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Charlie T Waite

What is required for proposed / changes of amendments to the Constitution

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Amendments to the Constitution, once ratified, become fully part of the Constitution. Changing or removing them requires a two-stage process that has proved historically difficult.


The Founding Fathers were willing to be edited, it seems, but they did not want it to be easy. So they made the amending process a steep uphill climb, requiring a clear national consensus to succeed.

Why it takes consensus


A proposed amendment to the Constitution must first be passed by Congress with two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate.  The two chambers have not achieved such a margin for a newly written amendment to the Constitution in nearly half a century. The last such effort was the 26th Amendment (lowering the voting age nationwide from 21 to 18), and it cleared Capitol Hill in March 1971.

(There has been another amendment added since, in 1992, but it had been written and approved by Congress literally generations ago.)  Even after surviving both chambers of Congress in 1971, the 18-year-old vote amendment still had to survive the second stage of the process — the more difficult stage.  Just like all the other amendments before it, the new voting age had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. That is currently at least 38 states. Another way to look at it: If as few as 13 states refuse, the amendment stalls.  This arduous process has winnowed out all but a handful of the amendments proposed over the past 230 years.  Every Congress produces scores of proposals, sometimes well over 100. The 101st Congress (1989 to 1991) produced 214.


Two that fell short


In 1995, a watershed year with big new GOP majorities in both chambers, two major constitutional amendments were brought to votes in the Capitol. One would have imposed term limits on members of Congress. It failed to get even close to two-thirds in the House, so the Senate did not bother.  The other proposed amendment would have required the federal government to balance its budget, not in theory down the road but in reality, and in real time. It quickly got two-thirds in the House but failed to reach that threshold in the Senate by a single vote (one Republican in the chamber voted no).  So even relatively popular ideas with a big head of steam can hit the wall of the amendment process. How much more challenging would it be to tackle individual gun ownership in a country where so many citizens own guns — and care passionately about their right to do so?  Overcoming the NRA and other elements of the gun lobby is only the beginning. The real obstacle would be tremendous support for guns in Southern, Western and rural Midwestern states, which would easily total up to more than enough states to block a gun control amendment.

A new Constitutional Convention?


If all the above seems daunting, as it should, there is one alternative for changing the Constitution. That is the calling of a Constitutional Convention. This, too, is found in Article V of the Constitution and allows for a new convention to bypass Congress and address issues of amendment on its own.To exist with this authority, the new convention would need to be called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures.  So if 34 states saw fit, they could convene their delegations and start writing amendments. Some believe such a convention would have the power to rewrite the entire 1787 Constitution, if it saw fit. Others say it would and should be limited to specific issues or targets, such as term limits or balancing the budget — or changing the campaign-finance system or restricting the individual rights of gun owners. There have been calls for an "Article V convention" from prominent figures on the left as well as the right. But there are those on both sides of the partisan divide who regard the entire proposition as suspect, if not frightening. 


One way or another, any changes made by such a powerful convention would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states — just like amendments that might come from Congress.  And three-fourths would presumably be as high a hurdle for convention-spawned amendments as it has been for those from Congress — dating to the 1700s.

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This is nice to hear,....BUT

What real difference does the second ammedment make when there are so many out there who just ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist or mean what it says?

It's been a LONG time since it ever really made a difference, if it ever did.

The 2nd was nullified the first time a town or state passed a gun contol law and the citizens let it stand.

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