Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

It's time to amend the Second Amendment

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:59 PM

Let's face it. If we want to transform American society for generations to come, tinkering with our existing patchwork quilt of federal, state, and municipal laws dealing with firearms is a pathetic waste of time.

Another federal ban on "assault weapons" will not be effective. More "conversations" and "dialogues" and commissions of experts are not going to remedy our society's deeply rooted gun sickness.

The only transformational vehicle available for the American people "to come together and take meaningful action," as President Obama suggested after the Newtown massacre, is to change the Constitution.

Only law enforcement agents and members of the armed forces should be allowed to have and use firearms of any kind.

It does not matter what the Second Amendment says, since its adoption in 1791, about a "well regulated militia".

The United States Supreme Court settled that debate in 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, by a vote of 5-4. The Court concluded that the Second Amendment, as it reads today, protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.

What does matter is that the Framers of the Constitution acknowledged that succeeding generations might prefer to order American society in new and different ways. That is why they included an amendment procedure in Article V.

Between 1795 and 1992 the American people have amended their Constitution 17 times. Often the amendments involved issues that deeply divided Americans, such as is the case today with government regulation of firearms.

One of the two amendment methods the Framers included in the Constitution, the holding of a constitutional convention, has never been used.

The other method – depicted in the current movie "Lincoln" - requires a joint resolution to pass in both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority in each. The President cannot veto it. Once the resolution has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. Ratification by three-fourth of the states – 38 out of 50 today – is required for adoption.

The next amendment – the 28th – should read as follows:

Section 1. The second amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. Only law enforcement agents and members of the armed forces may have and use firearms anywhere in the United States.

Section 3. Firearms manufactured in or outside the United States may be sold or distributed in the United States only to law enforcement agencies or the armed forces.

Section 4. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 5. This amendment shall become effective when it is approved by the state legislatures of three-fourths of the states of the United States.

Until the American people get the courage and the resolution to attack the gun crisis at the root, I leave you with this multi-purpose, multi-state message, to be used as often as needed in the future:

"All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence."

Angel Castillo, Jr., a former reporter and editor for the New York Times and The Miami Herald, practices employment law in Miami. He can be reached at

Part of the Tribune family of products