Jesuit magazine urges repeal of Second Amendment

An editorial in the latest edition of America/The National Catholic Review urges repeal of the Second Amendment, asking,

"Is it prudent to retain a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms when it compels our judges to strike down reasonable, popularly supported gun regulations? Is it moral to inhibit in this way the power of the country’s elected representatives to provide for the public safety? Does the threat of tyranny, a legitimate 18th-century concern but an increasingly remote, fanciful possibility in the contemporary United States, trump the grisly, daily reality of gun violence? The answer to each of these questions is no. It is time to face reality. If the American people are to confront this scourge in any meaningful way, then they must change. The Constitution must change."

America is a Jesuit weekly founded in 1909. The editorial goes on to state:

We acknowledge the gravity of our proposal. The Bill of Rights enumerates our most cherished freedoms. Any proposal to change the nation’s fundamental law is a very serious matter. We do not propose this course of action in a desultory manner, nor for light or transient reasons. We also acknowledge that repeal faces serious, substantial political obstacles and will prove deeply unpopular with many Americans. Nevertheless, we believe that repeal is necessary and that it is worthy of serious consideration.

Our proposal is in keeping, moreover, with the spirit in which the Constitution was drafted. The Bill of Rights belongs to a document that was designed to be changed; indeed, it was part of the genius of our founders to allow for a process of amendment. The process is appropriately cumbersome, but it is not impossible. Since its adoption in 1787, the American people have chosen to amend the Constitution 27 times. A century ago, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson raised serious questions about the Consti-tution. Amendments soon followed, including provisions for a federal income tax, the direct election of U.S. senators, women’s suffrage and the prohibition of alcohol. The 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition, established the precedent for our proposal.

Yet that kind of thoughtful, critical engagement with our fundamental law, the kind of spirited debate that characterized early 20th-century America, is not evident in contemporary American discourse. In the national imagination, the Constitution is too often thought of as a kind of sacred text. Yet neither our founders nor our forebears held to that view. The Constitution is mere human law. It is excellent law, but it is not divine law; it is not revelation. We should be wary of amending the Bill of Rights. We should also be wary of idolizing it. The Constitution is the man-made law of a self-governing people; the people, therefore, are entitled to ask basic, critical questions about it. In our time, is a given constitutional provision a good law or a bad law? Does it promote the common good? The secular dogma of constitutional immutability must yield to careful, critical inquiry.

Read the full editorial here. What are the chances of actually repealing the Second Amendment? Probably as safe a bet as election of a Jesuit pope. But God bless these Roman Catholics for taking such a bold stand against the scourge of gun violence plaguing our country.

Comments (3)

It seems like throwing the baby out with the bath water: surely there's a sane interpretation of the Second Amendment that doesn't exclude any regulation whatsoever? And the proposal is sure to play into the hands if the NRA and the gun nuts who are just SURE that Obama is coming after their guns as the first step in turning the country into a Soviet/Nazi/Muslim/gay dictatorship.

Politically,this is a non-starter...

...but I'm most interested in how it plays out in RC internal relationships. The Popoid wing of the (US) church is currently whining about how their "religious freedom is under attack!!1!1!", and aligning itself w/ the extreme Right (the "2nd Amendment remedies" crowd). The two sides really couldn't be any further apart.

JC Fisher

At the same time, Bill, several of the Supreme Court justices have said just this about the Constitution, if not about the Second Amendment specifically: if we're not happy with the Constitution, the proper course is not to expect judges to interpret it, but to change it. These same justices want us to pursue legislative remedies instead of judicial remedies.

Frankly, it sounds like the court system is rife with the same sort of folks who are in the legislatures. It's a form of intellectual laziness. Times and circumstances do change, and remedies need to reflect that. At the same time, it's also political laziness not to elect folks to pursue these changes. We progressives have been slow about that - perhaps 30 years behind. The best evidence is how poorly folks are convinced by the argument about who selects and who confirms judges to vote accordingly. But, there would be logic in changing the Second Amendment through the legislative path. While it's slower and harder, it's not so open to interpretation.

Marshall Scott

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