Regulating the bearing arms within range of public

The US Constitution’s second amendment continues to be a source of debate concerning the extent to which the States of Federal government can regulate the gun ownership and practices.

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.

I think we would be well served with a new amendment that both confirms the basic right in the second amendment but also clarifies the goal of having a regulated militia to secure the State.

Public commerce unburdened by bearing arms being necessary for a thriving economy, the States shall regulate the earning of the public trust for any bearers of arms within range of the general public.

Under such an amendment, we can continue to interpret the second amendment close to the current interpretation for anyone who keeps and bears arms in locations that are outside of range of any member of the general public.  The general public being anyone who does not agree to be within range of an unregulated bearer of arms.

In modern times, for the most part we go about our daily business without the necessity of being armed all the time.  The new amendment would allow states to give public the confidence that any nearby bearers of arms will have earned the public’s trust.

For this definition, the range of a weapon concerns the distance where it is effective at injuring or killing a person; however, I would exclude from this definition any instrument that is capable of injury of death within a range of less than 20 feet.  Examples of such instruments include knives or blunt objects that can have non-violent purposes.  I would exclude such limited range instruments by arguing that there are more options for the public to keep a safe distance without too much inconvenience in conducting their daily lives.   For these amendments, I’m considering longer range weapons such as firearms obviously, but also air guns, sling shots, bow-launched arrows, or remotely operated drones.

Limiting the definition of arms to involve some form of projectile able to cause injury or death from distances greater than 20 feet will address my primary concern for people to engage in public without being burdened of watchfulness for threats or of having to carry their own weapons for self protection.

The new amendment does not exclude the bearing of such instruments within range of the general public.  Instead it grants the power of the state to set standards for establishing the public trust of the bearers of these instruments.

In particular, I would argue that the public trust standard would be similar to what the state requires for its police officers licensed to carry firearms.   At a minimum, a public trust for bearing of arms within range of the general public would involve a background investigation typically associated with recruiting police officers.  This is far more intensive than the current standard for background checks for purchasing firearms.   Again, I argue that the current standard suffices for arms kept and carried outside of range of the general public.   It is the keeping and bearing of weapons within range of general public that justifies the State to insist on a higher standard of public trust.   In effect, any person permitted to keep or bear arms in such close proximity to general public will have the background investigation qualification to be a local police officer.

My goal for the a new proposed amendment is to assure the public that they can conduct their normal daily business with confidence that anyone carrying weapon capable of injuring or killing them will have earned the public’s trust comparable to the trust we grant to police officers.

This seems very reasonable to me.

I am not an expert in law and certainly not constitutional law.   However, I am frustrated with the current debate about gun rights to be exclusively about the wording of an amendment written by people living some 12 generations earlier.  I would welcome a fresh debate on proposing a new amendment that confirms but updates the rights granted by the second amendment.  An amendment such as the above may advance the debate by minimally impacting gun rights for rural areas while allowing for closer regulation of public trust for arms in denser populations.

In terms of the right itself, I am somewhat ambiguous.  I do not have a gun and am not persuaded that I need one for self defense.  It has been nearly a half century since I’ve last fired a gun as I considered learning to shoot for sport or hunting, but I had greater interests elsewhere.   On the other hand, I generally support the concept that people should have access to guns if they want them.   I think they are legitimate for sport, hunting, and even for self defense.

Generally I support the basic right described in the second amendment, but my interpretation of the words “the People” is how I imagine 18th century people to interpret the concept as neighbors that they know and trust.   Today’s more dense populations places us in close proximity to large numbers of strangers we have no way of knowing or trusting.

To me it is prudent to enable the States to establish police-level public trust qualification for bearing arms in close proximity to strangers.  With just the current amendment, the courts have found that such more rigorous background checks are an unconstitutional infringement of the basic right.  The solution is to add an amendment to clarify that they states can impose more rigorous public trust standards for keeping and bearing arms in populated areas (areas where strangers may come within range of the weapon).

Whether or not such an amendment gets ratified is not as important as the impact on public debate that would result from the proposal of such an amendment that clarifies without repealing the second amendment.   A debate about a concrete proposed amendment would be far more productive than the debates I’ve experienced in the past several decades around how to interpret the existing amendment ratified by a culture that is far different from the modern culture.

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One thought on “Regulating the bearing arms within range of public

  1. Pingback: The first ten amendments to US Constitution misunderstood as a bill of rights | kenneumeister

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