). Harry Truman, after the election of his successor Eisenhower, wryly observed- “he’ll sit here in the Oval Office and say “Do this or do that- AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN! Poor Ike, it won’t be like the Army- he’ll find it very frustrating!” LBJ once groused that”the only power I have is nuclear-and !” can’t use that!” Jimmy Carter in his farewell message to Congress called the Presidency the most powerful and yet also the most constrained by convention and custom!” His successor Ronald Reagan once admitted during the TWA hijacking of June 1985 that “I’ve pounded my fist against the wall in frustration a few times!”
And so on. It seems ironic that the present author, a Briton, is more aware of the limits of power of the US Presidency than many Americans! Like it or not a US President is NOT a King- only a Commander In Chief!
Thank you, thank you,, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
It’s about time someone explained how our government works for those whose schooling was defective [Civics MUST be restored to all curricula!].
Some of the poorly schooled are already replying, negatively as demanded by their NRA & Armaments Manufacturer handlers, to your post. You are posting the truth, but to quote a movie, they “can’t handle the truth.”
You have no idea what you are talking about. Firstly, being “pro-2nd Amendment” is not just a “right wing” view, it’s the mainstream majority view. The liberals and “progressives” are the extremists on all but a handful of 2nd Amendment issues. Secondly, in DC v Heller the SCOTUS decided by a 5-4 majority that ” …the “2ND Amendment protects an individual right to possess a
firearm unconnected with service in a militia ….” Ginsburg and her little gang of “progressive” extremists on the court are politically opposed to the right of individual Americans to own firearms, and Ginsburg has stated her intention to overturn it, if possible. Hitlery would simply appoint a political hack to the court who would join with the 4 current anti-2nd Amendment zealots on the court and overturn Heller in another anti-Constitutional “progressive” ruling.
While the 2nd Amendment cannot be removed, its exercise can be severely limited. Here in California, the governor just signed six bills that will phase in over three years. It begins with disallowing magazines of greater than a ten round capacity. By the end of three years. all weapons with removable magazines will be banned. If we stay on this trajectory, we will end up with muskets as our only firearms.
Seems like you’re missing the point – A president with a loyal Supreme Court can change the constitution to suit their whims without any of that fuss. For instance, with the second Amendment, you just reverse the individual right to own weapons, and reserve it to well-regulated (gov’t controlled militias). Leftists have been doing it for decades (see Roe v. Wade), now to the point that the Constitution is hardly even mentioned in their majority opinions. Now Rightists have caught on too and the actual Constitution is just a paper wall. As a result, everyone well knows that control of the supreme court will give nearly unlimited power to the opposing side.
No, an amendment cannot be repealed easily, but it can be subverted, LEGALLY, during times of war.
Abraham Lincoln did it, during the Civil War, with the Writ of Habeas Corpus, and the Emancipation Proclamation.
More recently, Congress, with the PATRIOT Act.
a president also cant deport all muslims.
Nothing like an article calling out fear mongering while adding it’s own versions of fear mongering and strawmen.
hogwash. a shift on the Supreme Court the other way (from 5-4 per heller and mc donald to 4-5 against them) and state/local laws per gun restrictions, regulations, etc will have no constitutional barrier to being unduly burdensome. many will pass laws so onerous the 2d amendment will be repealed in application if not in fact. your cute little pose as a constitutional know-it-all falls flat. take the LSAT first.
eh i wouldn’t want the second ammendment to be abolished it’s not guns in the hands of stable responsible civillians that’s the problem it’s guns in the wrong hands that i have an issue with
With all the issues threatening to undo us, our luminescent leaders toss us a gun rights bone to chew.
I cannot stop whores from walking the street; I can refuse their services.
I cannot change the policies of our masters; however I can refuse to vote.
But I repeat myself.
*ahem* The only thing you managed to get incorrect here, is that no amount of agreement in The House and The Senate, or any ratification by all 50 states can ever touch the first ten amendments, i.e. The Bill Of Rights. Those cannot be touched, ever. The only way they could EVER be touched, is if there was a major revolution in this country, where the people opted to totally obliterate our current system of government, and all legal documents that pertain to how it’s allowed to operate. And enjoying the right to bear arms, to protect ourselves not only from criminals, but from our own government does not makes us morally bankrupt. Even if all legal firearm owners gave up their rights to own and maintain their firearms, criminals would still get their hands on them, and we would still have gun violence in this country.
No need to abolish when you ignore our change the meaning. Much easier that way. That’s why the supreme court is such a big deal.
The Emancipation Proclamation, declared under state-of-emergency powers by President Lincoln, violated Article IV, Section. 2 of the Constitution.
Executive Order 9066, infamously issued by President Franklin Roosevelt, violated the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution.
It is disingenuous to say that “no individual President, member of Congress, or judge has the power to change the U.S. Constitution. It doesn’t work that way” when the reality of the situation is that it has happened at least twice.
People are more concerned about what a President can do because of the actions of the current president. His executive orders like the one about 5-million illegals called “dreamers” has put everyone on notice that the President can attempt to bypass the legislature when he or she chooses to do so. In this case the court has blocked his attempt but it could have gone the other way. If elected Secretary Clinton will continue to try and chip away at the second amendment in every possible way. That much should be clear.
I was also interested in the following sentence you wrote:
“We as a nation have already grown content with our kids getting shot on a daily basis, and if we’re willing to sacrifice our kids on the altar of “individual rights,” we should probably admit we are so morally bankrupt as a people that there’s little hope for us.”
One word change and you could well be talking about abortion, except the scale of deaths would be much bigger.
Thanks for this post, Benjamin. A much needed educational piece, which I shared on Facebook. It certainly makes the comments of Donald Trump and others seem ignorant, disingenuous or deceitful.
Hey, I love your blog. Always thought provoking even when my starting point – and maybe end point – is different from yours.
I remember back in the late 1980’s where the idea was floated to be able to get Ronald Reagan a third term…BUT that pesky process you spelled out meant this hair-brained idea was just a dream for creating more hardship for an already tired nation going through years of hardship culminating in what we see today.
Next you’ll be telling us presidents can’t overturn Roe vs. Wade.
To go along with Ben’s point, for all the fearmongering that Obama was going to take away guns, the number of privately owned firearms has increased at a rate of over 10 million per year. There’s nearly 1 gun for every person in America.
Guns are not going to be confiscated, no matter how much the fearmongers insist on telling us so.
I’m just here for what I expect to be a very rational, level-headed and respectful dialogue. 😉