|Summer's End. Lexington Green, 11 September 2002. Photo taken in Minute Man National Historical Park. Sculpture : "Minuteman" by sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson (1863-1947), dedicated April 19, 1900. Erected 1899 : SIRIS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
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.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Everybody's Talking About Guns
There's a rising furor regarding the issues of gun control since the December Newtown school shooting incident. The Aurora theater massacre shooter is in the news of late with preliminary hearings underway. Continued reports of gun violence in the United States have been hitting the news on a daily basis.
The arguments for gun control and bans are one of the main media topics of the past month. President Obama and VP Biden are telling Americans that the issue of stopping gun violence is of top priority. The NRA lobby is on the defense while the anti-assault weapon soapbox is bubbling over with those who want to add their voice to the debate.
Who is right? What is the answer? The Second Amendment is the most cited defense by gun advocates. I think this might also be the most misunderstood and misinterpreted aspect of the argument on both sides.
In my post Should We Ban (Insert Topic Here)? I offered a brief overview of some of the topics that came to my mind because of the gun violence debate. I plan to address as many of these as I can on Tossing It Out in the future. In this current post the topic of guns themselves seems the best place to begin.
I'm no expert on guns or the constitution, but I'll attempt to tackle this based on the way I read the amendment, what I understand about history, and my interpretation as reasoned out by sense of logic. You experts can call me out on where I get it wrong. I'm going to try to keep this bare bones simple and I'll leave it to you to make it as complex as you wish. Don't worry if you disagree with what I say here. I'm just tossing out some ideas for you readers to consider. My own personal beliefs may not even be in agreement with what I say here so don't worry about offending me. We're just talking and trying to figure things out, right?
What Is the Second Amendment Saying?
We often hear the argument that citizens have the right to own guns for hunting, recreational shooting, personal protection, or collecting. In reality these are merely red herrings that have been added to confuse the original intent of the amendment. These may all have legitimate merit as reasons to be permitted to own guns, but these should not be part of the Second Amendment argument.
Let's dissect the amendment to see what it is saying:
A well regulated Militia... A militia is a regional defense force--a small army to be activated during emergencies. This is separate from our standing federal military branches. The militias consist of unpaid volunteers who assemble when regional defense in necessary, including incursion by foreign invaders, threats of local militant groups, or agents of an oppressive tyrannical government.
...being necessary to the security of a free State... The militias are for the protection of the citizenry. The point of having a militia is to keep our institutions, our families, our communities, and our values safe from those--meaning anyone--who would take them away from us and threaten our way of life. This threat can include our own United States federal government in extreme circumstances.
...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms... Citizens--the people who would constitute said militia--have the right to own and retain in their possessions weaponry that would be essential for maintaining a "well regulated Militia". They have the right to carry these weapons as I would interpret this clause and the nature of these weapons is not specified. If the federal army or invading alien forces have weapons, then the militia should have a reasonable amount of parity. I would go so far to interpret this as including machine guns, grenades, and hand-held rocket launchers.
...shall not be infringed. Neither the United States government nor any other government body can take this right away from us if we are acting in a responsible manner with our arms. Even the implicit threat in keeping a government registration or record of who owns guns and the history of the gun owners' affiliations might be questionable in that this knowledge could allow the government to impinge upon the rights and freedom of these individuals. Background checks and felony reports, though possibly a good tool for keeping guns out of the wrong hands, could even be questionable in certain cases.
Is The Second Amendment Outdated?
Arguments have been made that the founding fathers would not have intended their amendment to include anything other than simple single shot firearms. I would disagree. After all, these guys were revolutionaries who had just violently overthrown what they considered to be a tyrannical oppressive government that had a well armed occupying military force. The founders were aware of what means could be necessary to overthrow a government such as this and they understood the advantage of having a parity of power--that is, similar weapons as held by the enemies. We should not be expected to be holding our own against modern weapons with outdated eighteenth century muskets.
Another argument might be presented that we no longer need to worry about our government oppressing us. There are checks and balances in place. Our government will never turn on us and we will be protected by our government against any invaders. Can we necessarily absolutely depend on this?
Shouldn't we be able to keep arms of any sort just in case? The unthinkable could happen. But those who insist that since we are safe and that paranoid delusional fantasies will never happen, then what's the point of being armed and making preparations for such a thing. These conspiratorial fears are so unlikely there is no reason to be worrying about them.
Think about this: According to all odds, most of us will never be involved in a serious automobile accident, yet we feel safer with seat belts, air bags, and auto insurance. Even though there are a very small number of airplane crashes relative to the number of daily passenger flights, we feel much more secure knowing there are safety devices on board and plans of action in case of a flight emergency or disaster. The likelihood of most public buildings catching fire is relatively rare, yet it's common practice and a matter of law that they have fire extinguishers, alarms, and escapes.
The fact is that throughout many aspects of life we prepare ourselves for things that will probably never happen and we hope never will. But since they could happen, we prepare and accept this as the proper thing to do. Why shouldn't we be prepared for those long shot, but possible fears when it involves protection from the government or other potential threats? After all, government is people and people have been known to do some very bad things.
Even now, with the talk of bans, restrictions, and investigations, you should be paying close attention and thinking about who will protect you when the government starts taking away a freedom that you hold dear. Executive order anyone?
What freedoms are you willing to give up? What freedom do you personally hold so dear that you would fight to keep it? Is there anything worth fighting for? Worth killing for? Has any war been worth the cost?