Desecration of the Second Amendment

Gun people have thoroughly desecrated the Second Amendment. It’s become meaningless.

The entire purpose of the Second Amendment is to assure that civic militias remain legal so they can protect the public. The wording makes it clear that it was never meant to grant the citizens the right to own and carry any weapon they wanted to in public. There are, in fact, already restrictions on certain weaponry. Flame throwers, hand grenades, heavy weaponry, fully automatic machine guns, and so on, are not legal.

The gun crowd believes that owning a gun keeps them safe. This is a tragic illusion. Virtually every day there is an accident in which someone gets shot with a gun owner’s gun. Often it is a child. Often it is another family member. Often it is a perfectly innocent neighbor or stranger who offers no threat. Often it results from momentary rage. Often it results in death. Murder-suicide is common. Rarely is it a criminal bent on harming the gun owner’s family.

A gun owner’s gun is one of the most attractive items for thieves and burglars. These stolen weapons almost always end up in the criminal underworld. The times when they actually protect the family is so small as to be almost nonexistent.

Gun people believe they should be able to buy military machine guns. Some of them believe they should be allowed to carry them around in public. How they expect the rest of us to distinguish between them and a terrorist on the way to shooting a large number of innocents is unexplained. As for myself, if I’m ever in a place where someone walks in with a machine gun, I’m leaving as fast as I can. I’ll run out of a store. I’ll leave my restaurant meal on the table. I’ll dial 911.

Gun people will say that machine guns are illegal, that the military weapons they have aren’t automatic weapons. But that’s why conversion kits are readily available online and at gun shows—to subvert the intent of this regulation. These weapons are the automatic weapons they’re not supposed to be. They can shoot two or three bullets per second. Owners claim such weapons are for civic protection. But they don’t protect us.

A mass shooting is defined as one resulting in four or more deaths. Not a single one of these daily events has ever been prevented, stopped, or interrupted by a gun owner. Instead, what has happened is that virtually anyone can buy an automatic weapon and use it to kill large numbers of people. It happens with depressing regularity.

It is easy gun ownership that has created the mass shootings that occur every day, on average. “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.” This is the Second Amendment in its entirety. The Arms it refers to are to be used within a militia. Every American can lawfully keep a gun for that purpose. A few European countries actually require people fulfilling their military duty to keep their issued rifles at home. But the Second Amendment doesn’t say that militia members have a right to carry militia weapons around with them in their daily business. The Arms to which it refers are muzzle-loading, single-shot long rifles, fired by a spark from a piece of flint, which is what we had when the Second Amendment was written. 

Machine guns might have some purpose in a “well regulated Militia”, but in my opinion, for gun owners to have a military assault weapon in the closet defies reason. These are extremely dangerous, modern, fully-automatic weapons, not flintlocks, and they can too easily contribute to a tragic accident. If there are to be militias that are worth anything to our country, such weapons must be secured in a strong common vault, not in everyone’s closet.

Handguns are of limited use in a militia, because they are inaccurate at distance. Weapons for militias should have longer barrels, and a stock to steady them. Rifles and machine guns, in other words. An argument can be made for heavier weaponry in a militia, things like .50 caliber machine guns. But none of these dangerous weapons should be kept at home.

The fact is, we don’t have any militias worthy of the name, and maybe we should. What we have is various semi-formal clubs of “gun enthusiasts” who take their guns out to the woods to shoot them every now and then. These weekend games virtually never involve any training in military tactics or other topics that might make a militia useful. They do not protect us. 

Civilian militias have a purpose in American culture. Violent situations do break out on rare occasions, and a well-regulated militia—well-regulated, a disciplined corp, not a bunch of trigger-happy fools pretending to save the country from Obama—could serve a genuine need. They could also be valuable during problems created by climate change and natural disasters. Discipline and training are the operative ideas, lest members take it upon themselves to shoot people based on their skin color, as occurred in New Orleans. Usually, the most important things they could do do not involve weapons.

If the Second Amendment is ever to mean anything again, military weaponry must be removed from households to secure storage. Real militias must be competently managed by people who know enough about them to make them useful.

The American people are fed up with daily mass shootings, with dead children, with bullying and false reasoning by the NRA, with cowardly politicians, and especially with over-the-top gun owners who have thoroughly subverted the meaning and importance of the Second Amendment.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I would agree that the NRA, the gun manufacturers, and gun libertarians have gone too far. I, too, am concerned about the level of gun violence. I would like to suggest a difference with two points in the post above.

    First, the above interpretation of the original intent of framers of the 2nd Amendment may not be entirely correct. The writings of Noah Webster, George Mason, and a host of other pamphleteers during the drafting of the constitution made clear that the key purpose of the Framers in guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms was as a check on the standing army, which the Constitution gave the Congress the power to “raise and support.”

    Second, as to the effectiveness of handguns in combat, may I further suggest that it would depend upon the type of combat and the nature of the terrain in which the action is being fought. Much combat takes place well within the ranges in which long guns are most effective. A review of the fin de sicle battles that led to the development of the M1911 automatic combat pistol, and of its later employment in subsequent engagements would be instructive. The same is true around the development and use of both shotguns and machine pistols as combat weapons during and after WWII.

    Finally, an afterthought: despite the polarization of this issue, there is a vast range of policy options open between taking the guns away from law-abiding citizens on one hand, and the gun lobby’s extreme libertarianism on the other. I suggest that we continue to explore those options while exposing the gun lobby for what they are: merchants of mayhem.

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  2. I don’t see much disagreement between us. I’d say keeping a long rifle on the pegs was vastly less dangerous than keeping a loaded modern weapon in the closet is today.

    As for the use of various weapons in combat, I’ll defer to your greater knowledge.

    But the real question is what people should be allowed to keep at home. I find it difficult to imagine that dangerous military weapons have any real use in home defense. The selling of “non-automatic” machine guns is disingenuous because they can be and are easily converted to military weapons. These aren’t hunting guns, as many claim. They are military assault weapons, and they are prized as such, and too often left lying about, as are loaded pistols. If you need protection from, say, bears, there are better guns for that.

    We will not likely end gun mayhem by limiting who may have these weapons, but it makes little sense that they should be available to people who have proven their lack of social responsibility, or their inability to understand reality.

    I have no respect for the NRA, and I think Congresspersons who genuflect before them are despicable, and have caused far too much loss of American lives.

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  3. I stumbled across your blog today and have enjoyed many of your articles. When I subscribed I got redirected to this post.

    I would like to make a comment on the following quote from your post:

    “A mass shooting is defined as one resulting in four or more deaths. Not a single one of these daily events has ever been prevented, stopped, or interrupted by a gun owner.”

    This is arguably an incorrect statement but let’s say it is correct and make note of the places the mass shooting have occurred. Elementary Schools, universities, churches, and military bases seem to be the more frequented types of locations for these events to take place.

    A common thread across these types of places is they all disallow firearms. One could argue the type of locations for the shootings are selected by the assailants due to this fact — they know they will not be met with an equal force.

    So, because these places contained law abiding citizens, many of which were likely gun owners themselves, that were following the law and not carrying a firearm at the time of the shootings, of course the assailants were not prevented from carrying out their attacks.

    Finally, regarding the sentence beginning with ‘Not a single one of these daily..’. I was not expecting to find a baseless, blanket statement in one of your articles. I have to doubt that there are ‘daily’ shootings that qualify as mass shooting and also have to doubt that no mass shooting has been [halted] by a gun owner (see my link below for an article that provides a list of known occurrences) . If there is a source link you can provide to support your claim, I’d be happy to read it.

    Regards and thanks for (the majority of) your posts 🙂

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/10/03/do-civilians-with-guns-ever-stop-mass-shootings/

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    • Thank you. I have since learned that a mass shooting is 4 or more shot, not necessarily killed. Perhaps killers choose victims where they will not be met with return fire, but I don’t think that means everyone in the country should carry a gun. I think it would be better if assault weapons were disallowed or, barring that, hard to get and forbidden for certain people.

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