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Monday, June 20, 2016

What America’s Pro-Gun Zealots Won’t Tell You About The 2nd Amendment

Still think the Second Amendment’s all about our unlimited right to bear arms? Think again.
Every time some angry shooter goes on a mass murder spree, we demand tougher gun laws and get shut down by people loudly invoking their Second Amendment rights. But what are those rights exactly?

At first glance, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution seems quite simple, as it consists of only a single line:
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.
Both liberals and conservatives agree that this gives our citizens the right to own a gun. After all, this is America and — despite all the stereotypes — plenty of folks on the Left love their guns, too.

The dispute lies in whether there are any limitations to our right to bear arms.

The majority of gun owners — including NRA members — want at least some gun laws in place that at least require background checks.

Other types of gun measures include bans on assault weapons, gun free zones, waiting periods, permits, registration, and restricted classes such as those convicted of violent crimes.

The thing our nation’s most ardent Second Amendment fans fail to grasp is that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean what they think it means.

With rights come responsibilities, and we are not guaranteed the right to own and carry around any kind of gun at any time.

1. The Second Amendment is not written in stone.

Our founding fathers intended the US Constitution to be a living document, and the Second amendment can be altered, clarified, revoked, or, erm, amended.

Thanks to our ability to add amendments, we’ve been able to end slavery, give women the right to vote, stop counting black people and Native Americans as three-fifths of a person for US Census and districting purposes, and end poll taxes for voters (though voter ID laws have effectively revived them).

2. The Second Amendment confers responsibilities along with rights.

Brett Arends from Market Watch flatly insists the “Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to own a gun” at all.

The right to bear arms comes with obligations and responsibilities.

He points out that founding father and Broadway pop sensation Alexander Hamilton explained what was meant by the Second Amendment’s “well-regulated militia” in great detail in his Federalist No. 29 .
It should be a properly constituted, ordered and drilled (“well-regulated”) military force, organized state by state, explained Hamilton. Each state militia should be a “select corps,” “well-trained” and able to perform all the “operations of an army.” The militia needed “uniformity in … organization and discipline,” wrote Hamilton, so that it could operate like a proper army “in camp and field,” and so that it could gain the “essential … degree of proficiency in military functions.” And although it was organized state by state, it needed to be under the explicit control of the national government. The “well-regulated militia” was under the command of the president. It was “the military arm” of the government.
In other words, our founding fathers envisioned something in between the sort of standing army the British had used to occupy and oppress their former colonists and some rag-tag gaggle of tin-foil hat wearing, assault-weapons-wielding open carriers scaring the heck out of people at Chipotles.

Something similar to our modern-day National Guard, with trained citizens who could defend their communities or help with emergencies at a moment’s notice.

3. The Second Amendment was ratified so plantation owners could put down slave rebellions.

Alas, the Second Amendment also served a darker purpose than ensuring that our infant nation could defend itself against British invasions without having to keep a standing army around.

Thom Hartmann writes in Truthout that the state of Virginia, by far the richest and most powerful state at the time, only signed on so they could keep their slave patrols.
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.
Plantation owners lived in fear of slave rebellions, and all white males of a certain age were required to serve on their patrols for a time.

They invoked “states’ rights” because they certainly didn’t want any damned Yankees from the federal government overseeing their “militias” or — God forbid — letting slaves serve and then freeing them to reward their service.

Because “states’ rights” is and always has meant “the right of a state’s elites to deny rights to their own citizens.”

To this very day, the states’ rights argument is used to allow anti-LGBT discrimination, prevent workers from unionizing to bargain for better pay and working conditions, and to enact photo ID laws that deprive low-income people of their right to vote.

Patrick Henry is renowned for his fiery speeches but, luckily for those who wish to honor his memory, those craven utterances never made it into our school textbooks.

First, Henry protested the Second Amendment’s wording because the language only covered foreign invasions and didn’t provide for slave rebellions.
“If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia.”
Then he whined about how slave owners wanted states to control these militias, not the feds, because the thought of having to free blacks after their service and then having to live among thousands of freed slaves was just too awful to contemplate.
“In this state, there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States…May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free.”