If the Founding Fathers were told about Sandy Hooks, would the 2nd Amendment end up the same?

Time for that old GD favourite, guns! Apologies if the topic is somewhat stale.

The United States Constitution is a fascinating document, but the Founders would probably be horrified by the amount of reverence it gets, from me just now for example. They intended it to change based on the changing times and changing nation. Gun control advocates point out that the firearms in the 1790s when the Bill of Rights were written were single-shot and took approximately ages to reload. Something like an AR-15 would be naught but a fevered madman’s dream.

If we could show the Founding Fathers before the framing of the Constitution the capacities of today’s firearms and the results of many tragic incidents that prompt the debates today - Sandy Hook being only one of the most recent in a long list (hence the plural in the title) - would they alter the wording of the 2nd Amendment at all, unchanged since its inception? Or omit it entirely? Or would they view such massacres as a ‘price worth paying’?

Obviously they’re not some monolithic block and I don’t know them all well enough myself to make educated guesses, although I suspect Jefferson wouldn’t change a thing - the man who wrote;

What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? Madmen committing massacres was not the context - that was lives lost in armed rebellion - but I think he’d still view arms as absolutely essential if the people are to retain their liberties by, if necessary, taking on the government again.

Ben Franklin was possibly the most modern thinker of the Founders, and would be utterly shocked to his marrow by the thought of schoolhouses turned into slaughterhouses by armed citizens. A school massacre was known in the time of the Founders, but in the context of an Indian attack, rather different to today’s rampages.

Would the safety of children in his mind be worth sacrificing liberty in Franklin’s mind? What about the rest?

Well, I think it’s a horrible cop out in these what ifs to say something like this, but I’m going to say it:

The founders were from such a different time and place, and such a different outlook on a host of issues that theiropinion is basically irrelevant.

The FFs were radicals. They started an armed insurrection that resulted in thousands of people dying. It’s not entirely a given that their ideas on what is best for a society now long settled and structured for over 200 years will really be from a place we need to be hearing ideas. Our age of revolution is over, and the revolutionaries while important aren’t exactly the most likely source of reasonable opinions.

Even the most Federalist of the FFs had a very different view of the State governments versus the Federal government (except for maybe Alexander Hamilton, the only FF whose proposed plan of government was tilted more to the Federal government than the present day system); I would expect that would override most concerns. The FF didn’t view the Federal government as a system to solve all the ills of society, and would probably be baffled as to why the Federal government would respond to a series of murders in Connecticut in any way at all. The original conception of the Federal government is closer to what the EU has right now (although not quite as weak as the EU’s government) and not our modern day Federal system. Remember that as late as 1929 there was a sizable contingent of people who didn’t feel the Federal government had any valid reason to respond to a crippling economic depression, this was born from a long line of thinking dating back to the Founders themselves.

I’ve never been a strict-literalist because just like biblical literalism, the problem always comes down to “who decides what something literally says or means when the words themselves have opaque meanings?” However I do think the Founders would generally adopt the view that where the Constitution as written is straight forward it shouldn’t be abrogated by legislation or court rulings, but instead by amendment. The FF, in the Federalist papers, seemed to imagine that the amendment system would be used a lot more than it has been. A lot of them also saw the Constitution as a progression from what we had before (the Articles of Confederation) but didn’t expect it to be a “permanent” governing document. Many of them expected that some day down the road we’d come up with something else, probably something better. (I’d argue maybe we should have rewritten the whole thing after the Civil War.)

So I think the Founder’s would take the view that the constitution as written doesn’t really allow for things like Federal bans on all guns or probably even some of the extant gun laws our courts have said are okay (like the NFA.) At the same time they’d probably wonder, with a constitution we’ve found too difficult to amend and in some ways not in sync with our society why we never did what they did and create a new one. It’s not that radical an idea, lots of first world democracies have gone through several iterations of governing documents since ours went into effect in 1789.

You and I have a very different understanding of the word “somewhat.”

The 2nd Amendment has its origins in armed conflict. Perhaps knowledge of nuclear wapons would have driven the Framers to exempt them from the Amendment, but a more effective rifle strikes me as something that would impress rather than horrify them. The 2nd Amendment is very much about using weapons to kill people.

As for the overwrought “naught but a fevered madman’s dream,” you forget that this was the Age of Reason. More likely they would have thought the rifle’s mechanism ingenious, although a case against the inelegance of dirrect impingement could be made. :smiley:

I don’t know how to answer this, and it is probably a better fit for IMHO than GD. I’d like to think that they’d modernize the language to remove the obfuscating “militia” language. More likely they would be too busy being outraged by the military-industrial complex to pay attention to a few deaths no matter how young, wealthy, photogenic, and white they are. I think “a price worth paying” is a thoroughly modern framing of the situation and not one that would occur to them.

Franklin is a hard no, and frankly the idea that sacrificing liberty in the form of banning civilian firearm ownership would somehow increase the safety of children is debatable at best. I believe that your question is findamentally flawed in that it seems predicated on the idea that eliminating legal civilian firearms ownership would necessarily make anyone other than violent criminals safer.

Possibly they’d have expanded a little on “well-regulated”.

There’s nothing there to expand upon. “Well-regulated” does not refer to the type of regulation we think of today. It simply means “in good working order” or “properly maintained.”

Well, then they could have expanded on what constitutes proper maintenance. I assume gunned-down first-graders do not represent an expected or desired result. Replacing one vague term for another isn’t really a useful response.
In any case, rather than speculate on what they might have done, what did they actually do? Surely murders happened in the first few decades after independence, even with the primitive firearms of the day. Were there old men in 1836 who remembered the ratification of the Bill of Rights and looked at Colt’s new revolver and said “uh-oh, I don’t like where this is going…” ?

I don’t know if they would be as upset about the capacities of the firearms as they would be about the capacities of modern mass murderers. I suspect they would have been much more hesitant to write the 2nd and/or been much more explicit that it applied to organized militia/police. I doubt they would have regarded the slaughter of children as a “price worth paying” as the current crop of gun lovers does.

People forget that the Founders came down from Philadelphia, not Mount Sinai. They were men of their times and wrote slavery and sexism into the “sacred” Constitution. I think we do ourselves a grave disservice by the worship that so many have for them.

The misapprehension that some have that gun ownership falls under the umbrella of “liberty” is seriously delusional.

This is repeated so many times that many accept it without question. I personally think someone made it up to bolster his argument and by repetition is regarded as true.

I’d rather like to think that they’d take a reasoned, deliberate view of this tragedy; observe that it and other mass shootings are isolated, rare events; and then proceed not to base a fundamental law of general application on such an isolated, rare event. But that’s the same thing I’d hope of the legislators of today.

Yes, this is key. I think the FFs would have said:

Hey, fuck-heads. We gave you a way to amend the constitution specifically because we knew it would need to change over time. Get to it!!

Then they would have said:

You guys have a Negro president? Day-um!!

If you still think this after the myriad debates on the subject then all I can say is that you are deliberately ignorant on the subject. Whether you accept the argument or not, thinking someone just made this up is deliberate ignorance.

As to the OP:

They would have thought that they gave us a living document and the mechanisms to change it, and expected us to actually use them. They would have been appalled by the dishonest and disingenuous use of the courts in the 60-90 by anti-gun types trying to circumvent those mechanisms AND the will of the people in their attempts to ban guns from private citizens, and been puzzled as to why it’s an issue, since there is nothing precluding regulation. They would have also realized that, tragic as school shootings and other mass murder is, it represents a very infrequent occurrence by obviously crazy nutters who could have found other means to achieve the same thing without a gun if they really, really wanted to go off the deep end and kill random children. That sort of thing wasn’t exactly unknown in the past after all, crazy people being with us for a long time.

I’m fairly sure Madison would have pushed to get his original draft through, instead of the fucked up garbled mess we ended up with. He’d have pointed out how confusing the language became 200 years down the pike (just look at how confused Bob is still, after myriad debates on this). And they would have still put the second in, because they felt it was necessary, and they realized that while we might get magical weapons in the future, THEY didn’t have them, and for all the reasons they felt the 2nd was necessary still applied. And they would have, as noted earlier, been puzzled as to why, having given us the mechanisms TOO change, if we really wanted too, there was an issue. Obviously the majority of Americans still want some form of gun ownership, obviously we CAN regulate that ownership and curtail it if we want too, and obviously if that changes the mechanisms exist for us to get rid of the 2nd if we really, really want too. So, what the fuck is the problem?

You’re right. The authors of the second amendment weren’t aware guns could kill children. I’m sure if someone had alerted them to this fact ahead of time, murder would be a thing of the past.

I am sorry for your confusion. Surely if the phrase “well regulated” meant “in good working order”, it would say so in the Heller decision, wouldn’t it? Oh wait…

Yeppers, the Sandy Hook killer, the Columbine killers, the Aurora shooter, they were properly disciplined, all right.

If the Founding Fathers had been given Sherman tanks, would the Civil War have turned out differently?

But those murders were already against the law. This isn’t a thread about the right to murder, because that right doesn’t exist.

Surely, more laws would have prevented these acts, right? Because breaking one law is one thing, but breaking two laws is going too far, even for mass murderers like Adam Lanza.

I wonder how surprised they’d be to learn that the first trimester of pregnancy is protected by their document from any state restriction on abortion.

Don’t be absurd. The founders wrote their documents according to standards and practices of the times and gave us a way to amend it as necessary. Had they access to the technology of the time they certainly would have employed and lauded it. They also would have likely been more circumspect in their language as it applies to general arming of the populace. The damage one man can do in seconds today would have required a large number of armed men acting in concert, likely over a longer period of firing in their time. There are any number of checks to that type of massacre occurring given those circumstances. So to the OP my answer is “no”. It likely would have looked something more like the requirements laid out for voting, with restrictions on who could qualify.

The FF might have found it interesting that the mentally ill are not locked up, that criminals are not branded, whipped, burned alive, put into the public stocks, etc. They might have looked crime recidivism and wondered why we allowed them back on the streets.

Then they would see youtube on the iPad and spend the rest of their visit searching for funny videos.

And porn.

Consider the Founding Fathers came from era when children the age of the Sandy Hooks victims were sometimes already part of the workforce and some of them did die as a result of dangerous jobs (though not as in great a numbers as would occur when the Industrial Revolution took over) and that slave children were already subject to inhumane conditions, I suspect the Founding Fathers would have shrugged and said, “Things happen, it’s part of life.”

I’m pretty sure the authors of the Bill of Rights knew that guns could kill you. They were also quite aware that they could protect you.

I wonder who caught and apprehended James Holmes after he murdered 12 people in a movie theater? Was it an unarmed person, or someone with a gun? Are you comfortable trusting your life solely to minimally trained government employed strangers? Or would you rather have the right – whether you use it or not – to train and protect yourself if necessary? What if you could, without spending a dime of government money, have a police force in your town an order of magnitude larger than the professional force, randomly deployed all over your town 24/7 ready to protect you if necessary?

That’s what the second amendment authors were thinking. Do you really think they considered banning guns, but figured they just weren’t dangerous enough? “Oh, guns, they’re no big deal, it’s not like you can kill that many people with them. Keep 'em legal for now, and we’ll worry about it again when they get dangerous!” Yeah right. The power that firearms provide is the exact reason their possession is guaranteed, not something the founders just didn’t consider.