Second Amendment-wise, let me get a few things out of the way before we get started:
I am not anti-Second Amendment, as far as it’s original purpose went, in that time and place.
I am not anti-gun, however I do tend to be anti-shooting of anything living.
I’m also not anti-gun owner. I’m fascinated by medieval swords, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever hack someone to death with one, any more than the average gun owner would be irresponsible with their usage. (Gun-buttheads, on the other hand…)
I understand hunting for food when there isn’t a Krogers within a mile or so, but don’t try to tell me hunting is a sport. There’s only two ways in which hunting could be considered a sport:
- Weaponless hunting. (i.e. mano-a-bestia) Just you and the bear, and may the best critter win.
- When they develop a weapon that an animal can accurately fire back. (In other words, you can bear arms if they can arm bears.) THEN it’s a sport. Until then, non-food hunting is just a substitute for a shriveled dick.
I do enjoy target shooting. In fact, that was my favorite part of the army (other than not “re-uping”).
I realize that, if you are properly trained in how and when to use it and when NOT to use it, there are situations where a gun is more or less appropriate. (Despite what the nutters think, churches, schools and bars are not among those places.)
Also, while I like to inject a bit of humor in my posts “to make the medicine go down.” And, there will be the usual amount of jabs & jibes at gun-buttheads in general, and the NRA in particular. But, don’t think for a second that I find real gun violence in the least bit funny. It is an absolute tragedy that in a lot of ways is uniquely American.
The Original Purpose Of The Second Amendment Was Not What The ‘Ammosexuals’ Think It Was!
There are many myths that have found their way into “the American Story:”
- Some were tall tales to begin with, like Pocahontas or George & the Cherry Tree.
- Some were twisted versions of real events like the Boston Tea Party. (It wasn’t about taxation and representation, it was about smuggling profits.)
- And, some have been shaped (and in some cases, distorted) to advance political goals.
Part 1 of this series is about one of those: The 2nd Amendment:
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.
27 words. A bit ungrammatical, even for back in the 1790’s. (And, believe me, I know ungrammatical sentences. I write them all the time.) Still, it looks pretty straight forward. Shouldn’t be any problem understanding it. Right?
Well……It’s amazing how a couple hundred years and varying political mind sets can alter the interpretation.
Ok, this is going to get rather nerdy to start off folks. (Nerdy words for wordy nerds?) Sorry ’bout that, but “sometimes ya jist gotta do whatcha jist gotta do, if ya wanna git’er done“. (And, you can quote me on that!)
There were actually two main versions of the 2nd, the one above that congress passed and one that the states ratified. (There were other versions, but they don’t count.) The differences were in capitalization and punctuation, so I used the Congressional version.
First thing to be done is take a close look at the key words in their 1791 context:
(adj.) Of a business, military outfit, routine, etc. controlled or supervised to conform to rules, regulations, tradition, etc.
(n.) From Latin militia for miles soldier (military service). In the 1580s, it meant “system of military discipline”. In the 1690’s it meant “citizen army” as distinct from professional soldiers. For what it meant it the 1790’s, I refer you to the 1st & 2nd Militia Acts of 1792 in which militias are addressed as state and local militia companies, not individuals.
And, then of course there’s that pesky ol’ constitution itself. Specifically Article 1, Section 8:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress
The Right Of The People:
This particular phrase is used in two other places in the Bill of Rights: The 1st & the 4th. The 1st deals with keeping mythology out of government and giving whackos the legal right to spout absolute garbage. (Without it, there would be no “Bullshit Mtn”.) The 4th deals with probable cause, search warrants and the like.
To both of these amendments, there are limitations. Speech may be free, but not if it’s libelous, or inflames violence. And, if you think that you are immune from warrantless searches and seizures, you haven’t been paying attention the last 12 years.
For instance, the IRS can read your email without a warrant if it’s stored in “the cloud” or if it’s in your computer over 180 days. (Seriously! They can!)
Still, the gun-buttheads seem to think their beloved 2nd is exempt from any type of restrictions. Even “District of Columbia v. Heller” didn’t go that far. (I’ll have more to say on “Heller” in pt. 2: To Heller & Back.)
Necessary To The Security Of A Free State:
In the 1790’s context, does the word “state” refer to geography such as Virginia or the U.S. or does it refer to the population? Neither! It refers to government, as in: “THE STATE“. Those Militia Acts were set up to deal with situations like Shays’ Rebellion
and (my personal favorite): The Whiskey Rebellion. (I covered that in “The Tea Potty (pt: 1 The Early Years)”.Citizen militias were supposed to be for the protection of the government against armed rebellions. This was essentially a continuation of English law dating back to the Assize of Arms of 1181. The Assize regulated the arming of certain classes of citizens to defend the government.
As Thomas Hughton explained it in 1877,
In all these measures (Assize of Arms, &c.) we may trace one main object, the strengthening of the Royal power, and one main means, or directing principle—the doing so by increasing the safety and security of the people. Whatever was done to help the people, served to reduce the power of the great feudal baronage, to disarm their forces, to abolish their jurisdictions. – The Student’s Summary of the Principal Events in English History with Notes. G. Philip & son. pp. 78–.
When the 2nd Amendment was ratified (1791) the weapons available to the military were the same the same weapons available to the general population. In fact, almost all of the weapons used by the colonists in the Revolutionary war were theirs. In colonial days, a rifle was an essential piece of farm equipment. Unless you lived in a town, a lot of your marketing was done in the surrounding forest. (Ralph’s and/or King Kullen hadn’t invented the supermarket yet.) Also, you needed rifles to fight off those damn pesky redskins that had the audacious idea that this was their land and we were all illegal immigrants. (They were right!) Actually, there were a lot more raids by immigrants practicing ethnic cleansing against the native population than the other way around. (But, we don’t talk about that aspect very much.)
Now, this may come as a shock to more than a few baggers and gun butts, but it ain’t the 1700’s any more, and civilian and military weaponry ain’t equivalent any more. Plus, I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Founding Daddy’s ever envisioned 650 rounds per minute weapons or 100 cartridge ammo clips, so saying that they would approve of their indiscriminate private ownership leaves a large gaping hole in logic.
Shall Not Be Infringed:
Viewed in the context of 1181 through 1792, this makes perfect sense. In the context of 2019, it is absolutely ludicrous.
Remember, that in the 1790’s the country wasn’t too firmly implanted yet. Plus, there had been a number of rebellions in the recent past such as the aforementioned Shays (MA 1786-87) and Whiskey (PA 1791), as well as the Negro Plot of 1741 (NY 1741), the War of the Regulation (NC & SC 1765-71), the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783 (PA 1783), and the then upcoming Frie’s Rebellion (PA 1799-1800).
The government needed men in arms, but couldn’t afford to pay for too many of them because of major financial problems. (See: The Tea Potty (pt: 1 The Early Years) The solution was simple: Let civilians join organized militias and pay for their own weapons. So, it made a great deal of sense to insert wording forbidding infringements. Otherwise, you could end up with a weaponless militia and what the hell good were those to the state?
All that being said, I’ve got a not-so-late-breaking news flash for ya: As I said under “the right of the people“, Constitutional rights are infringed all the time. From the FCC to the CIA, they all have lots of exceptions to “not infringing on your rights”. So, that whole argument is D.O.A.!
Lastly, the stated purpose for the Second Amendment (“being necessary to the security of a free State“) no longer exists. The U.S. military can defend the country from enemies both foreign and domestic quite nicely! (They damn well better be able to, we spend over 42% of the world’s military budget on them.)
In Part II of the series, I take a look at the legal history of the Second Amendment, and believe me, it ain’t dry history. Plus, I’ll examine SCOTUS’s “Heller” decision and explain why it’s an outlier ruling and probably won’t survive.
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