Monday was a day of celebration and pomp. We celebrated the renewal of the former government. No tanks in the street. No battles with deaths on either side. No bombs, and no arms. It is the reassurance of the words of playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1839 play, “Richelieu: or, The Conspiracy,” that the word is mightier than any gun.
"True, — This!
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanter's wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyze the Caesars — and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!"
Mr. Obama’s address will not go down as one of the greatest, but it will remain memorable simply for the historic value and happenstance. A man of mixed race being sworn into the most powerful office on the day we celebrate America’s own saint who saw “We the People” as more than just words.
And the president made sure that the pen versus sword commentary continues. He told the American people that “we, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
For me, this deals with the great conspiracy theory that the president will take away our guns. We need to have a better understanding of the Constitution and arguments concerning this great debate. A better understanding of our fears. It is no longer just an argument concerning the intent of the Second Amendment, but the deeper meaning.
It is whether the Amendment “creates an individual constitutional right for citizens” or “that the framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state's right to self-defense,” according to Cornell University Law School. It is the framers’ intent that must be examined in context of their world and ours.
But it was the intent of the framers that the “rights” and laws within the Constitution would remain unchanged until a new amendment replaces it. We saw this with the ratification of the 18th Amendment which declared that, “the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.” It was only to be replaced and removed by the 21st Amendment.
The fear being instilled today is that somehow the Second Amendment will be removed from the books — that the president can somehow do this through executive order. That cannot happen.
Article V of the Constitution clearly states that the only way an article or amendment of the Constitution can be changed is through the act of the people, starting with the initial approval by House of Representatives or by two-thirds of the individual states and only then to be “ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”
In other words, getting rid of the Second Amendment, or any amendment, is not an easy trick.
Even the courts cannot agree on the issue of original intent. In the 1939 case United States v. Miller, the court said that the firearm must have, “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia. …” Seven decades later in District of Columbia v. Heller, the court reversed itself stating that all Americans had the right to own firearms, including criminals and the mentally ill, regardless of their militia standing.
In 2010’s McDonald v. City of Chicago, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, ruled that handgun ownership was a right not only under the Second Amendment, but the 14th, extending the ruling of Heller to individual states.
Here the bottom line is simple. Our right to own and bear arms cannot be taken away until either the Court again changes its ruling or when “We the People” ratify a new amendment to the Constitution. I doubt that will happen anytime soon because the pen is truly mightier than the sword — or in this case, guns.