THE SECOND AMENDMENT

5 07 2014

obama-gun-control(note: this is an expanded version of a post that originally appeared in my “Holsinger for House” blog.)

 

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, “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 believe the operative phrase here is “a well regulated Militia.”  Allowing any frightened person in the country to carry a concealed weapon is not “a well-regulated Militia.”  It is the very opposite of “a well regulated Militia.”

The framers of the Constitution included this amendment in part because they had lived through the circumstances that sparked the American Revolution, when British troops attempted to seize Colonial weapons caches at Lexington and Concord.  The framers wanted to decentralize the possession of weapons and ammunition in order to avoid a repeat of this situation.  Weapons were intended for use by “a well-regulated militia.”  The other purpose for these “well-regulated militias” was to assure the slaveholding states that they could maintain a local armed force to keep their slaves, i.e., their African-American population, from rebelling.  While this fear is strangely echoed in the subtext of the debate over gun control, for instance in the “stand your ground” laws that have resulted in the deaths of numerous unarmed African-Americans at the hands of trigger-happy whites, the intent of the Second Amendment was clearly to allow individuals to keep and bear arms for legitimate purposes, not to create a nervous and over-armed citizenry that actually detracts from “the security of a free State.” Firearms are basically high-tech rock throwers.  Imagine a large percentage of the population walking around with a half-dozen or more fist-sized rocks in their possession.   Would that be a desirable state of affairs?

unnamedEven the U.S. Supreme Court, which, as part of its literally “unprecedented” right-wing activism initially moved to roll back gun control laws, seems to have decided that maybe allowing  anyone who so desires to carry a gun and fire at will is a bad idea.  Since the NRA’s victories in D.C. vs. Heller, and MacDonald vs. Chicago, the Supremes have kept the NRA on a fairly tight leash, refusing to hear a half-dozen cases that sought to radically expand the parameters of gun ownership.  When I look at their overall record, that’s about the nicest thing I can say about the Roberts court, but that’s a subject for another time.  Don’t get me started!

OK, I can’t help myself–one little thing–how the BLEEP did we end up with five reactionary Catholic guys being the ultimate arbiters of justice in this country?  “The Republicans nominated them!” my “liberal friends froth…to which I can only add, “and the Democrats approved them.”  Ain’t the two-party system wonderful?  But I digress…

Unlike the Supremes, I take a  “strict constructionist” view of the Second Amendment, and have to note that, while it guarantees “the right to keep and bear arms,” it doesn’t say anything about ammunition.  While I recognize that limiting access to ammunition is not a political likelihood at this point, I am strongly in favor of doing just that.  Maybe ammunition for hunting rifles should only be available to people with hunting licenses, around hunting season.  Handgun ammunition should be very, very expensive, because everybody knows the only purpose of a handgun is to threaten, injure, or kill another human being.  Handgun ammunition costs around fifty cents a bullet.  Should fifty cents be the price of a human being’s life?

I think Chris Rock states the case very well:

“You don’t need no gun control, you know what you need? We need some bullet control. Man, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost five thousand dollars… five thousand dollars per bullet… You know why? Cause if a bullet cost five thousand dollars there would be no more innocent bystanders.
Yeah! Every time somebody get shot we’d say, ‘Damn, he must have done something … Shit, he’s got fifty thousand dollars worth of bullets in his ass.’
And people would think before they killed somebody if a bullet cost five thousand dollars. ‘Man I would blow your fucking head off…if I could afford it.’ ‘I’m gonna get me another job, I’m going to start saving some money, and you’re a dead man. You’d better hope I can’t get no bullets on layaway.’
So even if you get shot by a stray bullet, you wouldn’t have to go to no doctor to get it taken out. Whoever shot you would take their bullet back, like “I believe you got my property.”

I think a background check and a licensing process are reasonable requirements for gun ownership.  In order to own and drive a car, a person must pass both a written and a driving test, purchase insurance, and buy a license for themselves and their vehicle, all of which is, in effect, a background check,   Guns have far more lethal potential than automobiles.  Shouldn’t the standard be even higher for gun ownership?  “A well-regulated Militia” implies to me that its members  meet some kind of standard for sanity, competence, and intelligence, and undergo training so they can function as a group if it should be necessary.  Isn’t that what “well-regulated” implies to you?

To me, “A well-regulated Militia” does not imply that the militia members get to carry their guns with them wherever they go.  Even if I thought there was a rationale for the use of force, the “well-regulated militia” our founders spoke of was only to be mobilized in a state of crisis, such as an invasion, or, well,  a slave revolt.  I don’t think we are in such a crisis, but a lot of Americans, it seems, are worried enough to want to carry firearms.  As the “war on drugs'” failure to curb marijuana use proves, government regulations will not necessarily prevent people from doing what they passionately want to do.  I think we need to ease the climate of fear that causes people to feel that they need to carry weapons.

But all the above assumes that we “need” militias.  From a “Deep Green Perspective,” the use of force or intimidation never achieves its desired objective, whether we are speaking of war, the conduct of civil society, interpersonal relationships, or individual psychology.  Suppression and repression do not solve problems, they only put them off for another day, when they will return with even more energy from having been squashed down. Anger begets anger, and violence begets violence.

Ratcheting down the polarization of our society requires people to start listening to, and talking to, each other.  Not just friends and people we know we agree with, but people we don’t know well, with whom we may disagree strongly.  Maybe promoting cross-cultural dialogue is a good thing for local government to work on, but it won’t be easy, since an essential  step in creating a reconciliatory discussion is for all parties to perceive that at least part of their “problem” is not “the other guy,” but their own attitude, and another is a willingness to listen.  Both are, alas, in short supply these days.

Whatever we may think about the Second Amendment, the state of civil society, or the future in general, we are all on the same small planet, there’s nowhere else to go, and we need to get along with each other.

Grateful Dead, “Mr. Charlie

U2  “Happiness is a Warm Gun

Jackson Browne–“Lawless Avenues

 

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8 responses

7 07 2014
American

Interesting take on the 2nd Amendment. If England would have had better gun control laws then the revolution would have never happened. If England would have taken the rifles from their citizens and allowed only the Soldiers of the Crown to use them, our nation would have never been born.

I find your post, in all honesty, hypocritical. The reason is simple, you speak of how the Farm was brought down by the FBI and the CIA – a shadow government. Yet, you speak of only allowing the government and criminals to own guns – for they are one and the same in many cases. What happens when they come for you?

What should happen when the “well regulated militia” turns on the people? Gun violence is a sad thing. Loss of life of any kind is a sad thing. Could it be a governmental attempt to make the people so sick of guns they want to give them up? I own guns. I rarely hunt. I serve my community in many ways. However, I would use my guns to defend my family if someone invaded my home or community. I am thankful for the officials and service men and women of any stripe that keep our streets and communities safe. I pray they never turn, but we see them take orders all the time against peace loving Americans all because some politician thinks they should be stopped. Meanwhile, drug lords are carrying out tactical maneuvers in our cities and small towns.

It is certain, some people and corporations shun personal responsibility and it is up to our court system to hold them accountable.

In a society that glorifies violence, death, lewd and lawless behavior – what should we expect? In a society where the love of money has driven corporate greed – our environment will suffer. What to do but to get back to a simpler time. We can’t. We are addicted to convenience, entertainment, and pleasure. We call those things freedom – but they are only tools of distraction to numb our minds into lazy living and satisfied existence.

9 07 2014
brothermartin

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Patriot. It deserves a longer response than I can give it right now, but I promise to give this the attention it deserves ASAP. Please note, however, that I did not “speak of only allowing the government and criminals to own guns.” Quite the opposite, in fact: I said:

As the “war on drugs'” failure to curb marijuana use proves, government regulations will not necessarily prevent people from doing what they passionately want to do

I don’t see any point in substituting a bound-to-fail “war on guns” for the failed “war on (some) drugs.” Sure, it would provide busy work for (hopefully) soon-to-be unemployed DEA agents, but there’s better things for them to do and better ways to spend our tax dollars.

I have a few things I need to take care of first, but I am very interested in responding to your comment at length in the very near future. Thanks again!

4 08 2014
Caz

I’m not sure of what the legal case number is but the 2nd Amendment was clarified to allow anyone to carry guns, not just a militia.

5 08 2014
brothermartin

Yes, I pointed that out in the story, but also pointed out that it was done by a rogue Supreme Court that has trampled a number of precedents in the name of “conservatism,” and that even the SCOTUS seems to have thought better of that decision, and declined to push those limits any further. Since the Supremes decided that corporations are people, with the right to free speech/spending on political causes and the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees, should we respect those decisions, too?

5 08 2014
Caz

“The law is the law, Oblio.”

6 08 2014
Caz

You continue to leave out the real reason for guns; “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”
— Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334
However, this is becoming a mute point because the establishment police are arming up with military weapons: bazookas, flame throwers, machine guns, hand grenades, armor piercing bullets and tanks. And if that is not enough to squelch an uprising, the military will be called in.

6 08 2014
brothermartin

Yep, at this point, the gummint has pretty much any group of amateurs outgunned, removing armed resistance as a useful tactic even if you think it’s OK to kill people, which I do not. As I’ve commented elsewhere, revolutions/revolts generally succeed not when they overcome the military/state control apparatus, but when the individuals in that apparatus decide that they have more to gain by throwing in with the revolution than by upholding the interests of their current employer.

6 08 2014
brothermartin

And you obey and do not challenge all the laws on the books?

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.,,,One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of nonviolence says that violence should be resisted not by counter-violence but by nonviolence.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

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