Taming the Second Amendment

Amending the U.S. Constitution is an intentionally difficult process. The probability of repealing the Second Amendment, especially in the current political climate, is on a par with a Trump supporter having a double-digit IQ.

Does that mean that frequent mass shootings are a permanent part of American culture? Maybe not. Let’s look at another possibility.

The year is 2020, a year intent on earning its name through cultural acuity. A hypothetical case of illegal gun possession, call it Joe Derringer vs. The State of New Jersey, winds its way from the lower courts and appeals its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Joe maintains that his Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” has been violated.

Joe went to court after police found 357 handguns and rifles in his Hoboken efficiency apartment, along with 23 cats, which were the original reason the cops came to his door. Joe had no required permit to carry or firearms purchaser identification card for any of the firearms he had amassed.

Joe is a proactive kind of guy. He does have a card certifying that he is a bona fide member of the Manly Men Militia. To Joe’s way of thinking, that membership underwrites his right to own his firearms collection and supersedes all New Jersey laws to the contrary.


The problem for Joe is that the SCOTUS which gets this case is not the court of Citizens United. The majority of justices now on the bench are no longer the lapdogs of business. They are neither fond of, nor intimidated by, either the gun industry or the National Rifle Association.

These justices have a keen interest in (gasp) justice. They hear the cries for gun control, not as coming from a vocal minority, but from a rapidly growing number of people whose loved ones have been murdered by individuals who should never have been allowed to touch, let alone, own a firearm.

The court decides to take yet another look at the Second Amendment and determine just what the writers were thinking when they penned this nebulously worded paragraph. Could conditions possibly have changed since 1791?

At the time the Bill of Rights was drafted, Colonists-turned-Americans were understandably skittish. Government and oppression were all too often synonymous. The distinction between citizen soldiers and regular army was blurred.

Granting the people the right to keep guns in their households seemed like a good idea. They could defend themselves and their fledgling nation from outsides threats. They could also, should this new democracy take a turn for the worse, defend themselves from their own government.

Things have a way of changing in more than two centuries. So, SCOTUS takes another hard, long, debate-filled look at the Second Amendment, and guess what? Sanity, at long last, prevails.

In a more than 200-page decision, the court determines that a “well-regulated militia” is as extinct as the Dodo, and that the right to keep a loaded musket by the bedside does not equal the right to amass a personal arsenal. The court further rules that gun ownership must be strictly regulated.

Details are left to the states. However, all laws enacted, the court’s decision mandates, must include certain provisions.

An applicant must show a clear need for gun ownership, as well as undergo a criminal background check, psychological assessment and professional training before being granted a permit. Those who become gun owners will have absolute responsibility for ensuring the security of their weapons, subject to periodic, unannounced inspection.

Failing to comply with any of these stipulations must carry severe fines and mandatory jail sentences. Any gun owner whose weapon is used in a criminal act must be subject to the same charges as the person actually committing the crime.

Noting that many current gun owners might be unable or unwilling to meet the new qualification requirements, the court rules that they may retain their gun collections but only on the condition that all firearms are rendered permanently inoperable. Gun owners will thus remain free to display their disabled weapons and compare whose is bigger as often as they like.

The high court decision further stipulates that gun retailers must, if requested, buy back their customers’ ammunition supplies. The court wryly notes that owners will also the option of turning their bullets into “fashionable jewelry.”

A year after the ruling, mass shootings in America are so rare they actually become news again. Who saw that coming?