As the Parkland, Fla., school shooting revealed yet again, when it comes to firearms, the differences between Americans has become too monumental to overcome. On one end of the political spectrum are left-wing politicians and pundits calling for the elimination of the Second Amendment and severe restrictions on virtually every kind of gun. On the other end are Americans who believe the best way to stop mass shootings is to have even more weapons available to the public, and for everyday citizens, including teachers, to be better armed so that they are capable of defending themselves and others from murderers like Nikolas Cruz.
How can this stark divide ever be reconciled? Although it may be difficult for many to accept, the answer is likely that it can’t. The United States is in desperate need of a new Second Amendment, one that recognizes the fundamentally different views people today have about guns, their role in society, and our rights as citizens.
When the Founders first wrote and passed what we know call the Second Amendment, they viewed the Constitution in an entirely different way than most people do today. Originally, the U.S. Constitution was, for the most part, only understood to govern the relationship between Americans and their federal government. The Bill of Rights was largely meant to protect the states and the people from an out-of-control centralized power in the nation’s capital. Most laws were passed at the state and local levels, and state constitutions determined the limits of those laws, including gun laws.
In 1833, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall clearly articulated this principle when writing the majority opinion in Barron v. Baltimore. “The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves, for their own government, and not for the government of the individual States,” Marshall wrote. “Each State established a constitution for itself, and in that constitution provided such limitations and restrictions on the powers of its particular government as its judgment dictated.”
As with other important issues, the Civil War and its fallout radically transformed…