December 16, 2012

Take that, Emperors and Lords and Space Invaders

There is, as far as I know, no direct evidence that the Framers intended to protect the right of individuals to own personal weapons that had no practical military purpose in service of the govenment/national interest, or in the sense of potential revoltion.   The right in the discussion around the Constituiton exists entirely in the context of the inherent military legitimacy of the U.S., and in that era, military need, resting with the people. (How clear was this? Washington himself passed a federal mandate, yes, one of those, that free men purchase rifles, to be ready if needed to serve U.S. military purposes.)

This random page of gun worship blitheness imagines that it's own Founder's quotes are a broad defense of gun rights. But it's the opposite. All of it is about the political importance of being able to raise citizen militias, and almost all of that is contigent on defense against outside tyranny and even "domestic insurrection." 

In other words, the 2nd amendment was written and designed as political right,  not a personal carte blanche; a right of the people to organize into militias, but entirely within state, local and national law, as a souce of check and balance on centralized government power.  Fine.  What it's describing is Switzerland- free citizens have a military weapon, after their period of national military service, for use in national defense, and as a legal recognition that political power rests in the hands of the people.

But unlike the 1st Amendment, it says nothing even close to "Congress shall make no law." It says, in modern language, "we need to be able to raise an anti-Space Invaders army from the people, so right of the people to have assault lasers for that army shall not be infringed."  The 2nd amendment has exactly nothing to do with hand-held weapons of any kind,  which are essentially useless on a battlefield.  It doesn't limit or exlude regulation like the 1st. And it certainly doesn't protect the right of a resentment-besotted doofus to wallk into college classrooms with concealed weapon and an 11 round clip.

Of all groups in recent history, the Black Panthers were, with the obvious more or less, what the Founders had in mind when the 2nd amendment is interpreted at is greatest breadth. This latter point should be raised often.


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

"legal recognition that political power rests in the hands of the people."

It's a good point, but I actually disagree with that interpretation. It's like saying the founding fathers wanted to preserve the rights of armed insurgents of every stripe. If that's what they meant, why didn't they write that? What's the "well regulated" part for? Regulated by whom? Were the Black Panthers "well regulated?"

I wonder if the idea of "the right to bear arms" is more a reaction to having national armies largely composed of foreign mercenaries, before the fashion of universal conscription of the Napoleonic era.

December 16, 2012 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger First Sea Lord said...

That first interpretation is me being quite generous to the broader spirit of revolutionary times. I wouldn't put any money on it as a an actionable principle, except for this mildly psychotic Supreme Court starting to enforce it for the first time in forever.

December 16, 2012 at 11:40 PM  

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