The Second Amendment is not now, nor has it ever been about personal safety or hunting. The arguments about whether you would be ready to defend yourself are moot. The arguments about what types of weapons the Constitution meant are incidental.
Bringing the Constitution into a discourse about Constitutional rights puts me in a particular camp these days, I know. According to Ed Kilgore, I’m in a cult. “The cult of the Second Amendment”, he calls it (TPM, October7 2015). “…To a remarkable extent, the default position of conservatives has less and less to do with arguments about the efficacy of gun regulation or the need for guns to deter or respond to crime. Instead, it’s based on the idea that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep open the possibility of revolutionary violence against the U.S. government.”
Very good, you passed high school civics. He says this as though the Second Amendment had a lot of words in it that were hard to follow.
It’s one sentence, guy, and it goes like this: “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.” So yes, that is pretty much what it’s about.
I disagree that it becomes “less and less” about the other stuff. I see Conservatives often trying to humanize a debate about deadly weapons, trying to spin it away from the real implications of the second amendment and making it sound like a soccer mom’s breakfast conversation, and they are right to do so. The right to keep and bear arms, like the right to free speech and free exercise of religion, were not immediately included in the Constitution; that’s why they came to be Amendments. Those rights were considered at the time to be “inalienable”, in other words, natural. They weren’t “rights” given to the people by the government; they were rights which already existed, inherently. The people of the new United States simply wanted in writing that these things would not be infringed upon before the business of electing a president, who could turn out to be a despot. Power corrupts, right, but we still have to wake up every day and trust that people are basically good.
It is no small thing that the citizens are endowed with so many rights and responsibilities. I didn’t really want to write about gun laws, but I have since girlhood understood our right to bear arms as one of the pillars of American freedom. But when I was a girl, there were some good things left. What is there now to defend? That’s just me waxing poetic after ingesting too much media. I ask you to consider, nonetheless, what kind of a government we could expect once we give it absolute power. Or maybe you don’t mind, really. Obama and Hillary Clinton talk openly about executive orders they will issue on guns and free speech, and no one on the Left minds at all. Remember when you were a kid and you were going to resist the patriarchy, and the injustice of the world seemed too much to bear? And now you’re gonna fight it with a goddam latte? Why is the counter culture now about upholding the status quo of government? Man, have we gotten lazy.
The Second Amendment gets picked apart a lot, especially the part about about whether or not one must be part of a militia for the law to apply. We should ask ourselves then, who would be given the right to decide what a militia is and what it is allowed to stand for. While we could debate which comes first; the militia or the free state, it is helpful to know that it was James Madison who penned that short amendment. Because he also penned the section which reads:
“When a long train of abuses and usurpations… evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security —”
The framers of the Constitution trusted you to know what your government should be about better than the government itself. They wanted you always to have that option, as a series of checks and balances, just like the branches of government.
I have to ask, and you should, too: What happens when we remove an Amendment to the Constitution? We’ve reframed the context in which we view America’s founding fathers, so the next logical step is that we will begin to call into question all of their works, indeed the bedrock of our governing principles. The Second Amendment, like many others, was in fact demanded by the people as they were preparing to elect their first president. What comes next as we dismantle the patriarchy, or whatever?
You’ll notice, though, that there has not been, in many lifetimes, an uprising, popular or unpopular, involving militias, but the balance remains. Just as a point of reference, here is what happened when England banned guns, according to British Parliament member Oliver Letwin: “The only word for this is failure: the Government’s response of knee-jerk reactions, gimmicks and initiatives is not working…” Gun crime soared when criminals were assured that only criminals would have guns. And since the lifting of gun bans in Washington D.C. crime is at its lowest since 1963. Clearly guns can have an equalizing force without even being used. I suspect this is at least a part of what Madison had in mind.
What gun supporters would like to know is what is this gun-control argument really about? We like evidence in our health care, we like evidence when we buy cars or make food choices. How about looking at evidence when we make gun laws? There are already laws on the books requiring background checks which include quite a lot of personal information kept on record. Let’s look at the evidence for what lowers crime. Evidence on what lowers crime shows us that police and punishment could have a huge and useful impact on the awful, sad, and largely ignored violence in Chicago, Oakland, Hartford, and other major centers of crime where guns have been made illegal and people are shot every day. If this is really about protecting people, then why not do what works? Anti-Second Amendmenters are remiss in failing to ask these questions, and in failing to ask exactly why the government wants to disarm citizens. The current and historical evidence shows that it is not, in fact, for our safety.