Time to amend the amendment?

December 2, 2021

By Jacquelyn D. Heath
Special to The Milwaukee Times

Growing up in a family that was liberally sprinkled with members of professional law enforcement – including local police and sheriff ’s departments and the FBI, I developed some basic viewpoints about the law and guns. Two of those viewpoints were 1) always try to live within the guidelines of the law; and 2) there is no need for guns in a civilized modern society, because whenever guns are involved, violence, trouble and tragedy are just one misunderstanding away.

The most recent event that supports these viewpoints is the outcome of the trial of accused murderer Kyle Rittenhouse.

At age 17, Rittenhouse felt moved to get an assault rifle and drive across state lines, willfully lie and interject himself into a street disturbance that had erupted in the aftermath of a Kenosha police officer shooting and critically injuring Jacob Blake following a domestic dispute gone awry. Rittenhouse’s contribution to the melee was the killing of two people and the serious injury of another. His use of the deadly weapon was caught on video. The purpose of brandishing the weapon – namely assault – speaks for itself, as an action, NOT a reaction.

Personally, I’m profoundly disturbed by the fact that a parent would allow their minor child access to a gun for any reason…let alone leave the house with it to stir up trouble anywhere. I was surprised that the Rittenhouse parent(s) weren’t facing charges for parental negligence and misconduct. But I guess that’s another story for another day.

Rittenhouse’s defense relied on a mantra that is popular among alleged supporters of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That addendum to the basic governing guideline of our nation guarantees the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms.

The United States of America is one of the few modern, civilized (?) nations that preserves such a right for its citizens. Given the level of gun violence, incarceration for the misuse of guns, and ready reliance on guns to settle the simplest of differences, it seems to be a right of questionable value.

After more than 230 years, the world and this country are very different from the perilous, unknown wilderness that existed at our founding. The country was an experiment in self-government by the common people. On many levels, the experiment is successful. We have professional military and law enforcement bodies whose members (the occasional rogue aside) do a creditable job in keeping order while protecting the people and preserving liberty. By definition, these organizations are armed forces charged with serving and protecting the public. So why do untrained, private citizens need guns for that?

Some people explain that they keep guns for hunting. There was a time when hunting was necessary for human survival – no meat, no eat. However, when The Great Spirit invented the supermarket, guns for daily survival were no longer needed. As for hunting for sport, you might get a different take on the fun aspect of hunting if you asked the creatures at the other end of the gun barrel.

Gun ownership as a protected constitutional right appears to protect one thing only – that is, behavior that is contrary to the ethos of a rational, compassionate populace. Perhaps it’s time for us to stop making excuses and amend the Second Amendment to underscore the responsibility and serious consequences, as well as the right it preserves.