We Need to Throw Out the Second Amendment

America’s gun violence problem has reached a breaking point, and while we can talk all we want about assault weapons bans, universal background checks, and terror watch lists, there’s only one real solution to this problem: We need to repeal the Second Amendment.

That’s right -- we need to repeal the Second Amendment.

This, of course, is completely unacceptable to Republicans, but that’s because they don’t know real the history of the Second Amendment, and the real history of the Second Amendment is as ugly as it gets.

Thanks to corporate media’s unquestioning regurgitation of right-wing talking points, most Americans think that Second Amendment is in the Constitution to protect the rights of individual gun owners from the government.

Well, that’s not even remotely true.

The "Second Amendment" as we know it today is a legal fiction invented by the gun industry and their buddies on the Supreme Court. Despite what you might hear on Fox So-Called news, there actually was no individual right to own a gun until 2008, when the Supreme Court said there was in its decision in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.

This decision, which struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban, was the culmination of a decades-long push by the gun industry to twist the Second Amendment into something that would help it sell more weapons, and it had zero basis in real Constitutional history.

It’s what former Chief Justice Warren Burger called “A fraud on the American public,” and it’s a fraud that now makes it very, very hard to put in place sensible gun control laws.

So, if the Second Amendment wasn’t originally about protecting gun rights, why is it in the Constitution?

What were the Founders thinking?

Well, the obvious answer, and the one accepted by most historians, is that they were trying to prevent the existence of a standing army during times of peace.

The Founders were scholars of classical history, and they knew that history teaches that when given too much power, armies, repeatedly and throughout history, would overthrow democracy and put in place a military dictatorship. There's even a phrase to describe it: a military coup.

.As James Madison told the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787,

“A standing military force… will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

With this situation in mind, the Founders wrote the Second Amendment, which says that, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

They key word here is “Militia.”

At the time the Bill of Rights was written, America had no real professional army, and what military it did have was in the form of 13 separate state militias.

The Founders saw these militias as the best check against the rise of the standing army, and so they wrote the Second Amendment to make sure that they were always protected.

But that’s only part of the story.

By protecting the militias, the Founders weren’t just preventing or trying to prevent the rise of mischief by a standing army -- they were also protecting the institution of slavery that was the key to the southern economy.

In states like Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas, militias were also known as Slave Patrols.

And after the Constitution was written, southern slave-owners, led by Patrick Henry (Virginia's largest slave owner) started freaking out that their slaves could be constitutionally freed and then drafted by the federal government, which was given the power under Article 1, Section 8 to raise a national militia.

The slave-owners worried that this national militia would eventually be used by Northern anti-slavery types to destroy the slave patrols and maybe even the institution of slavery itself.

And so what did those slave-owners do?

They had the Founders write into the Second Amendment specific protections for slave patrols.

These protections aren’t obvious, but they’re there, and we know this because of the difference between James Madison’s original draft of the Second Amendment and the final version included in the Bill of Rights.

Madison’s original version of the Second Amendment reads as follows:

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person."

This version of the Second Amendment didn’t fit well with slave-owners because it included words like “country,” words they felt could be used to justify the creation a national militia which would include freed slaves - a backdoor way for a Northern president to free Southern slaves.

And so Patrick Henry lobbied James Madison to rewrite the Second Amendment into the version we know today.

He spoke passionately at the Virginia Ratifying Convention: "If the country be invaded, a state may go to war," Henry said, "but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress ... Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia."

He added:

"In this state [of Virginia], there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States ... May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free."

As Michael R. Burch wrote, "Henry was obviously convinced that the power granted the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave control militias. He anticipated exactly what Abraham Lincoln would end up doing:

"'They will search that paper [the Constitution],' Henry said, 'and see if they have power of manumission. And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power? This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it. This [slavery] is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress.'"

To satisfy Henry, James Madison changed the word "country" to the word "state,” a change Patrick Henry demanded to make it explicitly clear that the Constitution protected the state militia (aka slave patrol) in Virginia.

The big picture here isn’t a pretty one: The Second Amendment, which is now used by the weapons industry to justify selling weapons of war to civilians, was originally created, at least in part, to help preserve slavery in the south.

You really couldn’t ask for a better metaphor for everything that’s wrong with America and its history.

But here’s the thing: we don’t need to be trapped by that history.

Ever since it was ratified, Americans have repeatedly changed parts of the Constitution that don’t match up with the times.

We’ve changed electoral rules so that the person who comes in second place in a presidential race no longer becomes vice president, we’ve given women the right to vote; we’ve given black people full citizenship; we made alcohol illegal, and then re-amended the Constitution to make it legal -- these are just a few examples of ways in which we’ve broken with our past and moved towards a better future.

It’s time we did the same with the Second Amendment.

At its best, the Second Amendment is an anachronism that's no longer relevant in an era in which the United States has a standing army but remains a democracy.

At its worst, it’s a tool for slave-owners that’s now being used by the weapons industry to prevent any and all sensible gun laws.

There’s only one way out of this mess: it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment.


MarieLMHC's picture
MarieLMHC 6 years 39 weeks ago

I wholeheartedly agree!

Peace & thanks,

Marie Spike

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 39 weeks ago

Americans are sadly addicted to thier gun(s)


If anyone has the testicular fortitude to take them guns away there will be an almighty childish tantrum across a nation

And, withdrawal symptoms akin to cocaine termination

Old_Curmudgeon 6 years 39 weeks ago

We taught these things in poli-sci courses o'er the years since I started proffing in 1964 {back before the gun-totin' problem became so urgently in need of solving}.

happyashell's picture
happyashell 6 years 39 weeks ago

You say that standing armies are the number one threat to democracy.

Many people know of this danger to our freedom. They realize that the only way to protect democracy is to have an armed citizenary to protect an elected government from a rogue standing army. When the citizenary is unarmed is when "a military coup" occurs. How else are the citizens of a nation going to over throw an unwanted government. This is how the founding fathers defeated the British government, by having an armed citizenary. As long as we have weapons to defend our civil liberties we will not have a military coup in this country.

We have to weed out the terrorists, that is the correct solution.

Lloyd Lutterman's picture
Lloyd Lutterman 6 years 39 weeks ago

You fall for CIA black ops to further disarament on our way to tyranny

cccccttttt 6 years 39 weeks ago

Tom makes great points that support his surprisingly clear conclusion!

But as repubs dominate state legislatues, repeal of the 2nd is remote in our lifetime.

What might pass: give each state a voters choice to ban certain firearms, and allow extensive border checking.

Red states will remain free fire zones, and Blue states will enact civilized restraints.

Just as interstate freeway drivers are now checked for fruit/vegetables, they would be routinely stopped at state borders for a firearms check.

Canada does this at its border and their gun deaths are far below the US slaughter of 90 per day.


Robertcd's picture
Robertcd 6 years 39 weeks ago

Thom didn't say that standing armies are the number one threat to a democracy. Not at all if you actually read it, it was the Founders who sait that! You seemed to ignor the whole part of the real reasson for the second ammendment which was set up so state militias could keep slavery in place. And as per usual, it was the "people keeping of arms" in the context of a well regulated militia. Times have changed alot, we do have a standing army, in many forms. We still have, what is left of our democracy. The excuse you use; that everyone needs guns so that we may protect ourselves from an invasion. From where and who? And since commerce is involved with the sale of guns both the Federal Government and State and local goverments have every right to regulate the sale of guns. The Gun lobby has nothing to back themselves up in this, but does via lies!

Uncle Ralph's picture
Uncle Ralph 6 years 39 weeks ago

We don't need to get rid of the second amendment so much as we nee to read it---the "A well regulated militia . . ." part. Everyone who wants to own a gun should be able to do so by joining a citizens branch of the National Guard where they receive a license for a given type of weapon AFTER they have had about six months of evening and weekend training similar to the training given soldiers and police officers. Along with the firearms training, the applicants would also receive psychological evaluations and background checks similar to those given to soldiers and police officers. This would eliminate 95%, maybe 99%, of these random incidents. How many of the shooters in the worst mass-murders in the US could have gotten through a psych eval AND a thorough background check? Close to none. I don't seriously believe this system will ever be instituted, but there it is folks, right there in the God-given Second Amendment: "A well REGULATED militia . . ."

PhilipHenderson's picture
PhilipHenderson 6 years 39 weeks ago

I agree. There are fewer people who own more weapons than was the case fifty years ago. We can do what was done in Australia and save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year. Since Australia changed its laws there have been no mass murders by firearms. We should follow the common sense of most of the world and get rid of these terrible weapons. the folks who believe that because they own a few firearms that they will prevent the United States Government from enslaving the population are merely conspiracy theory believers. There is no way that my owning a firearm will protect my freedom and liberty. We need to repeal the 2nd Amendment and replace it will a common sense provision that allows citizens to own handguns and long guns for specific purposes but each owner must have responsibilities for safety just as we do with automobiles. The priviledge to own a firearm ought to come with legal responsibilities. We need to keep weapons away from people who are crazy, angry with their spouse, and violent felons among others. To say that there is an unfettered right for every person living in the United States to possess a killing tool is crazy. An axe is used to cut wood but could be used to kill a person; however, a pistol's primary purpose is to maim or kill. You could use it as a toy for target practice only, but most people want to use a pistol for protection, that means to maim or kill.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 6 years 39 weeks ago

"Gun violence has reached a breaking point." .....The Orlando shooting "breaking point" just happens to be a mass shooting the FBI was well aware this shooter could carry out. They were not only on to this guy before he tried to buy an arsenal of ammo and body armor, the gun store employees called the FBI and alerted them about this attempted purchase three weeks before the shooting. In addition, the corpse media reported the on duty police officer at the club, engaged the shooter, and then "retreated" ???? No other mention of him since the day of the shooting. Did he charge up behind the shooter as the shooter entered the club??? ..guess not. Maybe the shooter had eyes in the back of his head too? At any rate, the good guy with the gun lost.

This all adds up to more, be very afraid Merica, better vote for the party that supports out of control military spy complex spending, which is exactly what the terrorists want us to do...bankrupt out country. Kind of like when we gave flying lessons to guys who said they didn't need to know how to land the planes. But hey, that's how our warfare economy works....keep the populous fearful. It's the ruinous economic direction Eisenhower warned us about for sure. Getting rid of the second amendment won't stop the violence it takes to justify this insane spending .

BrooklynMike's picture
BrooklynMike 6 years 39 weeks ago

How profound and yet so simple, Thom! It likens the protection of slavery as a southern white obsession during our founding to that of gun ownership today - and for essentially the same paranoid base!
Unfortunately, I fear that repealing the Second Amendment will make the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment look like a walk in the park. (It's already lagging 150 years behind.) There is no Lincoln out there to even dream of taking up the cause. If elected, Hillary will dare not touch the concept of repeal (or "abolition" in Trump's limited vocabulary).
Only the presence of an Elizabeth Warren in the VP's office might bring us somewhat closer to a national conversation on repeal. Thom, (sorry to digress) she would have been sooooooooooo much better on guns and many other issues. Why didn't the Dem pols let her run???
As my blog of June 17 suggests, the most pernicious opposition to ANY gun reform legislation (forgetting about amendment repeal) can come from fearful red-state Democrats, with Heidi Heitkampt of North Dakota a prime example.


c-gull's picture
c-gull 6 years 39 weeks ago

"So long as governments set the example of killing their enemies, private individuals will occassionally kill theirs". Elbert Hubbard

We are made to feel that it is alright for the federal government to kill 27 civilian by-standers to get one "supposed terrorist" that we have never met which includes blowing up grandmothers and little kids. The environment inside the government is producing its share of "Adolph Eichmans" and "Ilse Kochs". We do nothing. But we are shocked when a single person shoots others-- not sane.

IM Jussayin 6 years 39 weeks ago

Am I the only one who finds it strange that we live in a country where driving is considered a privilege but owning a gun is a right. I could probably kill as many people as were killed in Orlando just by driving a Hummer through an airport. Ooops, spilled the beans. Now they'll probably confiscate my vehicle. That's okay though; they'll let me keep my Uzi. It's my right.

RepubliCult's picture
RepubliCult 6 years 39 weeks ago

Since well regulated militias are not necessary for the security of a free state, and that militias have not been used to defend our free state since before the Civil War, the rest of the 2nd is bunk. Totally obsolete. Can't base law on a lie, and can't base law on a false premise. Thus there is no logical foundation for unfettered access to assault weapons. Or hand guns. SCOTUS needs to get schooled. No state level law with the text of the 2nd would survive the logic test. No law school teaches students to write laws based upon lies and false premises. The current 2nd is more senseless than the founders "other idea for the 2nd amendment": "A well maintained system of roads being necessary for the state's economy, the right of the citizens to own and operate draft animal powered vehicles shall not be infringed." What a mess our economy, freeways, highways and roads would be with horse carriages and pack mules rolling along side big rigs and autos. The the logic, stupidity and outcome of each are insane. Look at what a mess our country is in, being awash in modern military assault weapons instead of the manually loaded single shot musket.

bollivar 6 years 39 weeks ago

I absolutley agree and disagree with Thom. You hit the nail on the head. When our current government allows 1% of the population to own 97% of the wealth, our government needs to be changed. When our government stops being the government for the people, that is congressmen are bought by the wealthy, it is a time for change. Repeal the 2nd amendment? Not a chance.

happyashell's picture
happyashell 6 years 39 weeks ago
happyashell's picture
happyashell 6 years 39 weeks ago

Corrected first sentence of my comment.

It should read, You noted that Madison said,

happyashell's picture
happyashell 6 years 39 weeks ago

Corrected first sentence

You noted that Madison said,

Madison put the 2nd amendment in the Constitution in the first place to arm the citizenary to protect the republic against a Federal standing army over throwing a state or the Federal Government, as standing armies have done to so many other government in the past. Madison was not at all concerned about slave rebellions when he proposed the original wording of the 2nd amendment. It was Patrick Henry and the other slave state representatives that wanted the new wording so the state governments could protect themselves from a slave revolt. Since we no longer have slavery, the first wording would be correct to protect the elected governments from a military coup. And don't deny that it can never happen to our nation as it has happened to other nations. All it takes is the economy to implode, and have mass riots in all the major cities, and in the name of restoring order the military takes over the government.

Changing the word back from state to country would be the correct thing to do to modernize the 2nd Amendment. We still would want an armed citizenary to defend against a military coup. How many democratic, or representative governments have been replaced by a military coup in the last 500 years where the citizenary had no weapons. One country is too many, and you sure wouldn't want it to happen in a state, or country you lived in. I don't own a gun of any kind. But I will agree that Madison knew what was needed to keep our nation free of a military coup.

MountainCatBob's picture
MountainCatBob 6 years 39 weeks ago

Sadly, we are all slaves in the USA, kept obedient and docile by a standing army: the police! All our weapons have not repelled this de facto coup de tete, engineered by a handful of corporate fascists.

Ralene's picture
Ralene 6 years 39 weeks ago

Thank you Thom, almost all of our social problems today can be linked to America's past with the "peculiar institution" that we know of as slavery, the only reason for the right to bear arms is so white men can oppress black men.

Legend 6 years 39 weeks ago

With Republicans in control you cannot pass sensible gun control. The Party of no solutions. Vote them out.

jajohnson's picture
jajohnson 6 years 39 weeks ago

Absolutely Agree!

While we're at it - let's review the entire Constitution! Our country has obviously changed dramatically from the last 240 years.

The idea that each state still has two U.S. senators is woefully outdated. Let's re-configure according to state population size.

My proposal for guns in America:
Ban all guns completely at the federal level. Exceptions are U.S. military and other federal entities requiring firearms (i.e. FBI, CIA, Border patrol agents, etc.)

Then each state crafts their own gun laws. I would also allow counties and municipalities to craft their own unique enforceable gun laws. This would be very strictly enforced. Individuals would be held completely responsible for the applicable gun laws depending on their specific location in the country. I would like to think that the uncertainty of the various local gun laws would make people think twice about owning and carrying firearms.

Ideally, all guns should be banned in our country. With the obvious exceptions of military, police, other law enforcement agencies, etc. Hunters could apply for firearms and go through a very strict background check, with the added provision that their hunting shotguns and rifles be locked up when not in use - subject to random checks by local authorities. All other citizens possessing or using a firearm would be dealt with very severly. Eventually they would be rooted out of our society. The idea that "only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun" is both laughable and ludicrous.

Obviously these ideas, and some other good ideas presented on this blog, won't go forth until all money is removed from our political process, particularly the election process.

pretzelal 6 years 39 weeks ago

There is a good article at The Guardian about how much larger America's gun violence problem really is.


jajohnson's picture
jajohnson 6 years 39 weeks ago

Thom - you rattled off a bunch of politicians that accepted blood money from the NRA.

Where does the NRA get there millions of dollars? I can't believe its from dues paying NRA members. Is it from gun manufacturers?

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 39 weeks ago

A shame so it is!

The movies enshrine guns in america

Most of the movies are made in america and broadcast around the world

A lot of people actually mimick and believe in the movies

The 2nd needs a revision big time

And, so does all the other violent stuff america loves to produce

UNC Tarheels's picture
UNC Tarheels 6 years 39 weeks ago

2nd Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

2nd Amendment explained

A well regulated Militia- civilians who band together in times of emergency to form an Army of irregulars.

Being necessary to the security of a free state- not as in the 'fifty states,' but as in the state of Being Free.

The right of the people- law-abiding citizens.

To bear and keep arms- arguably any unclassified weapon which can be wielded by an individual soldier.

Shall not be infringed- shall suffer no dilution upon which civilian capability to thwart tyranny may hinge.

cherylkelmar's picture
cherylkelmar 6 years 39 weeks ago

I am a middle class white female. I have contacted Tom Hartman, Amy Goodman and others for help and attention to my situation. Thru this process, I realize that these authors cater to the wealthy just as much as the Republican's. Tom is selling books just like Amy. As a Irish female, I am not for illegal immigration. I am not for gun control until we clean up our corrupt govt. I receive no help from our mostly Jewish female representatives in CA. Yet, my voice is ignored by the left. My concerns are ignored by the elite left like Tom Hartman and KPFK. Let's hear stories from people who are ignored. I am no longer a Democrat. Hiliary is just as corrupt as any Republican.

Jesus Morfin's picture
Jesus Morfin 6 years 39 weeks ago

Esteemed Mr. Hartmann and Mrs. Marie,

It is politically impractical to talk in terms of Throw Out or repeal the Second Amendment

Should speak rather in terms of the Update of the Second Amendment, extrapolating to the present the thoughts of the Founders.

Observing that what the founders sought to avoid with the Second Amendment, is precisely what corporate moguls have achieved with it: a dictatorship of capital with a huge military power at its service.

If the guns in the hands of people turned out to be the best resource to defend democracy in the 18th century, in the 21st century it turns out to be the electoral vote. But not to elect the course best candidate with Manichean prejudices, but to condition the political parties to effectively promote the updating of laws that the people demand (the optimal proposal is now the Second Amendment) before the day of the election, to vote for their candidates.

A powerful update to the Second Amendment, preserving the spirit of the Founders, would have to release the democracy of the capital, because simply it has it bought.

Therefore, it is necessary to convert the Second Amendment in a preventive transparency law, to ending the discretionary management of public resources through consensus of the citizen communities involved before making any project and exert any budget.

And only like this it will be able to confront the challenge of the climatic change, implementing a citizen or community economy by means of cooperatives of companies that in coexistence with the capitalism overcome the economic crises of United States and around the world.

It is now when the American people must ratify its global political leadership to move the world towards a better future.


Jesús Morfín Garduño.

Global Social Engineering


Good guy with a gun's picture
Good guy with a gun 6 years 36 weeks ago

Wow! Great artical. I'm gonna lay down my guns and push to repeal the 2ndA! That way all law abiding Americans will have to lay down their guns and the violence will FINALLY STOP!! Then the only people that have guns will be the military and cops... O and criminals. Because they'll always be able to get guns. Because they don't obey the law.

Wake up America. The citizens being armed is one of the only things that allows us to keep the 1st amendment. Without freedom of speech, there's gonna be even more people out of jobs. NOT TO MENTION, Hitler pulled the same thing before going off the deep end. He disarmed the population before he started killing out of his own free will. Do your research. Educate yourselves. Think.

mavibobo's picture
mavibobo 6 years 31 weeks ago

I see that Mr hartmann left out that gun control has been a progressive stance going back to the 1640's when they outlawed free black people from having weapons. And again in the 1940 50 and 60s guess they figured it was easier to terrorize them into submission if they could not fight back.

Ragnar's picture
Ragnar 6 years 30 weeks ago

And then you woke up from your leftist wet dream. There are 300 million-plus weapons in this country and enough rounds of ammunition to fight WWIII 10 times over in the hands of patriots who know their right to self defense comes from nature and nature's God. The police and military for the most part side with them. Good luck, bed-wetter.

Ragnar's picture
Ragnar 6 years 30 weeks ago

Where are you going to get the stormtroopers who are going to confiscate my guns? The police and military are mostly conservatives. I guess you'll need to raise an army of bed-wetting leftists, 60's burn-outs, college professors, welfare mothers, illegal immigrants, transvestites and femi-nazis. Pardon me if I'm not too worried. Come and take them if you can. You can't.

Ragnar's picture
Ragnar 6 years 30 weeks ago

The "peculiar institution" that we know of as American slavery was invented by the democrat party. The party of the old south. The party of the KKK. The party of segregation. The party that sought to keep guns out of the hands of former slaves, so they could not defend themselves, their families and communities against the violent racism of the white democrat party, who burned crosses in the front yards of black citizens and terrorized them. The reason for the 2nd amendment was to prevent such tyrrany. The Republican party was formed to free the slaves. We couldn't envision that the former slaves would be willing slaves to their former masters, the democrats. A sad outcome.

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