Sorry, Folks: A President Can’t Just Abolish The Second Amendment

Sorry, Folks: A President Can’t Just Abolish The Second Amendment August 11, 2016

A close up of a hand gun with bullets resting on the Declaration of Independence.

Some things never change.

One of those things that never change is that right-wing folks will consistently try to scare the public regarding the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a presidential race, a congressional race, or the aftermath of one of America’s daily mass shootings, the message is the same: You’re about to lose your 2nd Amendment rights.

Now they’re saying it about Hillary Clinton– beware of her, because she wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment.

They consistently preach this message for a really good reason– the gun lobby makes a ton of money off ignorance and fear.

It flows a little bit like this: the NRA or other gun lobby group will spend a ton of money investing in candidates or advertising to tell you that your gun rights could soon be gone. The average gun-lover, none the wiser, believes the message and begins buying up guns like they’re part of a going-out-of-business-sale. They also invest in things like NRA memberships, or donating to candidates they think will save the 2nd Amendment. And thus, the cycle works: spread some fear and the money rolls on in.

It’s actually a brilliant business model.

Funny thing is, in all this time you haven’t lost the 2nd Amendment. There’s actually a good reason for that; no individual President, member of Congress, or judge has the power to change the U.S. Constitution. It doesn’t work that way.

In fact, no branch of government can change the Constitution. The executive branch could lobby for a change to the Constitution, but that’s it. The legislative branch can propose a change to the Constitution, but that’s it. The judicial branch can interpret the words and meaning of the Constitution, but that’s it.

But no, a president can’t abolish part of the Constitution just because they disagree with it. Congress can’t pass a law that is at odds with it. The judicial branch cannot strike down parts of it they don’t like.

It just doesn’t work that way.

There is only one way the American people could ever lose their 2nd Amendment gun rights: we, as a people, would actually have to change the Constitution. This course of action is so ridiculously hard, that it has only been done 27 times in our nation’s history. And out of those 27 Amendments, only one of them was designed to repeal a previous Amendment (the 21st repealed the 18th). Ironically, this one case of repealing an Amendment wasn’t even to restrict rights, but to expand them (it repealed the prohibition of alcohol.)

But let’s say we decided to do away with the 2nd Amendment. Here’s what would need to happen:

The U.S. House of Representatives would need to come together with the Senate and draft an Amendment to the Constitution. They would then need to approve it with a two-thirds supermajority. Simply drafting and approving a proposed Amendment to the Constitution is difficult, as it requires the vast majority of Congress (including the lobbyists who own them) to be on board with it.

Once approved by both houses of Congress, the proposal is then sent to the states for ratification. This requires three-fourths of state legislatures to vote in approval of it, meaning it’s not just Congress who has to be in overwhelming agreement– the governments of the 50 states have to be in near-universal agreement with the proposed change as well.

This is precisely why there have been so few changes to the Constitution in our history– it is extremely hard to do, and it requires the vast majority of the country to be in agreement about the change.

It cannot be done by one person. It cannot even be done by one branch of government. That’s not how our system works.

In fact, I lament that legally restricting gun rights is almost impossibly hard. I would love to see the 2nd Amendment shot down. (See what I did there?) But I also know that due to our system of government, we’re going to have to continue living in fear that we’ll be randomly shot when grocery shopping until the entire nation comes together and agrees to change the Constitution.

And honestly, I don’t see that happening. We as a nation have already grown content with our kids getting shot on a daily basis, and if we’re willing to sacrifice our kids on the altar of “individual rights,” we should probably admit we are so morally bankrupt as a people that there’s little hope for us. Maybe the next generation, but not us.

So, when the fear-baiters tell you that Hillary Clinton (or anyone else) is going to abolish the 2nd Amendment, they are either exercising a profound ignorance of how the U.S. system of government works, or, they are deliberately deceiving you to get your money and support.

Because, no, the President can’t just abolish the 2nd Amendment.

Sadly, in our system of government, the President can do precious little.

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