Lack of gun control is unconstitutional -- look at the preamble!

Lack of gun control is unconstitutional -- look at the preamble!

After the campus shooting in Oregon, I thought of writing about the need for gun laws which would survive arguments about the U.S. Constitution.

I stopped for a while, disgusted with myself, when I caught myself wondering about timing this post before a mass shooting happens again. I hate thinking that. I hate worse that headlines on the radio this morning tell me that I missed — it has happened again. Already.

I’ve gotten out my university political science book and looked up the Constitution. I meant to re-read the Second Amendment and write about its original meaning, which we need to get back — but that’s not my subject right now.

Before I even got to the amendments, I re-read the preamble. I have heard it called the basis of “American values.”

It looked so foreign.

Here’s the text:

“We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure of the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.”

Both the murder rate (particularly in Chicago) and the rate of multiple murders, most of them with guns, strike me as repeatedly unconstitutional.

The lack of gun control is unconstitutional — it repeatedly violates the principles in the preamble. Let’s look at them, one by one:

to form a more perfect Union

People are dying in “war zones” across this city and country. That seems to be the new term for what other countries call “bad neighborhoods.”

While this continues, can we say honestly that the union (the country) is becoming more nearly perfect?

establish Justice

The justice of the mentally ill acquiring weapons of war, but not medications for cures?

The justice of one small child in Chicago not only being shot, but losing his mother, grandmother and unborn sibling — in the same shooting incident?

insure domestic Tranquility

Another mass shooting. The shooter. Gang wars.

Murdered schoolchildren. Lockdown drills.

How many school shootings since Newtown?

What’s tranquil about anything on this list?

provide for the common defence

Let’s be realistic: There was no police force as we know it when the Constitution was being written. The Constitution was defending us against unchecked government — not providing was for us to defend ourselves against one another.

promote the general Welfare

In my work, volunteering, and simply helping people on the street, I am asked often about addresses and neighborhoods.

Years ago, passing along help I received when traveling alone, I might tell a visitor, “I wouldn’t go there alone” or “It’s not a good neighborhood.”

Now, I’m more likely to say bluntly, “It’s not safe.”

Not everywhere; not yet. But “the general welfare” isn’t improving.

The general welfare of Chicago was in full view on page 1 of the Chicago Tribune on Sept. 30, with a headline reading “Chicago under the gun: The most violent month of the year.”

and secure of the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

When I go home in the evening via the crowded sidewalks of Michigan Avenue, I feel safe — when I pass a small group of police officers, once or twice, on the way to my bus.  While they defend us downtown and keep the blessings of capitalism from being stolen from the avenue’s shop windows, “ourselves and our posterity” are being shot to death in other parts of the city.

Do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION

How established is it? It is being betrayed, phrase by phrase.

for the United States of America.

For the sake of the country, unconstitutional laws are revoked. How about the unconstitutional lack of laws?

If you don’t agree with this — if you think that the whole murder-by-gun problem can be solved by stronger law enforcement, better mental health care, or any other factor — it is your First Amendment right to say so. But do say so! Let’s keep talking about this, and keep our politicians talking.

It’s long past time for the problem to be fixed.


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  • Unfortunately, the Preamble is hortatory, rather than of legal significance. Even more so than the "guarantee a republican form of government" clause (Art. IV, Sec. 4)., or the 9th Amendment.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thank you for starting the conversation, Jack -- and for giving the word "hortatory" some exercise. I don't think I can exclude the preamble from "legal significance," though. Elected officials take vows to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," not just selected parts of it.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    But then you get back to Marbury v. Madison that you have to find a court that has jurisdiction to issue a mandamus to that official, and a clear legal duty to do what you want. The Swiss seem to have adopted the NRA position that the way to keep domestic tranquility is to arm everyone. I'm not saying that's good policy, but Scalia proved that a linguistic analysis of the Second Amendment doesn't get you what you want. Also, it is an accepted tenet of legal construction that the specific prevails over the general.

    I contended that it is the federal government's responsibility to enforce the republican form of government clause, but would not win a suit to compel the Army to overthrow Mike Madigan.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hmm, you overthrew my attention there with thoughts of getting rid of Mr. Madigan. (Funny how Attorney General Ms. Madigan doesn't investigate Dear Ol' Dad, huh?)
    But I'm not proposing legal processes here -- only calling us back to look at our country's founding values.

  • Thank you so much for this important, post --- for caring about the quality of life in the wake of persistent gun violence enough to think about this deeply while reading closely the preamble to the U. S. Constitution.

  • In reply to folkloric:

    You're very welcome. Violence has changed the quality of life in this country, and we need to talk about how we can change back and live up to our values. It will take deep thought, which I am proud to encourage.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    HI lol im replying to this 5 yrs later, ok ima 8th grader and i COMPLEATLY disagre with u. 1 Amendment 2 of the first ten amendments, (i learnd all the amendment and the preamble cuz of histroy class and found this site because of reasearch im doing) we have the right and freedom of the rigt to bear arms, yes i do think there should be laws and diagnosis for people when buying guns and ammo, but if we have gun control and im talking like theres no more guns for the public, then what, are the people with ill intensions going to just hand their guns over? OF COURSE NOT!! it would be idiotic to say that. right now im trying to find great arguments for why there should not be gun control( but still laws) for my midterm in history. The project is to write about an issue then im going to send it to our state rep. ( rn i think the rep is democratic, but i know im republican.) so now, i hope this wasnt offensive and i hope i could help u see my point of view. (PS the gun control isint gonna happen, ppl can say it is but it isint cuz its the second amendment so in ur dreams theres going to be gun control)
    - Sincerely DI Mortals

  • In reply to Di Imortals:

    Dear DI, Thank you for finding this post and for replying. I am trying to see your point of view, but I'm not sure I understand it through your terrible spelling and punctuation. Writing takes practice, and I hope you're studying writing just as much as history.

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