Finally, President Obama stood up to Republicans in Congress and the gun lobby that owns them. And not surprisingly, his announced plans to take action on gun violence triggered a volley of loony objections from the Second Amendment cult: “IT’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!! HE’S PLANNING TO TAKE AWAY OUR GUNS!!! IT WON’T STOP GUN VIOLENCE!!! IT’S JUST LIKE HITLER!!!
Media Matters did a good job of addressing most of the negative comments about the president’s specific proposals. But there are certain general attacks that always greet any kind of proposed action to reduce gun violence. They are based on certain beliefs that are not only false but dangerous. The most common are these:
- The Second Amendment was intended to ensure that citizens can do battle against their own government.
- “Gun Control” is a hallmark of tyranny.
- Armed civilians can successfully defend themselves against malicious government forces.
- Guns make us safer, and the more guns we have, the safer we are.
We’re going to look at each of these in its own separate post. Let’s get started with this one:
Dangerous Belief # 1: The Second Amendment was intended to ensure that citizens can do battle against their own government.
This is actually a subsidiary myth, with the primary myth being that the Second Amendment was intended to guarantee all citizens a right to be armed. But thoroughly dismantling the immense stack of falsehoods surrounding that claim will take more space than we’ve got here (See later posts).
Yet it should be obvious to anyone who actually reads the Second Amendment and has a basic grasp of the mother tongue that it is, to say the very least, a semantic swamp that leaves a great deal of ambiguity about the supposed right to own firearms for private use; and wherever there is any ambiguity at all, there are no absolutes. Thus, there is no absolute right to own a gun. Which means the notion that there is a right to own a gun to defend yourself against the big bad guvmint is a non-sequitur.
It would behoove the NRA crowd to realize that there is more to the Constitution than just one amendment. If they could only extricate their combat boots from the muck of the Second Amendment, even just long enough to move a few steps back to the original seven articles of the Constitution — the ones written before the Sacred Second or any other amendment was appended– they might learn that a true “militia”, such as they fancy themselves to be, answers to the President Of The United States, rather than trying to plot his downfall:
(Article 2, Section 2)
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…
So if they are an actual militia, then President Obama would only have to call them into “actual service”, and they’d be obligated to take orders from him, if they truly are the “patriots” they style themselves. Doesn’t matter whether or not they like him or his complexion — oops, I mean his policies, of course. Furthermore, if they have the fortitude to read only a little further, they might learn that taking up arms against their country not only is not patriotic, it’s the very definition of treason:
(Article 3, Section 3)
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort…
Treason is a very serious crime. It’s often been punishable by death. And yet you really believe that the Founders went to all the trouble of inserting an amendment into the Constitution so that U.S. citizens would have the opportunity — nay, even the right and duty — to commit such a serious offense?
This myth is particularly dangerous because since the Second Amendment does not mention tyranny, it of course does not define tyranny. That leaves the gun culture to dream up its own definitions, which tend to be deranged and egocentric. Quite often, “tyranny” is anything that happens when they don’t get their way one hundred percent: hence the slogan “if ballots don’t work, bullets will”. Many of them consider President Obama a tyrant because he wants to make sure they have healthcare.
At this writing, one cringe-worthy example of what often happens when children of white privilege have too much time on their hands and too many toys to play with is taking its course in Oregon, where an armed “””militia””” has taken over an isolated pit stop and threatened violent action if they don’t get themselves excused from the penalties of law that apply to everyone else.
No matter how valid their complaint may have been to begin with, does it really justify this kind of behavior? So far, their actions have not resulted in any violence, but what do you suppose would happen if the big bad guvmint responded to them the same way it responded to UNARMED protesters for Black Lives Matter?
These “””patriots””” supposedly came to defend a couple of Oregon ranchers who were duly convicted of arson after setting fires on public land to destroy evidence of other crimes, boasting about their deeds and vowing to “light up the whole country on fire”. Those two, meanwhile, have faced up to their punishment and have said they don’t want the “””militia””” representing them.
Doesn’t matter. The “””patriots”””, led by a couple of other ranchers from Nevada, have decided to take up the gauntlet against the evil guvmint, from whom they receive several forms of assistance to fatten their purses, and have drastically rewritten the nation’s history in the process. And they’ve expanded their narrative to pose as constitutional and legal experts in making the case that the federal government in general has no authority to administer public lands — even though the Constitution and the courts say otherwise.
They have pledged to stay until the death if they are not crowned emperors; yet, while they remembered to bring plenty of weapons and lead, they apparently didn’t think they might also need food during their mission of indefinite duration. Consequently, they have appealed for more handouts — this time from their admirers, but the survival rations are to be delivered by the USPS — another branch of the evil guvmint.
It’s scary enough that people like this are armed at all, much less that they take it upon themselves to decide what kind of “tyranny” needs overthrowing.
(Related Post: “9 Nutty Narratives About the Nevada Standoff”)
As I’ve said before, I see nothing wrong with truly responsible people owning guns, especially if they meet at least some obvious safety requirements, and are screened before buying a gun to determine if their names are on the FBI watch list. To me, this is only a prudent and logical requirement needed to keep at least some guns, out of the hands of at least some people, who shouldn’t have them. After all, where does the 2nd amendment say that we have the right to own guns based on an arbitrary right which ignores any prudent precautions and regulations? As with all other amendments, the 2nd has controversial provisions which can be interpreted one way, or another, but there is obviously no clear right established in it, to own guns without any regulations. The determining factor in limiting gun ownership with practical regulations, stems from the need to make sure dangerous possessions, like guns, automobiles, alcohol, prescription drugs, dynamite etc. do not harm citizens. Even most websites like this one, have commenting rules that one must agree to obey, or else face expulsion.
Your best proof that perhaps the founders had no intention of gun owners being able to establish militias used as protection against a dictatorial government, is in your mention of the articles of the Constitution. Article 2, section 2 stipulates that militias are to be subject to the authority of the commander in chief, (currently President Obama). This is a great point that I was not aware of. And of course, since taking up arms against this country is an act of treason, subject to grave penalties, why then, do nationalist groups claim their purpose is to protect their own right to form militias which are then at direct odds with the government? Your question of why the government would even want to protect individual rights to establish militias, and thus overlook intentions to commit treason by waging war with the government, and (in article 3, section 3) then define treason is a grave offense involving waging war on the United States government, is a great question to ask?
It seems that all too often we focus on the various Amendments established to protect individual rights, and forget that the powers granted to the government, often trump specific desires or intentions of the States, as well as individual members of treasonous militias in those states. One can argue about what constitutes treason or how much power the President (should have), etc. but there is no getting around the fact that the powers described in articles 2 and 3, do not imply that they have been established just to grants citizens the freedom to violently oppose their own government, and deliberately disobey federal law?
Although I think we should have the right to use reasonable firepower, (no body armor, large capacity magazines, or the opportunity to buy very large quantities of ammunition on line or at gun shows through private sellers), I see nothing that threatens individual rights to own weapons in the simple application of thorough background checks? Most other harmful, or potentially harmful possessions are available only after buyers satisfy prudent regulations, and fire arms should not be granted special privileges that gives them the right to ignore regulations. For all the talk about private sellers filling paperwork with state government, or being responsible about screening questionable buyers of weapons online, human error and greed will always motivate sellers to overlook clear and reasonable reservations when selling guns to questionable customers.
Inconvenience should never be an excuse to let purchasers avoid satisfying practical background checks, since even though proper screening will never prevent all murders and mass shootings, just keeping weapons out of the hands of a few more risky buyers, may result in saving dozens of lives if even one mass shooting never happens! We don’t have to risk our freedoms in order to prevent friends, family members, and loved ones from potential harm. We just need expanded background checks which will stand in the way of customers who are intent on abusing the freedom guaranteed in the 2nd Amendment!
I owned a gun shop that the New York times said was the largest in the US. To think that gun laws keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them is is hollow reasoning. Chicago laws disarm the honest citizen and makes them more vulnerable to those who have criminal intent.
The crime rate in Chicago is far higher than in Phoenix AZ. where citizens can have as many guns as they choose.
It boils down to the question if people are entitled to self defense.
That second amendment is still as important as the first day it was implemented.
See previous posts on “The (Poorly) Armed Assault on Gun Control” and “7 Reasons Why ‘Gun Control Doesn’t Work’ Doesn’t Work” as well as posts on Cherry Picking and False Equivalence.
An initial Bill of Rights draft put the second amendment in context of militia service. I find the first draft and final draft close in meaning, though the final is less wordy. It omits the militia service exception for those with religious objections.
As POP points out in other posts, enough ambiguity exists that deriving absolute meaning is nigh impossible.
A manuscript dealer sold one such copy from the September 4, 1789 Connecticut Gazette. Here is the text of the draft second amendment:
The founders were initially concerned more with balancing religion and militia service during the infant years of the nation, rather than securing a means for citizens to overthrow the government. It is perplexing how the individual right to bear arms comes from this or the final version.
Gun ownership was already permitted and gun control existed. Boston had laws requiring powder to be stored above the ground floor, to prevent conflagrations. The second is less about ownership and more about protecting the nation without raising a standing army.
Thus owning a weapon was not a right, but an antiquated necessity of 18th century life, later made redundant by a professional military and multiple layers of law enforcement.
We can certainly permit people to own weapons, but to preempt reasonable restrictions on purchase, use and storage claiming a right would be nullified is simply misleading.
Google: “First Draft of the Bill of Rights:
17 Amendments Approved by the House”
[…] noted in the previous installment, the gun culture intensely promotes the false and dangerous belief that the Second […]
You left out the biggie for refuting the “armed rebellion”. According to US Constitution Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 Congress has the power to:
“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”.
Does it make any sense for the militia to be able to rebel if it is supposed to “suppress Insurrections”?
Clauses 15 and 16 sort of hint that the “individual right” might be a recent creation of the NRA and its ilk.
As for how the common person interprets the Constitution, there’s the Domestic Violence Clause in Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which is more germane to this discussion than it would be to wife beating.
Good point. Thanks.
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