Constitutional close mindedness stagnates progress
Through no fault of its own, the United States Constitution, a document constructed well over 200 years ago, is being used to impede progress and maintain the status quo. In an ongoing demonstration of this reality, the Constitution has transformed into an omnipotent, be-all end-all answer for hardliners who oppose gun control.
After tragedy strikes, pro-gun control marchers flood the streets in demonstrations calling for bigger and bolder change. Meanwhile, those in opposition remind the world of their constitutional right to bear arms with their own bold and daring demonstrations.
In the case of extremely polarized political climates, like the one surrounding gun control, larger debates and conversations devolve into a matter of which side is better serving the interest of our founding document. By nature, this has inevitably led those in opposition to gun control to wall off behind the Constitution as to reinforce the idea that their interpretation of what has been written is the whole and undeniable truth.
This sort of constitutional close-mindedness has made it impossible not only to understand the issues plaguing our nation but also how to solve them.
However, that failure to effectively engage in discourse is not unique to one side.
“The people who are for the right to bear arms need to be able to explain why the right to bear arms is good for liberty, and it’s not clear to me that they do,” said UH political science and Honors College professor Jeremy Bailey, “in the same way that it’s not clear to me that their critics are making the case that it’s bad for liberty.”
Although it’s clear there is a fundamental need for change within both schools of thought, a larger problem persists for those who vehemently turn away from gun control and cite the Constitution.
This document has become the sole source of justification for many of their beliefs.
Libertarian candidate for Montana’s U.S. House seat, Elinor Swanson, attended a pro-gun rally that took place outside of Montana’s Yellowstone County Courthouse. Swanson expressed a sentiment that’s far too common in the back-and-forth over gun control.
“The Second Amendment doesn’t need to be rewritten or appealed,” said Swanson. “It needs to be reread and respected.”
As a functioning and evolving democracy, it is necessary to fundamentally reshape the way we think about this document.
In an attempt to ameliorate this burgeoning problem, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for dramatic action – a complete and total repeal of the Second Amendment.
“Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment,” Stevens wrote. “Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.”
According to researchers at the Washington University in St. Louis, the only other countries that feature a right to bear arms in their constitution are Guatemala and Mexico. While Stevens’ proposal is unlikely to reach fruition, his rationale makes sense in an international context.
Although repealing the Second Amendment may seem excessive, it does highlight the need to openly call out and question the status quo surrounding gun control, regardless of who said it and where it was first written down.
Rights and liberties long overdue to some are forbidden based on our inability to find common ground with the Constitution. It happened with granting full rights to blacks, women, Native Americans and the LGBT community. It is once again occurring with a much more lethal issue and one everybody is predisposed to.
People live today but base their ideas about how to live in the past.
“I think that the states need to be able to come up with a variety of different solutions, and that experimentation with gun laws would probably do us all some good,” said Bailey.
We need to understand that solutions are only achievable when a broader segment of the population comes to the realization that new problems cannot always be solved by looking back in time.
Only by rewiring the way we think about the Constitution can there be a turning point in the gun control debate.
The headline of this column was changed to reflect the true nature of its argument.
Opinion columnist Ryan Nowrouzi is a biomedical sciences sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]