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Posted on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

Gun Control: Amend the Second Amendment?

By Wayne Baker

1221 Bill of Rights.jpg
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing gun control.

The heinous killing of 20 schoolchildren and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. has the nation in mourning. And it has riveted attention on the controversial issue of gun control.

Finally, this week, let’s ask the big question: Is it time to amend the Second Amendment?

Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, this week we’ve discussed the call for stricter gun control, as well as erroneous claims made by gun advocates, Harvard’s finding that more guns = more homicides, and public opinion about various approaches to reduce mass killings like Sandy Hook.

We’ve also tracked the counter on the user-initiated online petition at in support of gun control. Yesterday evening, it had grown to over 410,000 signatures.

Today, we consider the meaning of the Second Amendment. Apparently, there were two versions, one passed by Congress, and the other ratified by the States. (Here’s a summary of the history.) The Congressional version read: “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.” And the state-ratified version: “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’m not a constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that both texts are ambiguous. They’re certainly not well written. Did the framers of the Constitution intend that bearing arms was necessary only for a militia (remember that the British tried to disarm the colonists) or does it also include the right for individuals to bear arms who have nothing to do with a militia?

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court in close decisions concluded that “the right of the people” means that individuals can buy and own guns. The minority, however, argued that the text restricts the bearing of arms to the militia. It is not an individual right. So, if gun control advocates want to restrict the individual right to keep and bear arms, it might take a Constitutional amendment.

Is the Second Amendment out of date?

Would you support an amendment to restrict the bearing of arms to a militia?

Do we need to protect the individual right to bear arms?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

AGAIN, Wayne Baker offers us "questions" about our basic ( inalienable ) rights from behind the facade of the University of Michigan. Let's consider "revising" the 2nd Amendment as follows: "Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state" - Michigan State Constitution: Article 1, Section 6. There you have it Wayne: your desired improvement in the U.S. Constitution. Happy now? :-) Also, our Michigan State Flag portrays a man with his right hand raised in peace. His left hand holds a gun to say that although we love peace, we stand ready to defend our State, our Nation, our Rights and Ourselves. The Latin motto just above the man, "Tuebor," means "I will defend". That plain enough for you, Wayne? Does that help you understand the underlying importance of this issue which you're playing with? If you don't like it, Wayne, maybe you'd better move somewhere where the peoples' right to defend themselves is forbidden. How about Uganda ?- where over 100,000 disarmed civilians were systematically slaughtered. It's disgraceful IMO, Wayne Baker: because you have a job which requires clear thinking and adherence to the rules of logic. You violate the the rule which says that, when making a cause and effect argument: you must correctly identify the cause (as well as the effect). The issue isn't about the 2nd Amendment at all: it's about having adequate means of self defense and the defense of loved ones. It's not really about militias - the real issue is disarming American citizens. Inaccurate or deceptive - which is it? Wayne's Premise: because a lone individual USED a gun when creating an awful tragedy, I suggest we tinker with the US Constitution so that MILLIONS of normal people will be disarmed (and helpless). – That's an extreme (and crazy) solution: which makes you, Wayne Baker of the University of Michigan - an extremist.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

The writers of the second amendment never anticipated semi automatic weapons, much less high capacity clips for ammunition. And exploding ammunition was not foreseen either. All three of these should be banned for sale to the general public. In my opinion, Manufacturers should be required to buy these things back from owners at their own expense. All people who wish to purchase legal weapons must be subject to the 14 day waiting period and background checks. Sporting hunters have no need of semi automatic weapons. Militia members (however they are defined) have no need for that sort of weapon either. Finally, if reasonable people cannot agree on these fundamental measures, then perhaps the second amendment is overdue for clarification.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:48 a.m.

Try - for once- to offer some real life experience and scholarly support for your OPINIONS. What is your gripe with guns? Obviously, all the mass killings your type get so worked up over are caused by young males, mostly unemployed - loners with "social adjustment problems." You make cause and effect arguments: without properly identifying the cause. You're a failure at intellectual effort. If you're going to advocate banning guns - then concentrate on banning psychos or at least putting some limits on what psychos can have in the way of weapons. You're a lazy thinker: so that's a good project for you to work on to improve your poor thinking. Solve the Psychos Among Us Problem - report back in a week with your genius solution. :-)


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

The founders were not gun lovers for guns sake. They had seen in Europe and elsewhere that tyrants had let nobody other than themselves, their armies and some supporters have arms. Made it very hard for anyone to stand up for himself, family or others without being killed immediately. Their feel that it was important for free men to have arms to keep themselves free was a major one and the resulf was the second admendment. Not the fifteenth or eighteenth, the second. Funny how gun haters love to forget what tool was used to earn their freedoms.