Repeal the Second Amendment

Plagued by rising levels of violent crime, in the autumn of 1976 the District of Columbia enacted one of the nation’s toughest gun control laws. The law effectively banned handguns, automatic firearms and high-capacity semiautomatic weapons. Police officers were exempt from the provisions of the law, as were guns registered before 1976. Over the following decade, the murder rate in Washington, D.C., declined, then increased, shadowing a national trend. Overall, however, the new law helped to prevent nearly 50 deaths per year, according to one study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. “We knew there were problems we couldn’t wipe out,” said Sterling Tucker, chair of the district council at the time, as he reflected on the law 22 years later. “But we had a little more control over it.”

On June 26, 2008, in a closely watched, far-reaching decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the D.C. law, ruling that it violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: “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.” In the court’s majority opinion, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that the prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution.... But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”


Justice Scalia was right. Even those who subscribe to methods of constitutional interpretation other than Mr. Scalia’s brand of modified originalism must concede the basic point: The Second Amendment impedes the power of the government to regulate the sale or possession of firearms. Unfortunately, the grim consequence of this constitutional restriction is measured in body counts. The murder of 20 elementary school children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., in December was merely the latest in a string of mass shootings: Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek. In the last 30 years, there have been 62 mass shootings (each leaving at least four people dead) in the United States. Since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo., there have been 130 shootings at schools; nearly half involved multiple deaths or injuries.

True, stricter gun laws would not have prevented all these tragedies. But it is very likely that stricter measures could have prevented at least some of these incidents and could have minimized the number of casualties involved. Two facts should be kept in mind. First, the easier it is to get a gun, the easier it is to make use of one. Second, a violent act involving a gun is far more likely to result in fatalities or multiple casualties than a violent act involving some other type of weapon. The notion, therefore, that there is no meaningful correlation between the nation’s relatively lenient gun control laws and the extent of the nation’s gun violence simply defies common sense. It also contradicts the empirical evidence. Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health found that when gun availability increases, so do gun homicides. In the United States, there are approximately 300 million guns in civilian hands, the highest per capita rate in the world (88.8 guns per 100 residents, well ahead of Yemen, No. 2 with 54.8). Though the United States represents less than 5 percent of the global population, Americans own 40 percent of the world’s civilian-owned firearms.

Each year in the United States, approximately 30,000 people, or 80 per day, die from gun violence. True, guns do not kill people; people kill people. In the United States, however, people kill people by using guns. The murder rate in America is 15 times higher than in other first-world countries; the majority of these murders are committed with guns. As for the notion that guns are necessary in order to defend oneself from an intruder with a gun: One study of three U.S. cities revealed that injuries involving guns kept at home almost always resulted from accidental firings, criminal assaults, homicides and suicides by the residents, not self-defense scenarios. In October the American Academy of Pediatrics reminded us, “The safest home for children and teens is one without guns.”

The facts, however, do not appear to shake a deeply held American belief in the near-unconditional use of force as a means to an end. The culture of violence in America has spawned a deadly syllogism: Guns solve problems; we have problems; therefore, we need guns. Yet consider the tragedy in Aurora. Imagine if just 10 other people in that movie theater had been carrying guns. In the confusion of the onslaught, would fewer people or more people have died when those 10 other people opened fire in the dark? More important, is this really the kind of world we want to live in, a world in which lethal power can be unleashed at any moment at any corner, in any home, in any school?

We do not have to live in such a world. Both Australia and Britain, for example, experienced gun massacres in 1996 and subsequently enacted stricter gun control laws. Their murder rates dropped. Yet in the United States, the birthplace of pragmatism, our fundamental law proscribes practical, potentially life-saving measures.

Americans must ask: Is it prudent to retain a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms when it compels our judges to strike down reasonable, popularly supported gun regulations? Is it moral to inhibit in this way the power of the country’s elected representatives to provide for the public safety? Does the threat of tyranny, a legitimate 18th-century concern but an increasingly remote, fanciful possibility in the contemporary United States, trump the grisly, daily reality of gun violence? The answer to each of these questions is no. It is time to face reality. If the American people are to confront this scourge in any meaningful way, then they must change. The Constitution must change. The American people should repeal the Second Amendment.

We acknowledge the gravity of our proposal. The Bill of Rights enumerates our most cherished freedoms. Any proposal to change the nation’s fundamental law is a very serious matter. We do not propose this course of action in a desultory manner, nor for light or transient reasons. We also acknowledge that repeal faces serious, substantial political obstacles and will prove deeply unpopular with many Americans. Nevertheless, we believe that repeal is necessary and that it is worthy of serious consideration.

Our proposal is in keeping, moreover, with the spirit in which the Constitution was drafted. The Bill of Rights belongs to a document that was designed to be changed; indeed, it was part of the genius of our founders to allow for a process of amendment. The process is appropriately cumbersome, but it is not impossible. Since its adoption in 1787, the American people have chosen to amend the Constitution 27 times. A century ago, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson raised serious questions about the Consti-tution. Amendments soon followed, including provisions for a federal income tax, the direct election of U.S. senators, women’s suffrage and the prohibition of alcohol. The 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition, established the precedent for our proposal.

Yet that kind of thoughtful, critical engagement with our fundamental law, the kind of spirited debate that characterized early 20th-century America, is not evident in contemporary American discourse. In the national imagination, the Constitution is too often thought of as a kind of sacred text. Yet neither our founders nor our forebears held to that view. The Constitution is mere human law. It is excellent law, but it is not divine law; it is not revelation. We should be wary of amending the Bill of Rights. We should also be wary of idolizing it. The Constitution is the man-made law of a self-governing people; the people, therefore, are entitled to ask basic, critical questions about it. In our time, is a given constitutional provision a good law or a bad law? Does it promote the common good? The secular dogma of constitutional immutability must yield to careful, critical inquiry.

In the most comprehensive statement on gun violence to come from the U.S. bishops’ conference, in 1975, a committee identified “the easy availability of handguns in our society” as a major threat to human life and called for “effective and courageous action to control handguns, leading to their eventual elimination from our society” with “exceptions…for the police, military, security guards” and sporting clubs. While this course of action, as the District of Columbia discovered, is constitutionally proscribed, reasonable restrictions on handguns are morally licit in the Catholic tradition. Indeed, we may have a moral duty to enact such laws.

In a recent interview, Tommaso Di Ruzza, the expert on disarmament and arms control at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, explained that an individual does not possess an absolute natural right to own a lethal weapon: “There is a sort of natural right to defend the common interest and the common good” by the limited use of force, but this applies more to nations with an effective rule of law, not armed individuals. In the wake of Newtown, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said that “the fight for greater gun control in the country” is a pro-life position. “The unfettered access to assault weapons and handguns, along with the glorification of violence in our ‘entertainment’ industry…is really all part of a culture of death,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Repealing the Second Amendment will not create a culture of life in one stroke. Stricter gun laws will not create a world free of violence, in which gun tragedies never occur. We cannot repeal original sin. Though we cannot create an absolutely safe world, we can create a safer world. This does not require an absolute ban on firearms. In the post-repeal world that we envision, some people will possess guns: hunters and sportsmen, law enforcement officers, the military, those who require firearms for morally reasonable purposes. Make no mistake, however: The world we envision is a world with far fewer guns, a world in which no one has a right to own one. Some people, though far fewer, will still die from gun violence. The disturbing feeling that we have failed to do everything in our power to remove the material cause of their deaths, however, will no longer compound our grief.

The Supreme Court has ruled that whatever the human costs involved, the Second Amendment “necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.” The justices are right. But the human cost is intolerable. Repeal the Second Amendment.

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Michael Zorn
5 years 10 months ago
That cover and editorial will certainly shake up your subscriber list. I would have expected more from a publication run by Jesuits - once the intellectual arm of the Church. Things have changed greatly since I attended a Jesuit high school. The most charitable thing I can say about your position is that it is misguided, ill-conceived, and harebrained. The country tried an almost-as-idiotic thing some time ago, with the 18th Amendment: prohibition. It turned out to have been such a gigantic mistake that that Amendment had to be repealed, some 13 years later. I commend to your reading "The Federalist Papers", which made the case for the Federal Government, and to histories of the Convention. Some members wanted the first 10 Amendments included in the original Constitution, and were persuaded to sign only on the assurance that they would be ratified shortly after, Consider the wording of the Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting ...."; ... shall not be infringed"; "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house...."; "... shall not be violated, "; "No person shall be held...."; "... shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial..."; "... the right of trial by jury shall be preserved,"; "Excessive bail shall not be required,..."; "... shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people"; "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States...". One after another, these limit the power of government over the people. To argue only from practicality, this proposal would amount to putting the toothpaste back in the tube, the cat back into the bag, and the evils back into Pandora's box. There are millions of firearms in circulation, among both good men and evil men. As long as evil men have them, good men need them for their protection. On another practical issue, that proposed Amendment would need to be ratified by 2/3 of the States - something as unlikely as the Cardinals electing the Caliph of Baghdad the next Pope. On a larger scale, the pages of history are littered with stories of countries who either would not or could not arm themselves against neighbors who both would and could. It is much less than wise to tamper with the Bill of Rights, I also think a good case might be made that gun availability is not the root cause of gun violence. Consider how many of those millions of weapons in circulation have not been used to kill. Gun violence is most likely caused by the breakdown of civil society, brought about partly by the welfare state, the one-parent family, the children who live in isolation, touching others only through tiny little keyboards. Consider also how many of the recent round of school shooters who were "maladjusted loners". We can all agree that there is a problem. The hard part, the "trick", is to find out how to address it, Taking away guns will not assuage the rage that seethes in those at the edges of society. Murder will still happen, if not by guns, then by knives, poison, even by hand.
pale horse
5 years 10 months ago
Obviously availability of guns is not the problem as the liars writing the article also erroneously claim the US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world per capita. This is false. Switzerland has the highest per caita gun ownership and their guns are supplied by the government. They are all military grade, full auto capable rifles. Where is all the gun violence in Switzerland?
Michael Barkley
5 years 10 months ago
Yes! Too many guns, too easy to get ahold of them, too many murders. Repeal, & impose a graduated tax on ownership or possession with penalties for misuse. --Mike
franklin ohlin
4 years 9 months ago
Mike, you seem to be in a distinct minority here...
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
As well as completely ignoring the fact that uses of guns for good outweigh the criminal (even using the erroneously included suicide by gun) by a factor of between 20:1 to 60:1 according to multiple studies.
Tom Gunn
5 years 10 months ago
The author obviously has never tried to purchase a gun 'legally'. They refer to "lenient gun control laws". Every gun purchase that I have ever made, required me to show my identification; concealed carry license; fill out the form that would incriminate me if I lied; and required a call to the FBI to clear the purchase. Where did they get their statistics? All emotion, no reason. Please do yourself a favor and educate yourself by reading, 'More Guns, Less Crime' by John Lott. I'll be kind, because I don't want to effect the fragile mental state of the author, because they might get a gun and shoot someone, but he/she is a lunatic. Our guns are for protection from our government as much as they are from the criminals. Freedom isn't free. Repeal the Second Amendment and the First and all the others go away.
Albert Saukaitis
5 years 10 months ago
My feelings on your editorial are expressed in this article from Natural News. I believe that your thoughts are incredibly naïve. You need to read history to understand the error of your decision. Yes, Hitler really did take the guns from Jews before throwing them into concentration camps (or gas chambers) Monday, March 25, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes (NaturalNews) They say those who learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it, but then again, sometimes repeating history is exactly the point, as longtime anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein's new "assault weapons ban" planned legislation for early next year proves. Feinstein, a California Democrat, was instrumental in enacting a similar piece of legislation in 1994; with the help of President Clinton and Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, that ban lasted a decade before being allowed to expire by a Republican-controlled Congress in 2004. But her current measure would go much further and, in many ways, actually mirrors anti-gun measures enacted nearly 75 years ago by Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, in a bid to disarm a particular ethnic group he loathed. This is gun control redux Prior to 1938, when Hitler's new restrictions were put in place, the earlier Weimar Republic government had already enacted gun registration. "The laws adopted by the Weimar Republic intended to disarm Nazis and Communists were sufficiently discretionary that the Nazis managed to use them against their enemies once they were in power," says Clayton Cramer, author of the book Firing Back, as told to the website The Straight Dope. So what Hitler essentially did was strengthen existing German law (which was aimed primarily at preventing Jews from being armed). And that is the all-important difference. Bernard E. Harcourt, writing for the University of Chicago Law School and Political Science Department, notes: If you read the 1938 Nazi gun laws closely and compare them to earlier 1928 Weimar gun legislation - as a straightforward exercise of statutory interpretation - several conclusions become clear. First, with regard to possession and carrying of firearms, the Nazi regime relaxed the gun laws that were in place in Germany at the time the Nazis seized power. Second, the Nazi gun laws of 1938 specifically banned Jewish persons from obtaining a license to manufacture firearms or ammunition. Third, approximately eight months after enacting the 1938 Nazi gun laws, Hitler imposed regulations prohibiting Jewish persons from possessing any dangerous weapons, including firearms. The point was, Hitler had it in for the Jews, so he first disarmed them before carrying out his murderous campaign against them. And, unable to resist, millions died. "In Germany, firearm registration helped lead to the holocaust," National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre wrote in his book, "Gun, Crimes and Freedom." Nothing new under the sun Here are some key aspects of the 1938 law: -- Police permission was required to own a handgun; -- All firearms had to be registered; -- Any Germans who enjoyed shooting bolt-action rifles were told to join the army "if they wished to shoot 'military' rifles," writes LaPierre, in his book; -- The Nazi regime "also enacted the "Regulations against Jews' possession of weapons" within the days of Kristallnacht - the 'night of broken glass' - when stormtroopers attacked synagogues and Jews throughout Germany," he wrote; -- Firearms registration lists were used to identify (and persecute) gun owners (bear in mind that a New York newspaper just published the names and addresses of legal handgun permit holders after obtaining them via a Freedom of Information Act request, because permit holders by the very nature of obtaining the permit had to be registered []). Let's compare these Nazi-era gun control requirements to what Feinstein is proposing. As posted on her Senate website, her legislation would: -- Ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacture of 120 specifically-named firearms; -- "Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics;" -- "Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds;" -- Require that currently owned weapons that would be grandfathered in nevertheless be registered under the National Firearms Act; -- Require a background check of any owner and/or transferee; -- Provide the government with the type and serial number of the weapon; -- Require a photograph and fingerprint to be on file with the government; -- "Dedicated funding for [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] to implement registration" of firearms (keep in mind the BATF is the federal agency responsible for launching "Operation Fast and Furious," in which federal agents supplied thousands of weapons Feinstein wants to ban to Mexican drug gangs, several of which have since been tied to the murders of Mexican citizens and U.S. federal agents []). What we've seen before, we may see again It doesn't take a genius (or conspiracy theorist) to figure out the parallels between Nazi gun control laws and some of the same provisions being pushed by Feinstein. Understanding that our country is not a totalitarian state (yet), Feinstein and other gun-controllers like President Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others all know they have to take a longer, more measured approach to disarming the U.S. public, that they can't just mandate it overnight. But make no mistake, new gun control laws like those being proposed are nothing more than rehashed mandates dredged up from the past, with similar intentions: To make political opponents and the masses less powerful and less able to resist. Sources: Learn more:
Tom Pilkington
5 years 10 months ago
This article has the feel of the Progressive Social Justice infestation that has seeped into the Catholic Church. One can only pray that Pope Frances can clean it all out.
Ron Howell
5 years 10 months ago
The Catholic Church would like America to abolish our gun rights as seen by these comments here. Our Founding Fathers gave us the First Amendment preventing The establishment of religion (the Catholic Church). People who don't want us to have guns will have to use guns to take them from us! How many "children" will die in that war???
Dave Hickman
5 years 10 months ago
The First Amendment was written to allow complete freedom of speech. The Second Amendment was written to enforce the First Amendment. With an entire population disarmed there will be NO freedom. The problem is not guns, the problem is guns in the wrong hands. All of the shooters in the mass killings in recent years (Columbine, Sandy Hook, etc,etc were taking medications that can have disturbing influences on the mind. The murders were done by people who were under the influence of mind altering drugs. Some of the drugs have warnings that clearly warn of side effects such as thoughts of suicide and a multitude of other negative side effects. It seems like there should be more care in prescribing these drugs rather than disarming a nation. Clearly there is no easy solution, but the cause of the killings should be more carefully assessed. The government uses these mass murders as a way to fulfill a more sinister agenda. I fear that Americans with good intentions are unaware of the results of total disarming themselves.
Ron Smith
5 years 10 months ago
I know it may sound a tad racist but is taking a district which is 90% African American and over-analyzing how gun control affects THEM a poor analogy for how gun control might affect the rest of the nation? I mean the rest of the nation doesn't spend it's pay check on lotto scratch off, dope and schlitz malt liquor then try to resolve the rest of the week with a Saturday night special and ski mask. I'm just sayin! Don't hate the messenger because you don't like the message..
Dominick Ahrens
5 years 10 months ago
You describe the utopian existence of the gun free haven of Washington DC, and claim:
“the new law helped to prevent nearly 50 deaths per year”.
I find it interesting that the NEJM study showed such numbers, while the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for the 25 years following the DC gun ban indicate that the murder rate increased 51 percent while the national rate decreased 36 percent. You write:
“Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health found that when gun availability increases, so do gun homicides.”
The Harvard School of Public Health? Now there’s an unbiased organization. Or it would be, save the opinion publicly expressed by Deborah Prothrow-Stith, their associate Dean, when she was quoted in 1996:
My own view on gun control is simple. I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned.
She certainly seems like she would approach the topic of a study with an unbiased attitude and scientific eye, doesn’t she? Kind of like the honest assessment one would find in a study of racial diversity by the KKK. You echo the oft-used statistic:
“approximately 30,000 people, or 80 per day, die from gun violence”
but a statistic without context is useless – or propaganda. That number includes 17,183 firearm related suicides, 400 cases of Lawfully Justified Homicides by Law Enforcement and 200 cases of Lawfully Justified Homicides by Law Abiding citizens that occur each year. The vast majority of the roughly 12,000 remaining victims of “gun violence” are not typically the innocent schoolchildren or movie attendees you mention. 73 to 75% of those victims have criminal histories, and many are killed while committing criminal acts by other criminals. While such deaths are tragedies, people are referred to as criminals when they choose to disregard the laws we establish as a society – including prohibitions on rape, robbery, murder. Should we expect different behaviors from them about those laws regulating firearms? While we’re on the topic I should mention that suicides occur without regard to the availability of guns. In countries that restrict gun ownership, people find ways to shuffle off their mortal coil by other means, and often at notably higher rates than here in America. You dismiss the possibility of defending oneself from an intruder with a gun:
“One study of three U.S. cities revealed that injuries involving guns kept at home almost always resulted from accidental firings, criminal assaults, homicides and suicides by the residents, not self-defense scenarios.”
This is an obvious reference to the Kellerman Study of Seattle WA, Memphis TN, and Galveston TX, which originally claimed that “a gun in the home was 43 times more likely to be result in a murder of the occupant”, a statistic which was repeated as often as possible by those who sought to deny us our rights. Or at least it was, until most of academia had disproven his “study”, in part because he refused to release whether the guns were in fact owned by the victims or brought there by the assailant. He also declined to inquire – or reveal if he did – whether the victims had criminal histories or were involved in criminal activity at the time of their death. Such details are far too important to be carelessly discarded, so one has to wonder if Dr. Kellerman didn’t wish to clarify them in order to promote his agenda. In addition, Kellerman used a methodology known as the “case control method” of analysis, which is generally viewed within academia as being unable to demonstrate causation. You express a concern about law abiding citizens in Aurora, and imply that the outcome would have been worse:
...consider the tragedy in Aurora. Imagine if just 10 other people in that movie theater had been carrying guns. In the confusion of the onslaught, would fewer people or more people have died when those 10 other people opened fire in the dark?
after mentioning Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek and Columbine. Yet you omit to mention that five of the six locations were “Gun Free Zones” where the law abiding were not allowed the chance – however slight – to defend themselves on anything approaching equal terms. “Gun free zone”. An odd choice of words, since it certainly seems that that moniker has only served to facilitate those with criminal intent. You also omit the following events where law abiding people with concealed firearms kept the killers from achieving the full measure of their evil intent: Klackamas Mall, Portland WA; Mayan Palace Theater, San Antonio, Texas; Winnemucca, Nev; Appalachian School of Law, Grundy, Virginia; Santana High School, Santee, Calif; Smith County Courthouse, Tyler, Texas; New Life Church, Colorado Springs, Co; Pearl High School, Peal MS; Parker Middle School, Edinboro, Pa.When lawfully armed civilians stop shootings? The average number of deaths is 2.3. Where the victims are forced to rely on 9-1-1 to do the job? The average rockets to 14.3 deaths.Oh, did you know there were actually two shootings in Aurora, CO in 2012? While you were referring to the July AMC Theater shooting, there was a shooting three months earlier at the New Destiny Church in Aurora that was stopped by a “good guy with a gun”. You write:
We do not have to live in such a world. Both Australia and Britain, for example, experienced gun massacres in 1996 and subsequently enacted stricter gun control laws. Their murder rates dropped.
This statement ignores two important considerations. The first is that murder rates in England and Australia were already lower than the US. In the late 19th century the per capita homicide rate in Britain varied between 1.0 and 1.5 per 100,000. In the late 20th century, after the gun ban you exhort went into effect, the homicide rate remained at or near 1.1 per 100,000. This certainly seems to indicate that the homicide rate doesn’t change due to gun control or availability. Secondly in the years since the gun bans went into effect murder may have dropped (by 3%) but manslaughter rose by 16%, armed robberies rose by 51%, unarmed robberies by 37%, assaults by 24% and kidnappings by 43%. And the BBC reported that handgun crime in the United Kingdom rose by 40% in the two years following their 1997 ban. You state:
Americans must ask: Is it prudent to retain a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms when it compels our judges to strike down reasonable, popularly supported gun regulations? Is it moral to inhibit in this way the power of the country’s elected representatives to provide for the public safety? Does the threat of tyranny, a legitimate 18th-century concern but an increasingly remote, fanciful possibility in the contemporary United States, trump the grisly, daily reality of gun violence?
If by “reasonable regulations” you mean the complete public disarmament of law abiding citizens, leaving them easy prey for the criminals in our society? In that case it absolutely isWhy? In 1856 the Supreme Court issued the South v. Maryland decision, which specified that the government bears “no affirmative duty” for the protection of the individual, and that that responsibility is borne by the individual. There have been two dozen cases since then decided in nearly identical fashion, but I notice no mention of making the government liable for a failure of protection. And despite their “enlightened attitude” the governments of England and Australia share a similar immunity. Additionally, studies by groups - including the Department of Justice - have shown that lawfully owned guns are used anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 million times each year to prevent a crime. Reduce that number by half and is the positive uses still outnumber the evil ones by a factor of 30:1. You call the threat of tyranny:
an increasingly remote, fanciful possibility in the contemporary United States”
I’m certain that the people in the following examples considered themselves very erudite and modern as well: In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated Germany established gun control in 1938. From 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated. Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. 56 million defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control, many of them educated, and most of them practicing believers of their religions. You state that:
“reasonable restrictions on handguns are morally licit in the Catholic tradition. Indeed, we may have a moral duty to enact such laws”
and later envision a place where only
“some people will possess guns: hunters and sportsmen, law enforcement officers, the military, those who require firearms for morally reasonable purposes”
revealing an interesting and thoroughly Americanized interpretation of doctrine, akin to the one exercised by members of the Church who claimed to be obedient and faithful Catholics, yet proudly proclaimed their support for Barack Obama, despite his being completely supportive of abortion to the point of voting against the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” no less than four times. You quote Tommaso Di Ruzza, as well as Cardinal Dolan with quotes that support your position, but show an alarming lack of knowledge of Catechism, especially for a Cardinal and a member of a Pontifical Council who is a supposed “expert”. Allow me to refer you to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part three, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article Five – “The Fifth Commandment”, which reads in part:
Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.
Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.
The defense of one’s self seems pretty “morally reasonable”, doesn’t it? I guess when one is playing politics, either as a Cardinal or consultant, the facts are optional. You call your proposals “practical” and gun control "reasonable", thereby imparting a authority to them that does not exist when viewed in the light of reproducible and externally verifiable statistics. Additionally, you carefully qualify your measures as “potentially life-saving”, clarify your support of those measures with words like “potential”, say that it is “very likely”, state that “at least some” incidents might not have occurred. This is language that has no other purpose but to backstop the supporters of a program in anticipation that after it is implemented it will fail to provide any of the results that were promised. Supporters of the right to keep and bear arms can produce more studies and support for the idea that an armed law abiding citizenry reduces the rate of violent crime than you can show a reduction in crime in protecting criminals by legislative disarmament. You can envision
“a world with far fewer guns... in which no one has a right to own one”
but have you considered that there are those in this country who hate the freedom of religion as much as the right to keep and bear arms? You state:
In the national imagination, the Constitution is too often thought of as a kind of sacred text. Yet neither our founders nor our forebears held to that view. The Constitution is mere human law.
Yet that document, human as it is, recognizes and protects the texts and ceremonies that are sacred to us. Perhaps the reason we have enjoyed our freedoms as long as we have is the presence of guns in our country, and culture. Consider that all too often those that argue in favor of gun control are the ones who argue in favor of unlimited abortion. They are the ones who seek to reduce the role of the church or religion in every facet of American existence. They argue the “separation doctrine” to the point where wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” on government property results in an EEOC complaint and ACLU lawsuit. And they argue that guns prevent them from enacting the social policies they, in their wisdom, have determined that we need. A group of Black religious leaders recently released a statement where they expressed that gun control is really about controlling people, and emphasized the racial considerations present in many of the “gun control” laws in this country. Are we so blind as to not see this ourselves?
Thomas Omlor
5 years 10 months ago
A basic premise of the article (and of the gun debate in general) is that fewer guns would result in fewer murders. However, when comparing gun ownership rates per country with murder rates per country* there is very weak correlation between the two. And what correlation there is is actually negative -- meaning lower gun ownership rates result in higher murder rates. * I used the Wikipedia statistics on "Number of guns per capita by country" and "List of countries by intentional homicide rate". The correlation coefficient comes out to be -0.22. A correlation coefficient is a number between -1 and +1 with -1 being the strongest negative correlation, +1 being the strongest positive correlation and 0 being absolutely no correlation.
Matthew Malone
5 years 9 months ago

FROM THE EDITORS: Many thanks for this spirited discussion! Please bear in mind the following: The editorial does not take issue with the natural right to self-defense, which is God-given and unchangeable. The editorial takes issue with one specific, prudential application of that right, namely, the right to own a gun as specified in the second amendment. The right to own a gun is not a natural right, but a positive right, meaning it is a human-made and changeable right. Those who maintain that the editors are questioning the right to self-defense in their call for repeal are making a categorical error.

Dominick Ahrens
5 years 7 months ago
No, Mr. Malone, we're not "making a categorical error", we are simply more understanding of the intent than the editors appear to be. As evidence of this (with all due deference) the 2nd Amendment reads:
Amendment II.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.
That paragraph has been viewed with firearms as the focii given that they are the primary type of weapons used (for good or ill) since that document was written. However, as much as the meanings of the various terms have been argued, it's pretty clear that it says nothing about guns. Nor "sporting purpose" or any of the other qualifiers the limiters of our individual rights have seen fit to attach to it throughout the long debate. Does it? One could easily make the argument that "arms" also means cannon, swords, knives, axes, or any other weapon one would use to inflict harm upon another, regardless of the intent. Perhaps that's why the Founders chose not to proclaim "...keep and bear musket". As an example, Tench Coxe, one of our Founders, wrote in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1788
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American.... [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."
If guns were truly removed from the face of the planet, do any of the editors seriously think that we would be at less risk from those who intend to do us harm? While history and the Bible provide historical accounting of millions being slaughtered by swords, I seem to recall the latter providing a case in 1 Samuel 17 where a sling and a rock were particularly effective at eliminating an enemy. That said, in all honesty, I'd still prefer my Glock. ;DAnd your editorial did not say "ban handguns", "outlaw assault weapons" or "elliminate shotguns". It said:
The Supreme Court has ruled that whatever the human costs involved, the Second Amendment “necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.” The justices are right. But the human cost is intolerable. Repeal the Second Amendment (emphasis added)
Thus an argument against the individual right - despite the afterthought of categorizing it as a "positive right" (when it was clearly not ascribed as such - consider the Declaration of Independence and the reference to "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"), and the artificial limitation of the call for repeal to somehow apply to firearms alone... it is at worst an insult to our intelligence and at best a hasty and ill-prepared bit of apologetic sounding covering of one's backside. And let us say that we banned guns. We have now condemned the weak to be prey of the strong, as it was in days of old. The phrase "God didn't make man equal, Colonel Colt did" is not an advertising slogan from the 1800's, but a reflection of the reality that human ingenuity had provided a means of defense to the weaker, older and feebler amongst us against the largest and strongest of thugs and evildoers. Kind of like the rock and sling, albeit without His hand to guide it. And if the Founders were correct in their observations of the human condition - that is, that the 2nd is the guardian of the other Amendments - how long before you would be publishing an editorial calling Catholics and other people of faith to action against the government movement to eliminate organized religion on the basis of "tolerance", "diversity" or some other machination of those that would see us believe in a kingdom of man instead of the kingdom of God? Many times it only takes a small percentage to stand and fight for what is right to protect the whole from tyranny. But what could we do as defenseless as we would be to stand up for the beliefs that we have, or for the beliefs and rights of others, if your suggestion was heeded? Whether you wish to admit it or not, you called for us all, regardless of our individual exercise of the right to keep and bear arms, our age, and our faith, to be condemned to victimhood in support of a social agenda, Mr. Malone, and to abandon our natural right as given by God. It was unforgiveable and we will not forget, no matter in whose name you suggested it.
franklin ohlin
4 years 9 months ago
The right to own a gun may not be a natural right, but what would you use for self defense, a butter knife? And in the future when lazer technology will ultimately render bullets primitive, will we not be permitted to own that technology, to preserve our right of self defense?
John Loeffler
5 years 9 months ago
The closing paragraph is extremely lame, as is the entire piece because it fails to make a convincing case that we will be safer by repealing the 2nd Amendment. When advocation is made that only some groups should have guns, (i.e. police, military), the bloody lessons of original sin and history are ignored. If one group has guns and another doesn't, those with can subjugate those without. Are the MILITARY shootings at Ft. Hood forgotten? Have the shootings by rogue policemen or people posing as police such as Norway forgotten? Has the reality that criminals can always get guns, regardless of laws and rights? The Soviet Union had lots of military and KGB but a few subjugated an entire people. The same magazine which runs a decent article on drones, fails to recognize the only options a people might have should their government turn those drones on them. And that was the intent of the founders. Forget history at your peril.
TM Lutas
5 years 9 months ago
Gun control is a joke and a farce that is only made worse by the fact that we're at the leading edge of a technical revolution that will allow anybody to build their own gun at home. Those who bear evil in their hearts will not be denied arms for very much longer. Printable guns have been made and are undergoing refinement and testing. The plans to print such weapons will be freebies available for criminals as a cheap loss leader for other services. Within the next decade the full line from bullet to cartridge to magazine to the gun itself will all become a home manufactured item, untraceable and able to be generated anywhere. The culture of life cannot be supported by legal bans but by a change in the hearts of people including a healthy gun culture that teaches all the many, many circumstances where resorting to the use of a gun is not permitted. There is no healthy gun culture in areas with heavy gun control. It shrivels and dies. The gun culture of the hoodlum, the thug, the gangster, that is the gun culture that thrives. Gun control advocates say that the first responders should have the guns, not citizens. But when my wife hears a noise and thinks someone is in the house, her elbow to my ribs to wake me up makes me the first responder. The police get to be second responders. Gun control disarms the first responders, and it has tragic results over time.
Louis Candell
5 years 9 months ago
Repealing the 2nd amendment doesn't necessarily take away the right to bear arms; it would acknowledge that the right is not absolute and, thus, subject to reasonable regulation as are the right to drive a car, the right to fly a plane, the right to practice medicine or law, etc., etc., etc.
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
The "right" to drive a car or fly a plane was not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, nor was the "right" to practice law or medicine.
Mike Nelson
5 years 8 months ago
Given the recent revelations about the IRS, I'm wondering if this statement, "Does the threat of tyranny, a legitimate 18th-century concern but an increasingly remote, fanciful possibility in the contemporary United States, trump the grisly, daily reality of gun violence?", needs to be revised. Current events show that the threat of tyranny does still exist in the U. S.
Carol Voss
5 years 8 months ago
I'm convinced that the recently exposed activities of the IRS as well as the existence of the Patriot Act are sufficient evidence to demonstrate that any group, any group at all, that finds itself afoul of prevailing thought of whichever end of the spectrum is currently in power is a potential target for harassment. That is the beginning of tyranny. Unfortunately, it would seem that twenty-first century Americans may be more at risk than our eighteenth century ancestors. Having worked in the emergency department of a major trauma center, I probably lean a little more toward gun control, but having seen the behavior of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in passing the SAFE Act (late night strong-arming,) I think we need to keep the Second Amendment, with its protections for law-abiding and stable citizens to keep and bear arms responsibly.
Gabriel Speciale
5 years 7 months ago
The U.S. Constitution does not give you the right to bear arms because of what an individual citizen deems to be tyranical behavior by our federal government. What you speak of is in the Consitution as well, it is called treason. Anyway, this is a Catholic magazine and as Catholics I do not think it is okay that we engage in violent acts because of the activities of the IRS and some wiretapping program.
franklin ohlin
4 years 9 months ago
You are right to be concerned. This 18th century vs 21st century argument meant nothing to Putin.
Michael Hayes
5 years 7 months ago
If there might be a change in the make up of the court, then perhaps the interpretation could be made that the intent of the second amendment was to enable a "well armed militia" to exist. The 1792 law requiring each male who was eligible to serve in the militia to own a gun helps reinforce that rationale. The title refers to a more effective way to provide for the national defense by establishing a uniform militia throughout the Unites States. is the text of the law I'm referring to, and it was enacted in 1792.
franklin ohlin
4 years 9 months ago
That argument was tried and found wanting a few years ago when , the supreme court, ruled in a 5-4 decision, that the "right to bear arms" superseded the need to provide for a militia. A right is a right, regardless of circumstances that may have been a (necessary) contributing factor at the time.
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
Excellent observation, except you fail to mention that the Militia Act was updated several times since then, the last incarnation being found in 10 USC 311 (available at which states what the militia is composed of, specifically "all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard." Were you attempting to imply that militia as a whole equaled the National Guard?
zorbas malakis
5 years 2 months ago
I hate to break it to you all.... but the pro-2nd Amendment camp has a VERY good argument as to why the 2nd Amendment is NOT outdated. Since the invention of the printing press several centuries prior to the drafting of the Constitution, technology had been increasing slowly decade by decade. The founding Fathers were by no means foolish enough to believe that at the end of the 1700's---humankind had reached the Apex pinnacle of civilization. They knew that general technology, & weaponry development would continue to advance to much higher levels. So thus would the technology at the disposal of our future Governments---and the potential power that comes with it would advance as well. For clarity, as guns improved over time past, the founding fathers knew that musket gun technology was NOT going to be the grand ending of fire-arm development. They drafted that Amendment knowing full well that fire-arms were going to advance in power, accuracy, & capability. This law however was a safe-guard against the future tyranny that would inevitably infest the U.S. government in a future where the European bankers would eventually regain their foothold here---& in turn corrupt our leaders into complying with their schemes & Agendas and thus re-enslaving America to the Agenda of the InterNational Bankers. Men like Thomas Jefferson constantly railed about our need for our future generations to be ever vigilant against serpents who in the future will try and persuade We The People to give up our Arms for a feigned 'security'. What Mr.Jefferson warned us about is coming true today. Many elite powerful forces in collusion with the Billionaires & Bankers who own the main Media are constantly trying to brainwash We the People into giving up our 2nd Amendment through slanted media reporting and appeals to emotional pity that strikes at the deepest psychological achilles-heel vulnerability a human has::::::"BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!!" Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf is quoted as saying that there is no better way to convince fools to give up their rights than to claim it's for 'The Benefit of the Children'. These powerful and relentless forces who are constantly trying to disarm us and will stop at nothing short of creating false-flag incidents for their justifications------ have a very ominous plan for us indeed if they soooo fear an armed populace who is capable of fighting back. In truth...More people die from DUI per year than by fire-arms each year in our country. Why is there no outcry to ban cars & alcohol when the death equivalent of a Newtown massacre occurs EACH & EVERY SINGLE DAY??--------Because of economics. What I've written here is only the beginning of the arguments the 2nd Amendment Preservationists convey.
Jillian George
5 years ago
The best argument for sane restrictions on gun is the Constitution itself. As the preamble makes clear, the purpose of the constitution is "to insure domestic tranquility." A professor at Biola University lays out the case pretty well, and also addresses Christians who think that the Bible supports unrestricted access to guns. Check out his argument on Thegoodbookblog at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). It is by Hubbard, and is entitled "See the Welfare of the City: The Biblical Argument for Gun Control." Pretty convincing--and controversial from the comments. Here's the link if anyone is interested:
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
If we continue the "tranquility" excuse, one can argue that totalitarian states are much more "tranquil", couldn't they? At least, until one considers the violence committed by agents of the state to ensure that tranquility. How much freedom are we willing to sacrifice in the name of security? I recall Ben Franklin having a choice comment about exactly what believers in such a concept really deserved.
Jack Klompus
5 years ago
This is a naive and appalling editorial unworthy of the level of intellect that I have come to expect from the Jesuits. It's interesting that the main and compelling reason for a responsibly armed citizenry, holding the tyranny of the state at bay, is dismissed in one sentence as a "remote and fanciful possibility." Based on what evidence can you assert that the possibility of the state rising to the level of tyranny is "remote" other than your own, dare I say, faith? Could it be possible that state tyranny is held at bay by the existence of the very amendment you call for repeal? Do you truly believe that we as human beings are beyond electing earthly leaders whose proclivities are bent toward imposing prejudicial legal sanction against members of different groups including religious ones? It is ironic that you consider the possibility of tyranny "remote" yet you fail to map out a plan for the disarmament of the average citizen. Do you believe that people will simply accept this repeal of the 2nd Amendment and willingly hand over their arms to representatives of the state. What if they do not? I assume that under the threat of force they will have their weapons confiscated. Sounds to me like this "remote and fanciful possibility" has just become a real issue, direct, and close. Will you be ministering to the new occupants of the prisons that refused to turn in their weapons? In the post repeal world, as you call it, you have your vision of those who will, in your kind benevolence, be permitted(?) to possess firearms, including those with "morally reasonable purposes." Who is going to sit in judgment of and determine the moral reasonableness of one's purposes? Your loopholes, exceptions, and vague categories of acceptability all but render the effect of your repeal laughably toothless. In the end, this silly, vapid, and intellectually unserious piece smacks of little more than empty posturing. You can do better, Jesuits, much much better.
Stanley Kopacz
5 years ago
If you want to fight a hypothetical future tyrannical government, learn hacker skills. Guys with popguns will be deleted using surveillance, metadata mining, and drones. Small arms will be of little use, except in the movies.
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
Please, tell us exactly how effective those were in ensuring the IRQ and AFG excursions only lasted 6 weeks.
sam brown
4 years 10 months ago
This article hits the nail on the head. The 2nd amendment is soaked in the blood of Americans. Repealing it is the only solution .Every time the citizens of this country make progress to curtail gun deaths some court reverses that only because of the 2nd amendment. If today American citizens could directly vote on this, the amendment would be repealed.
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
Really? Between 1.5 and 2.5 million lawful defensive gun uses compared to 30,000 "gun violence deaths", that include over 15,000 which are suicides that would likely occur even if all guns were outlawed as well as around 450 Lawfully Justified Homicides of criminals killed in the act of committing a felony by police or law abiding citizens. The vast number of the remainder are committed by people already prohibited from owning guns who had unlawfully purchased them (felony) and were unlawfully possessing them (felony) when they used them in the commission of yet another felony, typically against another criminal, and typically over drug sales or gang affiliation. And you think that passing another law will seriously dissuade these offenders? But please, don't let facts interfere with your righteous indignation. After all, it's for the children, right?
George Miles
4 years 9 months ago
The fact is that the banning of firearms only increases crime as a whole. Canada, Australia, and England showed these trends and it continues today. The lie in the article is that so many people are shot and killed each year. If you remove the number that are killed by Law Enforcement, the values take a sharp turn down. More people are killed each year by Knives than guns. Do they want to ban them as well. The fact is that if every person was trained, and carried who was an adult over 21 and not a felon. With the obvious fact about mental states of these people. Then crime would decrease. The facts are out now and crime in DC has gone down along with Chicago. So allowing more guns decreased crime. So why do the Anti Gun Liberals continue to lie and create more restrictions.
franklin ohlin
4 years 9 months ago
"... the threat of tyranny, a legitimate 18th century concern but (an ) increasingly remote..." This is the same "fanciful" argument that the President used to reproach Vladimir Putin's seizure of the Crimea, referring to his 19th century mindset in the 21st century. Tyranny respects no time frame, geographical boundary, or quaint ideologies . As suggested earlier, this country remains free, although less and less so, partially because of 300 million guns in the hands of its citizenry, and not the hopey, changey panacea of the liberal left wing. At one time Roman Catholicism was believed to be the only way to enter Heaven, despite its short comings. Perhaps the price we pay in the United States for bearing arms is what is necessary for a strong country and a world at peace, relatively speaking, so help us God.
john andrechak
4 years 9 months ago
Actually the 300 million guns are in the hands of not the citizenry of this nation, just in a minority; sadly too many of these Americans believe in this fantasy of holding off tyranny with there AR-15, too many probably have tri-corner hats; most of these gun owners aare consumed by this delusion that "dem feds" and "blue helmets" are out to take their guns
Dominick Ahrens
4 years 7 months ago
A "minority"? Please, cite your sources, preferably with breakdown indicating the difference between urban and rural areas. Examples like this are why the Founders instituted the Electoral College and established us as a representative republic instead of a pure democracy - to protect us from the threat of an uneducated mob of an urban electorate overwhelming the country by simple numbers. And nice attempt at ridicule with the "tri-corner hat" comments. My ancestor may have worn one when he stood in Lexington, but I don't have one, nor do any of the other people I know who support this issue. We wore steel, or Kevlar when we served. What did you wear? Given your disparaging dismissal of the Founders I have to ask - was it a Che shirt?
john andrechak
4 years 9 months ago
delusion and paranoia are the two themes of the writers attacking this column; delusion, perhaps fantasy, of the modern minuteman standing on the "bridge that arched that April flood." For goodness sake, do you realize how silly you sound? please don't tell me that you own a fife and drum and a tri-corner hat, sitting there thinking how you'll hold off the red hordes; and paranoid, waiting for the government to "pry this gun from my cold dead hands." Certainly sad to think this nutty stuff is coming from Catholics!
john andrechak
4 years 9 months ago
Very sad, if not pathetic, to see people commenting on this page referencing of the Founding Fathers, many who were slave owners, and a majority, if not all, voting to enshrine not only slavery; but one of the most inhumane and heinous forms of this sin, far worse then that of the Roman Empire; into the Constitution.
Tri Minh Huynh
2 years 6 months ago

Obviously the Second Amendment should be repealed to stop the gun proliferation and the resulting horrible bloodshed in America. However, that aim is very hard to achieve because the NRA and gun lobby, in collaboration with the blind obstructionist GOP and corrupt politicians, continue to have the upper hand in Senate and always be ready to slap down any gun legislations proposed by the government.

I think only when the majority of Americans are awaken to the harsh reality of the right of bearing arms and help defeat the powerful gun-profiteering camp led by the traitorous NRA leadership, that America has a chance to get out of this horrific gun violence trend.


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