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Clarify and Expand the Second Amendment

 

I am a former gun owner who has come to realize how badly the United States needs to substantially restrict gun ownership in public spaces. As a young teenager in the 1950’s I had a Letter to the Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat published in support of the Second Amendment. My motives included enjoying target shooting, fear of severe bullying, fear of the KKK, and fear of a nuclear war with Russia.

I liked shooting. I obtained three guns in my early teens, all without the knowledge of my mother. My father died when I was fourteen. I owned a sweet shooting .22 rifle with pump action loading, a .45 caliber revolver redrilled from a .44 caliber Royal Canadian Mounted Police pistol, and a 12 gauge single shot prison guard shotgun with a breech so loose I only fired it once from a very protected position. I sawed off most of the barrel and stashed it in the trunk of our car. I owned a couple of other registered and more useful pistols as an adult.

I joined the ROTC rifle club as a Freshman at Florida State University with no intention of ever becoming a military officer If memory serves, I competed as the number three shooter on the team. After one semester, at age seventeen, I joined the Army Reserve, which included six months of active duty training at Fort Jackson for basic training and then at Fort Stewart.

At Fort Jackson nineteen of the forty-five soldiers in my training platoon, including me, caught pneumonia. I was in the hospital for three days. I was released on the day we were required to qualify with an M-1 rifle or be forced to begin basic training again, a gigantic nightmare at the time. Everyone else had gone through three days of familiarization with the M-1 including practice firing and an opportunity to adjust the site on their rifle.

I knew the logic of what to do from my ROTC training. Our first firing position was standing, the least accurate position. The target was one hundred yards away and was about eight feet by eight feet in size with a bulls eye about a foot in diameter. With a Sergeant yelling at me to hurry up, I took my time and fired one round. It was marked in the lower left corner outside of the scoring zone. I adjusted my sites a lot of calculated clicks to the left and a lot of clicks up and went on to produce a top score, not quite the best score, on stationary targets. The next day we shot at pop-up targets to our left or right that were only visible for a few seconds. I was the best shot in the company on the pop up course. The following day, in our opening formation, we were informed that another soldier in our company had been selected to represent the company in a base wide shooting competition. I kept my mouth shut since I was not entirely stupid, and later was able to learn that they had simply taken my pop up score and given it to the soldier who won on the stationary target range.

At Fort Stewart I carried a shotgun when I was sent out on guard duty to protect against black bears or alligators.

In our high school years and then in our early twenties a friend and I outfitted an unmapped dry limestone cave with a spring. We pre-positioned food and other supplies that could help see us through a possible nuclear war with Russia. We were well enough armed to protect our cave for ourselves and our new families if civil society were to break down. I appreciate fear as a strong motive for owning guns.

At twenty years old I graduated from Florida State University, became married, and had a full-ride fellowship to Chicago Theological Seminary. In Chicago, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were alerted to the hushed up gathering of forces in Miami that led to the disaster of the Bay of Pigs. My wife and I kept our car packed with survival gear and additional supplies, including my guns, in preparation for a twelve hour drive to our survival cave.

In our mid-twenties my wife and I were back in Chicago living in the Essex neighborhood, part of the Chicago South Side contested between the Blackstone Rangers and Devil’s Disciples. One of the gang members shot the Boy Scout leader of our Essex Community Church troop from a block away, at dusk, with a .22 pistol. It hit him between the eyes and he lived, proving that millions to one chances sometimes happen. We never sat on our sofa on Summer evenings because it was up against the front window of our third story apartment. On Summer evenings there was a lot of expressive shooting of guns into the air, a fair amount of it coming from the sidewalk in front of a candy store across the street. I felt safe walking Essex streets because I got to know the neighborhood teenagers. When I saw teens I did not know I took another path to church or to home.

I equally feared the Chicago Mob and some of the Chicago Police. The Mob murdered our babysitter who lived a few doors down from our apartment building and stuffed her into a garbage can. More to the point, our community organization, led in part by our church, shut down an outpost of the numbers racket. Someone sat across the street from the number house, took down a list of the license plates of those who stopped by. Then the person put a carbon paper copy of the list in the mail box. (You can look up carbon paper on Wikipedia.) Somewhat later, I was followed down the block I lived on by a black limousine with darkened windows. They were satisfied with scaring me when I dashed between two houses and raced down the alley to my apartment building. The Police planted drugs on a young minister like myself who was serving on the North Side of Chicago. He was sent to a jail which was not only unjust but flat out dangerous. I turned in my sawed off shotgun to the police because it was illegal. I kept my .45 caliber pistol in a holster over the headboard of our bed. I understand and appreciate fear as a motive for owning guns.

I was an active volunteer with The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), the most powerful black community organization in the history of the United States. First Presbyterian Church, a block square collection of buildings in Woodlawn, was a cornerstone organization of TWO. It brokered a disarmament agreement between the Rangers and the Disciples. They arranged a truce day and Rangers turned over second best weapons to a church in Englewood while the Disciples turned over second best weapons, like a baseball bat with a nail through it, to First Presbyterian Church which locked them away in their vault.

The truce scared the Police who were afraid that if the gangs were not fighting each other they would team up to fight the Police. There were about 6,000 Blackstone Rangers living in a mile square area and the Police treated gang members brutally. Soon after the disarming exchange of weapons, I was sitting in the TWO offices on 63rd Street with the Housing Committee of TWO. Someone ran in yelling that the Police were breaking into First Presbyterian Church. I immediately ran the two blocks to the Church and got there in time to see a custodian frantically unlocking and opening doors before the Police kicked them in. The Police did a lot of damage that evening. They discovered a pistol in a locked locker in the Church’s gym It belonged to an undercover policeman. The Police also “discovered” the weapons in the vault and the headline in the Chicago Tribune the next day was about First Presbyterian Church providing an arsenal for the Blackstone Rangers. I didn’t trust the Tallahassee Police who were enforcing Southern White racism, I didn’t trust the Chicago Police who were enforcing Northern White racism.

I don’t need fantastical conspiracy theories to make me afraid of bad guys, bullies, and racists in and out of government. I’m thankful to be living in a lightly integrated neighborhood that has excellent police protection. Given my background, I’m not very worried about the sounds of guns being fired into the air behind our house and down a steep overgrown hill on summer weekend nights. It’s just guys letting off steam like the guys at the Candy Store in Chicago. After awhile we call 911 and the police stop the shooting without making arrests.

I gave up my guns one at a time over the years as my fears declined. I kind of miss target shooting, but at 81 with declining sight in my right eye (targeting eye), I am long past my marksman days.

When I was in my teens and twenties, it was illegal to own an automatic weapon. Shotguns were limited to four rounds. I’ve never owned an automatic weapon and didn’t choose to get one to defend our sweet limestone cave. Based on reconsidering the implications of my Christian principles, and coming to appreciate the current danger of disastrous outbreaks of violence in the current gun saturated United States, outbreaks that could dwarf the horrible mass shootings that have become common, it has become clear to me that we need a bold approach to reestablish public safety. I offer the following approach.

Clarifying and Adding Purposes to the Second Amendment

Preface
It has been difficult to pass modest improvements in federal gun control in recent decades. Three hundred million or more guns are already in possession by individuals in the United States, many of them military style automatic weapons or large caliber sniper rifles. This bold proposal might reinvigorate a broad movement that could make substantial changes in the political potential for significant reform. Instead of focusing on the details of guns, or on the procedures for buying guns, or on who is allowed to buy guns, I suggest refocusing on a big simple message. Congress should pass the following binding interpretation of the Second Amendment that addresses the acceptable purposes for owning a gun.

The core legal argument is that since Congress passed the Second Amendment it clearly has the authority to clarify the original purpose of the Second Amendment and to add purposes understood to be in keeping with the Second Amendment. A narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment would hold that the only legal purpose for owning a gun would be to form militias. Current law and practice asserts that individuals have Second Amendment rights to own guns for many other purposes or no purpose at all beyond wanting to own a gun. This proposal clarifies and adds additional purposes for owning guns deemed by Congress to be in keeping with the Second Amendment.

Proposal
The proper interpretation of the original purposes of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is that people have the right to own guns to participation in a militia organized and supervised by the federal government of the United States. Appropriate federal agencies may recognize or recruit civilian militias for protection against foreign invasion or for protection against attacks on local, state, or national governments. This provision includes temporary deputizing of citizens for specific purposes.

Five additional purposes are in keeping with the Second Amendment, do not oppose or limit the narrow original stated purpose of the Second Amendment. No purposes other than these five additional recognized purposes shall be considered to be justified by the Second Amendment and deserving of Second Amendment protections.

Local, State, and Federal military, police, and security organizations shall not be restricted by the Second Amendment. These government organizations may provide for the hiring of private security guards for approved purposes. The federal government shall forbid the formation or continuation of private mercenary organizations within the United States that engage in mercenary or security activities outside the United States.

Legal hunting of wildlife is acceptable.

Target shooting sports and gun safety training, including facilities registered with local or State security agencies for sport or safety training purposes, is acceptable.

Ownership and display of non-operational antique guns is acceptable.

Protection of self, family, and visitors within one’s home is acceptable. No automatic or military style weapons, including sniper rifles and their accessories, are necessary or allowed for protecting self, family, and visitors within one’s home.

Enforcement
Guns may be sold only through local stores within the United States for only the original purpose and the five additional approved purposes. Local store owners may sell guns only to people who have been fully identified and are not on any relevant lists forbidding gun ownership. All sales of guns must be reported to local government authorities within three month intervals and shall include the bases for identifying the gun buyers and the declared purpose for buying the gun. Individuals shall tell the truth about their identity and their purposes for buying a gun.

Any person in the United States owning guns for any purpose other than the original purpose or five approved purposes shall surrender such guns within six months of the passage of this legislation. Law enforcement agencies in the United States shall enforce this law using methods intended to minimize violence. The penalty for violating gun ownership laws shall range from probation to ten years in prison depending on either the severity of guns owned or resistance to giving up the guns upon demand. Use of a gun in any crime shall, upon conviction, be legal grounds for adding one to ten years in prison for such crimes.

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