Bang Bang Bang

This is interesting: A judicial ruling that actually interprets the second amendment! That almost never happens. What’s more, it’s entirely conceivable that it might be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which would be a big ol’ ball of fun, judicially speaking. I think the last major Supreme Court ruling on the second amendment was in the early 20th century, although I could be wrong on that. It’s been a while, in any event.

From what I read of the ruling, incidentally, I’m in agreement with the majority. I’m not a huge fun of people running around with guns, but philosophically speaking I’m even less of a fan of people not running around with guns, and I do suspect the Founding Fathers wanted people to have their rifles and pokey weapons on the argument that only having soldiers and government types being armed was not part of their thinking. The drawback to this is you have kids accidentally shooting their friends when they play with daddy’s gun, people blowing their faces off when they’re cleaning a loaded rifle, and Wayne LaPierre being treated seriously instead of sucking quarters out of public phones, which by all rights should be how he makes his living. But these are these costs we must bear.

Incidentally, this is one of those places where my thinking has changed over the years. Back in my college years and early 20s I was pretty anti-gun and wouldn’t have minded a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw them. In time I realized I didn’t trust the government all that much, and certainly the last six years have solidified that idea pretty damn well. I still don’t like guns, and I still don’t buy into the various shibboleths like “an armed society is a polite society.” I don’t think an armed society is a polite society; I think an armed society is just as rude and obnoxious as any other, and the only difference is that your more crazed members of it will shoot at you rather than, say, beat you to death with a lead pipe or kick you in the kidneys until you’re pissing blood. But I recognize now that my personal dislike of firearms does not rise to the level of Constitutional revision.

(In case any of you are wondering, this realization predates my move to Ohio; hangin’ with the local rednecks was not a motivating factor.)

Going back to the ruling, I do find especially interesting the legal argument for the dissent, which suggests that as Washington DC is not a state, the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to it. This would by necessity mean that none of the amendments apply, which also seems to suggest that the Constitution is null and void in the District of Columbia. I’m not entirely sure I like that line of argument; on the other hand if the citizens of DC ever wanted to convince conservatives of the need for the District to have statehood, this would probably be the way. But maybe I’m missing something here. One of you lawyer types will have to tell me if I am.

46 thoughts on “Bang Bang Bang

  1. I think you’re right on your first point, that this hasn’t happened in a while. Or at least that’s what I remember my Con Law professor saying about it last year. But I’ll be honest – I wasn’t really paying that much attention.

    Also, about the dissent, the argument was a bit more nuanced than “the Amendments don’t apply to DC.” The argument is that the Second Amendment says “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” and that when the founders said “state,” they meant state, not nation. I don’t know if that argument will get a lot of traction or not – the argument is unlikely to be made in many other courts, for obvious reasons. Moreover, “state” is a traditional way of saying “nation,” and was probably actually what the founders meant.

    But, I’ve always felt that that clause must mean something, since a cannon of statutory and constitutional construction is that there are no wasted words – if the author put that word in there, it must mean something. I’ve always felt that ownership of guns should be contingent on joining some type of official “militia,” which could be called up in times of national defense (within our borders only) or for help in national disasters, since that’s how the militias worked in the late 1700s. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether those militias should more closely resemble the national guard, or those nuts in Michigan.

    I, too, have found my support for gun banning waning in recent years, and I have to honestly say, I think it’s more for my own protection against the government, than it is for protection against other citizens. I don’t honestly think that there would ever be a time that I would have to go up against our own army, or that if I did, that owning a gun would do me any good (and I don’t actually own a gun), but once you catch your government trying to take away the rights you like, you tend to want to hang on harder to all of them.

    K

  2. Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy has a good post about the “D.C. as a State” issue.

    I support the decision not because of the protection that guns afford, but because of the protections that reasonably generous interpretations of enumerated rights afford. Interpreting the 2nd Amendment narrowly because we don’t like the social consequences if it is interpreted broadly is dangerous.

    There are plenty of people who think that broadly interpreted 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights have consequences our nation can’t afford — “harmful” speech, “letting criminals walk free,” etc. It seems to me that much of the support for a narrow reading of the 2nd Amendment is that like — motivated by a feeling that guns are just too harmful to our society so we should read the Amendment in a way that permits them to be banned. But how many such people will like that logic when it is applied to other amendments? And make no mistake, if that thinking carries the day, it WILL be applied to other amendments — that’s how the common law system works.

  3. Guns are power.

    Mostly symbolic power, since they project force, which is not the same thing as power, but symbols have power nonetheless. So when a government moves to disarm its citizens, even “for their own protection”, the end result is to increase its power at the citizens’ expense. And power unchecked inevitably becomes power abused. The Founders, mostly smart men, understood this.

    Bad things happen when citizens have guns. But far worse things happen when only the police and military are armed.

  4. I’m just glad to hear some sort of decision from a court based on the Second Amendment itself. I feel as if years of debate and legislation have been more or less divorced from the amendment itself, so anything that purports to actually interpret the text of the Bill of Rights seems welcome.

    The middle ground (such as, perhaps, that firearms should be legal, but licensed and registered in a manner similar to motor vehicles) seems eminently reasonable to me, but I’ve always felt like such a solution has little constitutional basis, whatever its merits as policy. I’ll be happy to see any real judicial activity that clarifies the issue.

  5. This is a very interesting subject. I don’t remember the context, but I believe Scalzi mentioned the “epidemic” of car wreck deaths comapred to…maybe the bird flu? I think the same applies with guns. More children die from drowning (whether its a pool, bucket, tub, or shallow mud puddle) than from accidental discharge of guns or murder by guns. Alchol kills more people and creates more fractured lives than gunes. Switzerland has one of the lowest rates of accidental death by guns, and yet everyone owns one. Gun laws will be followed by the lawful, and ignored by gangs (which, coincidentally, are growing almost exponentially again). Yes, we probably don’t want OK Corral style shootouts between gangs and vigilantes, but perhaps after one or two of them, the gangs would get the idea.
    On the other hand, having been on the wrong side of the barrel, I also understand the fear and powerlessness having a gun pulled on you can create. I understand the concern that children can find them and accidentally hurt themselves or others. I understand that were there no guns at all, the world would perhaps be a better place. Heck, though my father bought me a gun, I do not have it with me. (I figure that if I need a gun at BYU, I’m probably hanging out with the wrong crowd.)
    However, I am not ok with the government taking away that right from me. Is it hypocritical to feel that way about guns, and yet not care that the FBI can snoop around in my personal stuff without a warrant? Probably. However, I am for the most part ignorant of what they are doing, while I would be painfully aware if someone knocked on my door one day and demanded my weapon.
    Here’s a quote for you to chew on.
    When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
    -Robert A. Heinlein

    P.S. I didn’t include links to my generalizations because I’m incredibly lazy. If someone gets really angry, perhaps I’ll go in search of them.

  6. I don’t necessarily trust my own government to behave properly. If I was American I would probably be even warier, with Guantanamo, and the governmment passing laws to allow torture, and extraordinary rendition and so on.

    But if came down to a contest of force between me and the government, I’m pretty sure that owning a handgun – or indeed a tank – wouldn’t get me very far.

    It seems like a ludicrous argument to me; one that only gets any traction at all because it has constitutional authority behind it. If that bit wasn’t in the constitution already and someone suggested adding it now, I don’t think anyone would take them seriously for a moment.

  7. “Moreover, “state” is a traditional way of saying “nation,” and was probably actually what the founders meant.”

    No, the founders were very careful to say “state” when they meant a state, not the entire country.

    Remember that the Constitution is a balancing act between the federal government (of which the founders were suspicious–remember King George), the people (of whom the founders were also suspicious), and the states (whose governments the founders and their peers dominated). So a state having an armed militia was one way of preserving state power against federal power. That’s the root of the traditional interpretation of second amendment, and it’s not in the least a narrow one (cf. Civil War, for example.)

  8. Alex R: How weird – I’m currently reading the short story, “…If This Goes On”, from which that quote was taken.

    Harry: That was one of the points I was about to make as well. As much as I enjoy demonstrating my manliness by pointing a weapon downrange and pulling the trigger, I don’t see how my individual right to own a handgun or rifle is going to help defend against the government if they decide to come after me. Setting aside the debate of whether the government was right or wrong, having guns to defend themselves didn’t work out too well for Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge or the Branch Davidians in Waco.

    And interpreting the 2nd Amendment to mean armed citizens are the final check against tyranny begs the question, “Who gets to decide when it’s time to take the government down and start over?”

  9. I’m actually of the “states should regulate guns and gun owners in the way that they regulate cars and car owners” school of thought. In practice, this gun control advocates angry at me because it allows for gun ownership. This gets gun rights advocates angry at me because they don’t want the government to know exactly who owns a gun. (It’s worth noting that when Ashcroft was searching the government databases to find terrorists, he looked at every one except the gun owners’ database on the grounds of personal privacy.) I’ve just decided that everyone who cares can be angry at me.

    What I find interesting about this case at first glance (knowing nothing else about it) is how the originalists on the Supreme Court, if the case goes there, will deal with this. If I understand the originalist philosophy correctly, they would have to rule that the purpose of the second amendment is to allow white men to arm themselves for the purpose of supplying their own firearms when the state calls upon them to defend it. Later amendments probably get rid of the “white men” restriction. But presumably, originalists would have to use an 18th century definition of “militia.” So it seems to me that if they stick to their judicial philosophy, they would have to decide that people are allowed firearms, but only if they also sign up to be drafted into the National Guard. (i.e., technically, in the 18th century, we would all be “the militia,” but we would all be expected to go to the front lines to defend the country with our own weapons when the need rose too, right?)

    IANAL, so I’m sure there’s something that I’m missing. But if the idea is to read things exactly as they would have been read at the time of writing, wouldn’t this be what they would have to think?

    They said on NPR this morning that the decision does allow for regulation of firearms. IIRC, they brought up the model that I mentioned at the start of my comment.

    I’m not thrilled with guns either, but like you, I realize that my own personal opinion of guns does not pass Constitutional muster. (I do think the resistance to gun registration a bit paranoid. I will point out that gun owner licensing along the lines of a driver’s license is more permissive than what we have now in some (many?) states. I don’t personally have a problem with this. I’d have to think harder about a license to carry a concealed weapon though.)

  10. I’ve always felt that grammatically, the second amendment “milita clause” is phrased as a RATIONALE. Not a requirement.

  11. Harry:

    “But if came down to a contest of force between me and the government, I’m pretty sure that owning a handgun – or indeed a tank – wouldn’t get me very far.”

    The idea here, I suspect, would be that it wouldn’t be just you, but sufficient numbers of people to give the government serious pause. This goes to John H’s question of who gets to decide when it’s time to take the government down; in that case I suspect we’d know the time when it comes.

    Mind you, I don’t expect that time anytime soon.

  12. Alex R. writes “Switzerland has one of the lowest rates of accidental death by guns, and yet everyone owns one.”

    This is a bit of a special case, every Swiss male citizen has mandatory military service at age 20 complete with comprehensive gun training, thus begins a part time mandatory military career of 30 years, through that time they must keep guns and ammunition in the home. Now to become a citizen you must live in Switzerland for 20 years, and non-citizens cannot own land, often have their letters opened by the authorities, etc.

    So citizen males have guns, have gone through training and are expected to show up immediately if the state were attacked, non-citizens are heavily monitored. Also in one sense the most democratic nation – although only citizens can vote, there is no level of law making that cannot be overturned by referendum.

  13. Total: So a state having an armed militia was one way of preserving state power against federal power. That’s the root of the traditional interpretation of second amendment, and it’s not in the least a narrow one (cf. Civil War, for example.)

    Funny, I would point to the Civil War as being a prime example of how federal power trumped state’s rights.

    I know how John feels about the Confederacy, and for what it’s worth I disagree with the real reason why southern states seceded – to preserve the institution of slavery. But the constitutional crisis that led to the Civil War takes on broader implications when you look at state’s rights. The southern states decided that the direction the country was going was not to their liking, and seeing no easy way to change that course took the drastic step of trying to divorce themselves from the United States. From a Constitutional standpoint this should have been permissible – the states retain all rights not delegated by the Constitution to the federal government nor denied by it to the states.

    That the federal government did not accept southern secession led to the attack on Ft Sumter and the Civil War. It also set in motion the idea that federal rights trump states’ rights, that the federal government can impose its will on the states through the use of military force – which is ironically what you say the 2nd Amendment was supposed to protect against.

  14. I’ve always felt that grammatically, the second amendment “milita clause” is phrased as a RATIONALE. Not a requirement.

    Then how very odd it was of our founders to have put the words “well-regulated” in there. It almost seems like they were trying to make a point about guns being, you know, well regulated.

  15. I’m not a huge fun of people running around with guns, but philosophically speaking I’m even less of a fan of people not running around with guns,

    Yub.

    I hate guns, I don’t own one, won’t ever. When it was part of my job, I enjoyed that I was able to shoot one well, but I treated as a weapon, with respect, and as a talisman of death.

    I hate guns, but there are a lot of people who have my basic attitude towards guns minus the hatred, and they tend to be very responsible people, and far better shots than the ones who have guns and don’t have that attitude.

  16. Speaking as a resident of the D.C. area, I find the concern that the NRA has for the rights of the residents of Washington, D.C. area touching, really.
    [/sarcasm]

    I’m all for the 2nd Amendment, but what if a group of people decided that they don’t want a proliferation of firearms in their community? I’m not sure that their desires should be automatically trumped by the Constitution.

    By the way, overturning the law will have ZERO impact on crime in the District. Except more wounded and dead citizens. I’m sure that Mr. LaPierre doesn’t give a hoot about that, however.

  17. A few thoughts:

    1) There seems to be some belief on the web that back in the 18th Century “well regulated” meant “well equipped” – are there any linguists out there without an axe to grind in this debate who might want to weigh in?

    2) “I’m all for the 2nd Amendment, but what if a group of people decided that they don’t want a proliferation of firearms in their community? I’m not sure that their desires should be automatically trumped by the Constitution.”

    I’m all for the 1st Amendment, but what if a group of people decided that they don’t want a proliferation of contrary speech in their community? I’m not sure that their desires should be automatically trumped by the Constitution….

    3) “I understand that were there no guns at all, the world would perhaps be a better place.”

    I’m not sure this is true in the long run. Guns allowed wholesale death, which is bad, but guns are also intertwined with the growth of individual liberty in Western society. Without guns, violent force is the monopoly of well-fed males who can afford expensive metal clothing. Longbows and crossbows started to put a dent in that system, but even those weapons give an advantage to people (men) with greater upper body strength, and they are a lot harder to learn to use even for them.

    4) “By the way, overturning the law will have ZERO impact on crime in the District. Except more wounded and dead citizens….”

    I guess we’ll see. Other places that have made their gun laws less restrictive do not seem to have suffered a wave of violent gun crime.

  18. Scalzi,

    Sorry this is off-topic, but…

    More Ghlaghghee pictures!

    Sort of like your ex-girlfriend, one the main reasons I come here is to see Ghlaghghee and your other pets. Your photographs of them are always well composed and beautiful!

    So more of ‘em, please.

    The Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  19. The concept of well equipped also includes the, english/brittish/uk whatever concept of the previous times, when every young man of conscriptable age must be trained in the use of a bow, I think was the thing back then.

    Rangel and others are trying to finagle the constitutions aspect that allows the government to “raise” an army, rather than just “maintain” one is a rationale for a neverending draft.

    I kinda lost track.

    I think I meant to say that “militia” isn’t necessarily defined as an organized group, but a group that might at anytime be organized. We practiced conscription until the mid 70′s, so all individuals of service age must be able to serve so. And forcing people to do things they don’t want to do, tends to be very well organized, (poorly managed, but well organized) so, yeah. Anyone who might at some time have to act in the name of the state has a right to keep and bare arms.

    Also considering that there used to be promotions way back in the day for anyone who came equipped with a weapon.

  20. The majority opinion documents the different statutory definitions of the militia – originally it was (I think I have the ages right) all white males age 18-45, and they were required to report to an area militia coordinator and provide their own rifle and ammo.

    Currently the statutory definition is I think all males 18-45 and all women serving in the National Guard.

    As an aside, the majority opinion quotes Dred Scott for support of the notion that the second amendment is an individual right. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever read a case that quoted Dred Scott as precedent.

  21. chang who is not chang: Dude, that’s some Zen shit you got going there.

    Wickedpinto: I think I meant to say that “militia” isn’t necessarily defined as an organized group, but a group that might at anytime be organized.

    Yeah, I was reading down the thread to find that. When the Constitution was written, a militia was a group of civilians who didn’t necessarily have military training, but who knew how to shoot (well-regulated) because they had guns for hunting etc. The Second Amendment is saying, “Because a state has to have a group of civilians who know how to shoot, no banning guns.”

    Aside from that, I agree with pretty much everyone else here. Better to read rights large than small.

    Given the way the 4th Amenment has been screwed in recent decades, though, I’m not sanguine about the chances of the 2nd.

  22. When the Constitution was written, a militia was a group of civilians who didn’t necessarily have military training, but who knew how to shoot (well-regulated) because they had guns for hunting etc.

    You must not spend much time around hunters. The idea that “well-regulated militia” means “a bunch of guys who know how to kill animals for food” is pretty silly, whatever your opinion on the 2d Amendment may be.

    I’d note that if we’re going back to original intent, it’s doubtful the Framers would have wanted women or blacks to own guns.

  23. Well, George Bush acts as if the Constitution is null and void in DC. It’s no surprise that other loonies might agree with him.

    The problem is that he wants to extend that to the 50 states.

  24. Interesting enough, the dissent doesn’t say, “No! The second amendment means that only militias should have guns,” but rather that D.C. isn’t a state. So, I guess nobody really dissented to the interpretation of the amendment, but rather where it applies.

  25. Many moons ago, when I was researching all of this, I came away with a different take on it that I haven’t seen here, but one that fit pretty well with the actual times and events when it was written. Perhaps the author wasn’t writing for the ages, but for the day. So to rewrite in the vernacular,

    “Well, we know we’ve got to have an army in order to defend ourselves. But we’ve just had a godawful experience with what armies can do to the civil population, and we know that national armies are the primary instruments of oppression, historically, but they’re a necessary evil. So since we’ve got to have one, we also have to make sure that they don’t have a monopoly on force like they did under the British. And we’re not going to let the legislature nitpick that to death or say, “ok, but you can only have squirrel guns and suchlike”. No, if somebody tries to pull a Napoleon over HERE, we’ll be armed to the teeth and they’ll do it over our dead bodies. We don’t trust that damn army, even if it’s ours. So we’ll have our firearms, and the same firearms as the army, and you not only can’t outlaw them, you can’t even infringe on the right.”

    These folk had just had recent personal experience that they had far more to fear from their own civil authorities than they did from any invader. I don’t quite see that they weren’t very mindful of that when this was written.

  26. Hmm. From this Brit’s perspective, understanding US attitudes to gun ownership is really hard, but the whole “it’s a defense against the Govt” thing is something I can at least relate to more than the “defense against crime” thing, which our respective crime rates do seem to put the lie to.

    However, I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of the non-USian world, if you’ve got guns in order to overthrow the Govt when needed, can we respectfully request you get on with it already? KTHXPLZBY ;-)

  27. John: This would by necessity mean that none of the amendments apply, which also seems to suggest that the Constitution is null and void in the District of Columbia.

    No. If you read the text of the amendments, you’ll see that most of them are not framed in terms of states, whereas the Second specifically says “being necessary to the security of a free State.”

    To the extent that they are, the courts have found ways to give protection to DC residents. For instance, the Fourteenth Amendment states in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In order to make the result in _Brown v. Board of Education_ applicable to DC, the Supreme Court turned to the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause in _Bolling v. Sharpe_. (Nb.: I haven’t looked at all the individual rights provisions and how they’ve been applied to DC, but this is almost certainly the paradigm that’s been followed.)

    Pete: So, I guess nobody really dissented to the interpretation of the amendment, but rather where it applies.

    Usually courts refuse to reach a constitutional question if they don’t have to, and looking at the decision [*], that is what happened here: the dissenting judge called the question “purely academic.”

    [*] http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200703/04-7041a.pdf

  28. Pesh, mythago, I’ve seen you argue nobly and well, but arguing from nothing but your reputation that something is silly leaves a lot of mustard uncut.

  29. Scott, that is a modifier within a clause that itself is not restrictive. Did you ever take any math?

  30. “Madeline F | March 10, 2007 02:14 PM
    …When the Constitution was written, a militia was a group of civilians who didn’t necessarily have military training, but who knew how to shoot (well-regulated) because they had guns for hunting etc. The Second Amendment is saying, “Because a state has to have a group of civilians who know how to shoot, no banning guns.”
    …”
    This is an excellent post and absolutely the best paraphasing of the second amendment I have seen. I believe (based on plenty of other evidence) this is the framers intent in a very well constructed nutshell! Marry me! Opps, Sorry, exuberance got the best of me!

  31. For Alex R.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel120501.shtml

    A World Without Guns
    Be forewarned: It’s not a pretty picture
    Excerpt:
    To say that life in the pre-gunpowder world was violent would be an understatement. Land travel, especially over long distances, was fraught with danger from murderers, robbers, and other criminals. Most women couldn’t protect themselves from rape, except by granting unlimited sexual access to one male in exchange for protection from other males.

    Back then, weapons depended on muscle power. Advances in weaponry primarily magnified the effect of muscle power. The stronger one is, the better one’s prospects for fighting up close with an edged weapon like a sword or a knife, or at a distance with a bow or a javelin (both of which require strong arms). The superb ability of such “old-fashioned” edged weapons to inflict carnage on innocents was graphically demonstrated by the stabbing deaths of eight second graders on June 8, 2001, by former school clerk Mamoru Takuma in gun-free Osaka, Japan.

    When it comes to muscle power, young men usually win over women, children, and the elderly. It was warriors who dominated society in gun-free feudal Europe, and a weak man usually had to resign himself to settle on a life of toil and obedience in exchange for a place within the castle walls when evil was afoot.

    Actual defination of the militia, contrary to rumors.

    TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 311 Prev | Next

    § 311. Militia: composition and classes

    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
    (b) The classes of the militia are—
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

    Please note section (b)(2)
    You’re in it, wether you like it or not.

  32. For fun.

    If Guns were Treated Like Cars

    http://www.stentorian.com/2ndamend/license.html

    It’s interesting to see folks of a liberal inclination realise that the govt isn’t always going to be your friend. Even if (when) the Dems get the executive branch back, please don’t go backsliding and think NOW it’s safe to turn in those nasty guns. Eventually the Repubs will come back. Do you want them in power with no checks left at all?

    As for the DC decision, eventually the Supremes will have to rule on the 2nd. I expect them to declare it an individual right, but allow “reasonable restrictions”. These restrictions will be so broadly defined that the practical outcome will be the elimination of personal ownership of firearms. As noted above the same method has, can, and will be used on the rest of the bothersome Bill of Rights.

  33. Our host said:

    Harry:

    “But if came down to a contest of force between me and the government, I’m pretty sure that owning a handgun – or indeed a tank – wouldn’t get me very far.”

    The idea here, I suspect, would be that it wouldn’t be just you, but sufficient numbers of people to give the government serious pause. This goes to John H’s question of who gets to decide when it’s time to take the government down; in that case I suspect we’d know the time when it comes.

    Mind you, I don’t expect that time anytime soon.

    I do actually understand that, though I chose to glide over the point. My honest perspective is that if it ever got to the point where armed groups of civilians are coming together to defend some essential right against government interference in sufficient numbers to genuinely resist the government, you’re already fucked. That would represent a sufficient breakdown of society that the idea of constitutionality would already be moot.

    Free speech, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary: those are all crucial to protecting citizens from the government. The right to own guns will only come into play if the rule of law is already shot to pieces. At that point, yeah, sure, buy as many guns as you want.

    Harry

  34. “Funny, I would point to the Civil War as being a prime example of how federal power trumped state’s rights.”

    My point was that the Civil War was a test case of how far states’ rights extended: not as far as John C. Calhoun thought.

    As to secession, there was no way to do it written into the Constitution. Thus, the Constitutional way to have done it would have been to have amended the Constitution to allow for secession. The 10th amendment does not reserve all other rights (ie those not written into the Constitution) to the states, it reserves them to the states and the people. Since the southern states disenfranchised a substantial portion of their population, they could not be said to be speaking for their people.

  35. Then how very odd it was of our founders to have put the words “well-regulated” in there. It almost seems like they were trying to make a point about guns being, you know, well regulated.

    And that shows how dishonest your reading of the second amendment is. It says nothing about regulated use of firearms. “A well-regulated militia” means just that, a well-regulated militia, as in a militia that is precisely trained and disciplined in the use of force. This is nothing more than a well-trained combat unit.

    Don’t like my tone of voice? You deserve no better for your abuse of the English language. If you had any honesty, you would realize that the first half of the second amendment is nothing more than a meaningless prepositional phrase, which is to say, it is a logical justification. The actual legal language, whether you want to follow it or not, is ” the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    I take it you would fully support the censorship of art if the first amendment said, “free expression of political and social ideas being necessary to the political functioning of a free state, the Congress shall pass no law abriding freedom of speech.” I guess it would then only cover political and social ideas, not art or literature by your standards…

    If you support disarming the public, at least have the honesty to say that that is your goal and all else is secondary.

  36. If you had any honesty, you would realize that the first half of the second amendment is nothing more than a meaningless prepositional phrase, which is to say, it is a logical justification.

    Just to play devil’s advocate, why didn’t Ye Olde Founding Fathers feel the need to put such meaningless phrases in the rest of the amendments? The Bill of Rights as a hole seems remarkably free of rhetorical flourishes, I think it’s much more likely that that “meaningless phrase” was included for a reason, though there can be legitimate arguments about what that reason was.

  37. There is a lot of discussion here about an armed citizenry vs the govt. I too am weary of the govt. But from a more realistic and practical standpoint living in south Texas near the border. Being an armed private citizen is a very good idea for the obvious reasons. Crime. The vast majority of people in this country who own guns do so properly.

  38. “I take it you would fully support the censorship of art if the first amendment said, “free expression of political and social ideas being necessary to the political functioning of a free state, the Congress shall pass no law abriding freedom of speech.” I guess it would then only cover political and social ideas, not art or literature by your standards…”

    Uh, you do know that non-political speech is much more limited than political speech for exactly the reason you (mockingly) laid out above?

  39. Harry said:

    “But if came down to a contest of force between me and the government, I’m pretty sure that owning a handgun – or indeed a tank – wouldn’t get me very far.”

    True enough. But you’d get further with a gun, then without. And, as already stated, enough people with guns can make a difference. Look at the insurgency in Iraq – using small weapons, they are able to kill and injure troops, and steal/protect enough explosives to take on armored vehicles.

    John H said:

    ‘And interpreting the 2nd Amendment to mean armed citizens are the final check against tyranny begs the question, “Who gets to decide when it’s time to take the government down and start over?”‘

    A truly interesting question. Based on historical precedent in the US, you and I get to decide. And if we can find a large enough amount of people who agree with us, let’s say 1/3rd of the country’s population, we have a fighting chance. If it ever gets that bad here, I at least want that fighting chance.

    MatGB:

    What crime rates are you referencing? Violent crime? Property crime? Crimes committed with guns vs. knifes?

    So, no one has brought up John Lott’s work regarding less crime in areas with concealed carry laws? I heard there was some controversy regarding his analyses; however, the underlying logic is sound. If criminals think you could be carrying, they are going to be less apt to try and victimize you. Guns, like it or not, help equalize power relationships. The criminals already have them, and the criminal minded can get them easily. Give me 8 hours, $100, and any urban center with 1 million or more people, and I can get a gun.

  40. “Look at the insurgency in Iraq – using small weapons, they are able to kill and injure troops, and steal/protect enough explosives to take on armored vehicles”

    Ye Gods. The insurgents in Iraq are not “working up” from smaller weapons. They have a range of heavy infantry weapons, including RPGs, heavy machine guns, and shoulder-fired SAMS. I assume that you would support the legalization of those in the United States? Since we have them to keep the government in check, right?

    “I heard there was some controversy regarding his analyses”

    ‘Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?’

  41. i was always given the information that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms was to protect the citizens against the government getting delusions of dictatorship — as well as invading armies. i do not own a gun. my father was a cop and he hid his guns — unloaded — carefully, and since his retirement has never, to my knowledge, used them again. all that being said, however, while i do not own a gun, and at the moment never plan on owning a gun, i would like to have my right to own a gun protected.

  42. Total:

    Well, let’s see. You’re wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Snipers, using small arms and some bigger sniper specific equipment (though not necessarily weapons that I believe should be legal) are in fact killing Americans in Iraq.

    Insurgents, armed with stuff like AK-47′s, pistols, and yes, even some heavier stuff in some cases, were able to grab weapons caches after the fall of Saddam. There was a hell of a lot of heavier ordnance unsecured that light infantry got ahold of in Iraq. So that’s one reason, but not the only, that they now have heavy machine guns, RPGs, and SAMs.

    So, to state more specifically, yes, I think small arms, including semi assault rifles (which can be made fully auto with kits), should be legal. And yes, some of the Iraqi insurgents were armed with that kind of weaponry, and they were able to secure heavier weapons. And yes, I do think something analogous might happen in the US if armed insurrection became a serious alternative. I imagine 30-50 light partisans could take a police station and/or a lightly defended National Guard base. Not saying it would easy, not even saying I would know how, just saying that it would be possible if the citizenry had access to light arms.

    And no, I’m not saying SAMs, RPGs, and heavy machine guns should be available to the general public. Thanks for trying to put words in my mouth.

  43. You don’t need MANPADs, ATGMs, or HMGs to, ah, ‘correct’ political misbehavior. You just need a scoped rifle. A hunting rifle will do.

    If you really want to go whole hog, take the McVeigh route.

    Either way, there is no, repeat no, need to fight the police, the national guard, or whoever else. If you’re fighting, you’ve already screwed up.

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