Saturday, January 12, 2013

Different ways to interpret the 2nd Amendment

I wrote this a couple of years ago.  Figured that today would be a good time for a re-post. 

There's usually a lot of noise and confusion surrounding the 2nd Amendment, the section in our Bill Of Rights which, in my opinion, gives me the right to own guns. 

The amendment reads as follows:

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.

There it is, sitting in the second seat of the bus, with all the other restrictions on government power. 
Every other bullet point in the Bill Of Rights is designed to limit the power of government in relation to the governed, and we drift off into silliness when we try to see Amendment #2 through any other lens.   The 2nd Amendment, just like all the others, is meant to protect us from government, just like the other nine amendments in the Bill Of Rights. 

Unfortunately, after years of court cases brought by the Nanny State, this is how many of us now see the original intent of the amendment:

Since our government needs an army to preserve freedom and ward off foreign invaders, we grudgingly admit that members of our primitive Citizen Militias should be allowed to own weapons. 

And since we no longer have a Citizen Militia that has to get out of bed in the middle of the night to fight the Redcoats, we no longer have a need for guns in our homes.  Or so they would have us believe. 

The guys who composed the Bill Of Rights wanted to put some severe limits on government power.  They knew that if left unchecked, without ironclad protections, the governing class would try to restrict freedom.  I don't understand the mindset of nannies and busybodies, but the last 10 years have seen an alarming rise in those pesky species of political varmints.   Most libertarians share that concern with The Founders.  Mostly because they believe that the 2nd Amendment, just like all the others, is meant to protect us from government, just like the other nine amendments in the Bill Of Rights !!

Go here and browse through the complete Bill Of Rights.  Look at how they're worded.  Many of them have a little disclaimer that grudgingly admit that, dammit, some level of government is necessary.  But look at the phrases used:

....but in a manner prescribed by law.
....but upon probable cause....
....unless on a presenment or indictment....
....shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In these amendments, The Founders are saying that because of the necessary evils of courts, trials, responses to emergencies, and the occasional need to search a house, there are going to be certain rules in place to ensure that government doesn't go too far. 

In Amendment #2, The Founders agree that the government needs a militia.  The militia is a necessary evil, no more, no less. 
But because the government gets to have a militia, and government always needs to be held in check, guess what?  Well, the right of everyone else to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 
Here's an interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that I believe is much closer to the original intent:

Since a government militia is an unfortunate necessity, and we have a distrust of government in all its forms, the citizens who are not members of the militia have a duty to keep and bear arms.  Just in case the government's militia starts getting uppity. 

If you read that version in the context of the other nine government restraints in the Bill Of Rights, the wording makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? 

The 2nd Amendment cartoon came from here


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a silly question, but how is having a gun going to protect you from the government? Is it that you can barricade yourself in your house and hold off the police for a few hours, or do you just want to shoot the taxman? I fail to see how any reasonable amount of armaments will keep the government at bay.

Cogitans Iuvenis said...

In a solitary instance owning a firearm does little to protect one against government tyranny. It is the multitude of single istances that give tyrannical governments pause.

Or to take my statement and reframe it to colonial periods. A single militia standing up to the British military does nothing to keep tyrannical government at bay. However, when multiple militias act in defiance of tyrannical governmen then tyranny can be defeated. And that is exactly what happened. The American revolution didn't start out organized. It was originally single militias acting out, then states, and then finally a united continent.

In my own opinion. The 2nd amendment is a far better indicator of how we stand as a national, in regards to freedom, than the first. After all, slaves can have freedom (the privilige of uncensored) of speech and still be slaves. Only free men bear arms.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

It's why the U.S. government arms insurgents all over the world. So they can fight against governments that we don't like.

Anonymous said...

C. Iuvenis,

Slaves can bear arms. Impressment has happened through the ages, and is still a major problem in parts of Africa.

TW Sepulchre, the US government arms people in unstable parts of the world in order to make it more unstable.

Yes, the American Revolution was aided by privatelt owned arms (though the capture of government armories should not be dismissed). However, a revolution need not be based on violence and weaponry. Ghandi threw the English out without guns.

In America, today, I don't believe that guns are a viable deterrent to the government. A populist, non-violent movement has better chance of changing things that armed militias.

I don't know what you think might happen if there were no privately owned guns. We do not have a tyrannical government, we are governed by the will of the people. Do I think there is danger in a creeping police state, with warrentless wiretapping and electronic tracking? Sure, but I don't think guns can guard against that. I think public outrage, lawsuits, and transparency are better weapons. I think in this fight, free speech is more important, so there can be investigative reporting, open discussions, and yes, even blogs.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

"We do not have a tyrannical government, we are governed by the will of the people."

An assertion by a mindless progressive collectivist who has read and swallowed whole the Soviet "Constitution of 1936 "

Anonymous said...

The Magna Carta was a similar document. First espoused in 1215, added to by the Forester’s Charter shortly later, then generally fiddled with over the centuries (usually to genuine improvement), and culminating in the English Bill of Rights (1688-9). All these were to curb the control of those with the power.

Within a short time of taking office, Tony Blair (an odious character that many still believe to have been a good guy – try telling that to the folks of Khazakstan!) ripped it up; habeas corpus (“where’s the body?”) is gradually being replaced with habeas juris (“we don’t need a body to find you guilty,” a point that is taking form in Wales right now!); in other words, control is being teased out of the hands of the people, so those in power may brandish it as they wish. Oh Stalin, if only you could have seen your dreams coming true!

Radical Rodent