Mark Heinig Jr.

On Feb. 14, it seemed unlikely our nation could overcome its paralysis any time soon. Now, some things are happening in Camelot-on-the-Potomac, which suggest our leaders may begin doing what we elected them to do: Run the country! Could we be observing a transfer of power from the NRA back to the American people, to whom it rightly belongs?

It’s a slim chance that will soon disappear if the reigning plutocrats get their way. Maybe it’s unrealistic to hope the politicians we elected to sail our ship of state will steer us into safe waters. They still remain at the helm, and they seem quite content with the route the plutocrats have ordered them to take.

Nevertheless, there may be reason to hope. Has the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School convinced us enough is enough? Maybe soon, but not yet! For the moment, the politicians continue to fear the plutocrats more than the people. They are squirming and squealing as they desperately seek a scapegoat to divert attention from their cowardice and lack of character. This moment won’t last forever, but this time they may find no scapegoat. They may have to accept their responsibility for the school massacres and other mass shootings that place all of us in mortal danger. If that occurs, the power of the polls may finally prevail.

Owning a weapon that fires 45 to 60 rounds per minute is pointless, but NRA members and their pals on Capitol Hill still fight to preserve it. In their eagerness to defend the right to own AR-15s, they may destroy the Second Amendment as it exists today. It gives us the right to protect our homes, our families and ourselves from violence, but how often does violence occur 45 to 60 times a minute?

The Second Amendment says: “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.” What exactly do those words mean? We have pondered that question for 226 years, and the answer still eludes us. We are no closer to consensus than we were on Dec. 15, 1791, when Congress ratified the Second Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. If we haven’t agreed on an answer by now, will we ever? Maybe we aren’t supposed to. Maybe, a single correct answer for every situation and every age isn’t the Almighty’s plan.

Maybe the plan is to find different interpretations of the Constitution to reflect our needs as they change in different eras. When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention approved the Second Amendment, the original 13 states were sparsely populated and primarily agrarian. Modern methods of law enforcement did not yet exist. We had no standing army. Local militiamen were expected to protect us from civil disturbances and foreign invasions. However, the militiamen were not professional soldiers. They were part-timers, citizen soldiers who enlisted for brief periods that didn’t interrupt planting and harvesting. They were inadequately supplied and poorly equipped. They carried their own muskets, the same weapons they used to hunt game and protect themselves in isolated frontier communities.

Those muskets were slow and inaccurate. Exceptional marksmen might get off three or four rounds a minute, but they didn’t hit their intended targets often. Their muskets had no sights. That’s why every soldier’s musket had a bayonet. In close quarters, a bayonet was more effective than a musket. Any modern rifle can be fired more rapidly and accurately than those ancient muskets did. Bayonets are still useful, but not as necessary as they once were. Our need for firearms is very different now. We use them for sport and self-defense, but they are more powerful and faster than civilians truly need.

If the mass shootings continue, especially school shootings, many more Americans may begin to wonder if we should change the Second Amendment itself. Even another constitutional convention might become a realistic possibility. If that happens, every part of our federal government could change drastically. We shouldn’t forget the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia from May 25 to Sept. 17, 1787, was called to fix the American government, not to replace it. But we did replace it. If it happened once, it could happen again!

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana principal and teacher. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com

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