The Second Amendment

 Posted by on April 17, 2007  Add comments
Apr 172007
 

The second amendment to the US constitution is very clear. It was inserted into the constitution in 1789 at a time when there was widespread suspicion of the Federal government. Many felt that the individual States needed the possibility to protect themselves against tyranny and they were probably right.

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.

That’s what it says, and to me it seems very plain and unambiguous. It provides for the need to raise a State militia, and it does so by conferring a right to keep and bear arms. It says nothing about keeping a gun for personal protection.

Now, to read some of the replies to my post on the subject here last week before the awful events at Blacksburg, you would think the second amendment was Holy Writ instead of a political clause inserted by men fearful of centralised government.

A couple of things strike me about it.

Firstly, it’s a complete anachronism, appropriate to the eighteenth century but entirely impractical today. What would happen in reality if any individual State raised a militia against the federal government? Well, it already happened in 1861, and the federal government waged a war of such destruction and terror against the insurgent States that the consequences reverberate to the present day.

That was then. That was before F16 jets, Bradley fighting vehicles, depleted Uranium bullets, Cruise missiles, A-10 Warthog tank-busters, spy satellites and gigantic aircraft carriers. With horse and musket and cannon, the federal government laid waste to the South. Imagine what a federal government today would do to an insurgent State. And no bearded militia armed with Kalashnikovs and knives would withstand the onslaught for a day. If you think the violence in Iraq is savage, it would be nothing compared to the vengeance that any uprising would provoke in the United States.

Therefore, the second amendment seems to me to be obsolete and pointless.

Secondly, what is meant by arms? In 1789, the word would have meant muzzle-loading muskets, but today you have people walking around with Uzis and AK47s. Where are the limits? For instance, is there a right to own a field artillery piece? Or a B-52 bomber? What about a nuclear missile? A battleship. Don’t laugh: these are all arms.

Thirdly, it seems plain to me as an objective outsider that it was never intended as a personal civil right. If the intention was to guarantee the individual a right to bear arms, it would have said this:

The right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

That would have been clear, plain and unambiguous, but it doesn’t say that. It qualifies the right by placing it in the context of raising a militia.

Now, the other issue is the law in individual States. As I understand it, you can go to a gun show in Virginia and buy any weapon on sale – there and then – for cash, provided you’re over 18. There’s no background check. There’s no delay. Here’s your assault rifle, Sir. Have a nice day. (Admittedly, it isn’t completely unregulated: you can’t buy more than one weapon a month, which is something to be grateful for, I suppose).

So, even if they kept the second amendment, the individual States could tighten up their gun laws.

But what’s it all about anyway? What’s this business of wanting to carry automatic weapons around with you?  I don’t get it, but looking back through the years, I’d probably have loved it when I was eight.

They say, Well, we need to protect ourselves from the bad guys, and you have to agree there’s a big problem with gun-crime over there. Guns are everywhere, and all the bad guys are armed, so what’s the answer? Is it to arm the whole population, or is it to take away the guns from everyone? Are the people armed so that they can do the work of the police, or should the police be better resourced so that people don’t have to keep automatic weapons?

I don’t know. It seems to me that if the US government can afford to spend $20 million an hour on the Iraq war, you’d imagine they could afford to take on and disarm their own home-grown criminals, wouldn’t you?

I really think Moses was wrong about this one.

  26 Responses to “The Second Amendment”

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  1.  

    Of all the blogs, articles, books, TV reports, films etc. I read and seen relating to this subject, I think you’ve made the most valid observation of all:

    It seems to me that if the US government can afford to spend $20 million an hour on the Iraq war, you’d imagine they could afford to take on and disarm their own home-grown criminals, wouldn’t you?

  2.  

    “As I understand it, you can go to a gun show in Virginia and buy any weapon on sale – there and then – for cash, provided you’re over 18. There’s no background check. There’s no delay. Here’s your assault rifle, Sir. Have a nice day.”
    This is a falsehood perpetuated by the anti-gun crowd. Untrue!

    “but today you have people walking around with Uzis and AK47s.”
    I’m sure someone on TV will tell you this is how it is but it, also, is not true.
    I’m not going to allow myself to be dragged into this subject again but I felt the need to point out a few falsehoods in your post.
    I am kinda’ blown away at all the bloggers going on about guns but I have yet to see any blog offer their sadness and condolences to the families and friends of those involved in this horrible tragedy.
    I for one have these people in my thoughts and prayers. This is a time we need to find out what and why not just point fingers.
    Kate at Because I Said So put it much more eloquently than I could.
    http://kate2kids.blogspot.com/
    Her post is called A Prediction.

  3.  

    people kill people not guns, get rid of all the people. Cars kill more people a year anywhere (except warzones) than mongs with guns.

    If you’re going to kill someone you’ll do it no matter what you have to do it with.
    The second admendment was written to keep the government at the time in place and like all the constituion works as well today as all the up to date laws in the Bible do.

  4.  

    I am kinda’ blown away at all the bloggers going on about guns but I have yet to see any blog offer their sadness and condolences to the families and friends of those involved in this horrible tragedy.

    blown away, nice one, you just lost yer moral highground before it was even gained.

  5.  

    In 1999 I went to a big sporting-goods emporium at Gurnee Mills, just outside Chicago, where there was a fearsome array of weapons on display. Dads and their teenage sons were checking out the latest pump-action shotguns and God knows what else. I asked my American friends whether just anyone could buy firearms over the counter. “Pretty much,” they said.

    But within Chicago city limits, I believe, personal firearms are forbidden, so some sense prevails.

  6.  

    Erm… brianf, I’m a little confused. See, I don’t need to write anywhere that I’m thinking of these people. I just do it.

    And surely by coming on to this blog and saying something like ‘I have yet to see any blog offer their sadness and condolences to the families and friends of those involved in this horrible tragedy.
    I for one have these people in my thoughts and prayers. This is a time we need to find out what and why not just point fingers.’… Well, isn’t that a bit of finger-pointing you’re enjoying there?

    Good for you that you’re thinking and praying – but I don’t need to broadcast it to be doing it. I just didn’t declare it. Try not to make those kind of assumptions, it makes you sound a bit of an arse.

    Read Kate’s post, by the way. So finger-wagging at the finger-waggers is fine, but not finger-wagging? I don’t get it. If i have a problem with that kind of thing, I try and remedy it by living my life the way I think best, not by… wagging my finger and saying finger-wagging is bad. Lead by example.

    Sorry to ramble. And the whole thing is too fucked up to get our heads around, I would say, as it usually is when things on this scale happen. And the information’s still coming out.

  7.  

    Brian: Falsehoods?

    I don’t know about over there, but here the word falsehood means a deliberate untruth or a lie. Now, I can only presume that you chose that word in the heat of the moment.

    This site may well be riddled with inaccuracies, mistakes and errors but it contains no falsehoods.

    It’s legal in Virginia for any US citizen or legal resident to own an assault weapon. Here’s the relevant extract from the Virginia State legislation, which defines the classes of persons who may not own such a weapon.

    § 18.2-308.2:01.

    It shall be unlawful for any person who is not a citizen of the United States or who is not a person lawfully admitted for permanent residence to knowingly and intentionally possess or transport any assault firearm or to knowingly and intentionally carry about his person, hidden from common observation, an assault firearm. It shall be unlawful for any person who is not a citizen of the United States and who is not lawfully present in the United States to knowingly and intentionally possess or transport any firearm or to knowingly and intentionally carry about his person, hidden from common observation, any firearm. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 6 felony.

    For purposes of this section, “assault firearm” means any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.

    As regards the question of background checks at gun shows, here’s a report from the Washington Post of Jan 16, 2007, entitled More Restrictions Urged On Gun-Show Purchases

    It says as folows:

    RICHMOND, Jan. 15 — Proponents of tougher state laws governing the sale of firearms, most of them from Northern Virginia, urged the General Assembly on Monday to require criminal background checks of all buyers at gun shows.

    The measure would close the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows unlicensed dealers to sell firearms at shows in Virginia without conducting the criminal checks required of licensed dealers. Its purpose, supporters said, is to prevent criminals who are prohibited from possessing guns from obtaining them by shopping anonymously at gun shows.

    One final point. This blog is for expressing my public views.

    My thoughts and prayers are my own business.

  8.  

    Good post, Bock.

    Everyone is shocked and disturbed by this. Noone has anything but heartfelt sympathy for the victims and their families. I don’t think that’s in dispute though.

    But, I think when something on this scale happens people look around and see if they can understand how one man could kill 32 people so quickly and easily. How could it happen? He was unstable, clearly, couldn’t deal with anger properly and harboured grudges. That alone makes him dangerous. With a knife he’s even more dangerous. With 2 weapons and a bunch of clips, he’s deadly to the tune of 32 people.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I admire the American way greatly: the can-do attitude and the pioneering spirit. I know that, in its history, guns played an important part in defending the homestead etc. I know we have very different ideas on this in Europe with our very different histories. But I still think personal gun ownership in America is an anachronism, and one we can’t afford any more. Gangs all have them, nutters can get them far too easily, hunters’ kids get injured regularly by them. I think we have to assume that not everyone with a gun is going to be reasonable, well-trained and careful with their weapons. To me, the statistics bear this out. The laws on the books already just aren’t being effective.

    I know I’ve said this here before and, Brianf, I know we disagree on this, but I just think it would have been much more difficult for him to run around stabbing 32 people without being stopped. If he had not had such easy access to guns, the death toll would be far lower.

    What struck me most, yesterday, was that by the time the evening news was on, many of the bodies still hadn’t been identified because, understandably, these things take time. But to be a parent of a student at Virginia tech yesterday must have been a tortuous hell. Waiting for news and not getting a call from your child would have been agony. I cannot begin to imagine how I’d cope with the horror if either of my children were in a situation like that.

    And the gunman isn’t even around to answer to what he’s done. It makes you heart-sick, the whole thing.

  9.  

    You can really offer your condolences, in advance, to every American family because this kind this will happen again. The NRA will probably hold a rally close to the site so as to allay any fears that guns actually do harm.
    Brianf; if you are trying to say that there wouldn’t any change in the death rate if guns weren’t made so readily available, then I’m afraid you’re not being realistic.

  10.  

    Until I moved to the States, being from a culture where gun culture was non existent, (then), I was totally in favor of banning every firearm. After living there for a long time I have become ambiguous on banning guns, although I would support any such initiative. The question to my mind is why does it seem that these massacres are unique to the US. Every year someone wanders into a school in the US and kills students and teachers. It was that Amish school a few months back. There are many other cultures where guns are available, Australia and Canada come to mind. There are also other countries whose history is steeped in violence and still mass killings do not seem to happen regularly.

    Is it the US culture of individuality, (that I love)? Maybe at its extreme it can facilitate a psychopath, or at least create an environment where they go unnoticed. As Sam said the big problem with us ever studying and understanding this is that the fuckers kill themselves so we never get to try and understand the motivation and behavior of these people

  11.  

    Bock, You are the only one to offer an intelligent responce so here goes.
    Falsehood according to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language(1978)is as follows;
    faslehood, 1. A false statement. 2. The lack of conformity to truth or fact. 3. An untrue idea or belief.
    Now I have said many times before…please read what I wrote and not what you want to read into it.
    I’m not trying to be mean but adamant.

    According to FEDERAL law no firearm may be TRANSFERED without a FEDERAL background check being made.
    Now each state has their own laws that preempt the federal law.
    Pennsylvania law states that ANY handgun transfered must be transfered through a Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer (FFL).
    I shoot alot in Virginia and I know for a fact that ALL firearm transfers MUST be done through an FFL!!!!!!
    In PA I can sell another PA resident a long arm (rifle or shotgun) privately but I know I can not do this in any other state because I live in PA.
    The citations you quote are not applicable in the case of firearm TRANSFERS.
    Anyone who wishes to speak about this can find me on Skype at brianf223.
    Second point…..Americans do not hold a monopoly on sympathy or saddness but I’ll say again I didn’t see or hear ANYONE express sadness at what happened at VT until I brought it up. What does that tell you?

  12.  

    Brianf, starting your post with ‘you are the only one to offer an intelligent responce [sic]’ isn’t going to win you any awards. Or any brownie points. Or anything much.

    And as for what that tells me… You don’t want to go asking questions like that, as I suspect you won’t like the answers.

    A terrible, awful thing has happened. How about we leave it at that, and all deal with it in our individual ways without judging each other for how we’re doing it?

  13.  

    “A terrible, awful thing has happened. How about we leave it at that, and all deal with it in our individual ways without judging each other for how we’re doing it?”
    Hey Badgerdaddy,
    Amen Brother, I’m with you on that!

  14.  

    Bock –

    Georgia actually requires a background check, and we’re linked to our own criminal database as well as a peice of the FBI’s.

    That being said, I’m all about the right to defend oneself, but I don’t have a need to defend myself with an Uzi…unless it’s from an army of maurauding coachroaches.

    That lost soul had two guns – although reports differ somewhat as to what kind – I hear a 9mm Glock, recently purchased, and a 22. Some of the people were killed with head shots. Where did this kid learn about weapons, and where did he learn such precise aim? It’s freaking difficult to hit a moving target.

    All that being said: if you invade my home, I have a right to defent myself. I don’t need an uzi to do it.

    The other argument I hear from the pro gun crowd is that it’s the right of the public to bear arms in case the government turns tyrannical.

    I’m sorry, are they asleep? Bush Jr IS a tyrant….

    Lastly (I promise) we should feel very very sorry for that child, and for a culture that allows someone to slip through the cracks so thoroughly.

  15.  

    Brian: Thank you for the clarification. Are you saying that in fact Virginia law has no power because it is overtaken by federal law? I find this concept difficult, because I wonder what point there is in enacting State law if federal law can render it void.

    As I explained, the term falsehood has a specific meaning here, but I understand that it isn’t the meaning you intend to convey, and that’s good, as we’re only trying to promote a useful debate here.

    I don’t think this site is the place to express my feelings about the deaths at Blacksburg. You’ll notice that I haven’t expressed my sympathies to any Iraqi parents here either.

  16.  

    Hey Bock,
    State law has preemption in this case. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. PA laws on transfers of firearms is different from Virginias as it is different from Ohios, etc….
    In PA one MUST do a background check when transfering a handgun but if you nad I are both residents of PA then I can sell you a long arm privately without a background check.
    OK, …..but there are still more restrictions, in that if I don’t know you and we are at a gun show or a baseball game or in a park, well then it’s considered a PUBLIC sale. In this case I can not sell you the long arm without a NICS* check.
    I know it’s confusing but does that make sense?

    NICS
    National Instant Check System)

  17.  

    If you’re going to kill someone you’ll do it no matter what you have to do it with.

    Actually, knives are 7 times less likely to be used than guns in killings

    Tim Wise wrote an excellent piece on Alternet some years ago called School Shootings and White Denial.

    Could this young man, who came from South Korea to Washington DC when he was still a child, be the victim of ‘Caucasianisation angst’?, a new psychological just made up by me 10 seconds ago without any research – or was he just a self-hating nut who managed to get a gun and fulfil his blood-thirsty fantasies in a university campus, rather than the killing fields of Iraq?

    On the micro-level the U.S. experiences this tragedy and I for one, just to refute Brianf’s disappointment mixed in with moral superiority about heartless bloggers, have expressed my cyber-sympathy to the families. On the macro-level the Afghan Human Rights Commission reported their findings on a massacre at Mhmand Dara where civilians were killed by U.S. Special Forces Marines. This atrocity has been admitted to by U.S. commander, Maj. Gen. Frank H. Kearney, the head of the Special Operations Command Central who ordered the investigation on the civilian killings in Afghanistan.

    Join the dots!

  18.  

    ooops…..should read, ‘a new psychological condition’

    Interesting blog Bock, keep bocking!

  19.  

    Like many things when you’re embroiled in the thick of them, it’s not black and white. Perhaps I have such a clear-cut opinion on this because I’m distanced enough from it that it doesn’t affect me. Either way, despite intelligent people writing intelligent arguments about why they think guns in the US are a basic human right, I believe an outright ban is the way to go. My reasoning for this is that the only other option is appropriate education on the use of arms (as happens in Switzerland with kids from a young age, and a place where there are comparatively few murders), but I don’t think the US is capable of doing that. United maybe, but not enough to pull that off.

  20.  

    You know in a very callous way, it occurs to me that the Americans don’t deserve a solution to their gun problem. They are not prepared to make any sacrifice , not prepared to give in any way, and it strikes me that they must be needy for the attention the world bestows on her, drying her tears and holding her hand and telling her we understand. But like the spoilt brat she is, she will re-offend soon because she craves the attention, needs the childish debate and loves the spotlight on her, only her.

    But yet, she’s not adult enough to give up her weapons. She’s like the child who never gets beyond omnipotence believing the world centres on her. You’ll occasionally see kids at this stage in the checkout queue, throwing a spectacular tantrum while the parents silently fume. But unlike all other kids, America has never grown up, remaining needy, sulky and cloying, wanting only her way and throwing tantrums when she can’t get it.

    My heart aches for the relatives of these poor souls, but my head rages at all these bastards who play with words and glorify in their anal control fantasy of caveats and regulations ( 200 Million weapons to control aka Control freak nirvana ) . Fuck them Bock, and the jig they dance around your blog with reasons for this and reasons for that They are our world’s modern spoilt child, and are worse then any of their jingoistic empire predecessors, who wanted to be better then everyone else. It’s their game, their constitution and their guns. So I say fuck them and fuck their guns, they don’t want to be helped.

    I stand accused of being anti-American. I could plead provocation but that would pander.

    I’m just angry.

  21.  

    Sniffle –

    I am American, and I agree on so many points. I have long held (and it’s quite an unpopular stance) that our domestic and foreign policies have sucked wind since the New Deal. Guns are not a god given right, and they aren’t any part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

    While I have been anti gun most of my life, events have occurred in my recent family history that have honestly led me to say “this wouldn’t have happened if I had a gun”. I’m glad that I can exercise the right to do so, but I think there should be some restrictions. No assault rifles, machine guns, rpg’s, etc.

    And you are right, we are the crybabies of the world. In the last fifty years, we have positioned ourselves to be the world’s policeman, yet we are incredibly selective about what we police. I.E. we must have some sort of financial interest in our policing efforts. Sad, but true. If you don’t have oil, or money, or aren’t a Muslim that can help elect or relect a president, we aren’t interested.

    Woodrow Wilson (I think) had an excellent policy – it was called isolationism. Too bad in this day of an every shrinking global community it doesn’t work. We will always be who we are until the Chinese finally get smart and start charging us more for their exported consumer goods. Since a good bit of our jobs are now exported, eventually no one will be able to buy anything, and our economy will slowly tank.

    And then, my friend, you may say “I told you so”.

  22.  

    I don’t know. It seems to me that if the US government can afford to spend $20 million an hour on the Iraq war, you’d imagine they could afford to take on and disarm their own home-grown criminals, wouldn’t you?

    Interesting statement. The Govt is all about putting fear in to it’s citizens to gain control. They could control the criminal element in the US but choose NOT to. So until then… I’m keeping my gun to protect my family and property.

  23.  

    Rich, I can see your point of view.

    It does seem to me that your government could remove the problem so that you wouldn’t feel the need to keep a gun at home. As you point out, maybe it doesn’t want to, for other reasons.

    Interesting slant on the discussion

  24.  

    Rich,
    Be plain, Are you saying that they are deliberately not controlling criminal elements as a method of foisting greater reductions on your civil liberties? because to us outside over here yonder, it appears as if the Big Brother attitude has gone completely bugfuck over there in the gud ole US of A.

    I have read many photography websites where a major subject for discussions are the restrictions being placed on what you can and cannot photograph, where you can and cannot bring a GPS, etc, etc. and the attitudes of security guards and law enforcement with regard to photography.

    Now maybe I am reading too much into your short statement but do I detect a slight kick against this? I would agree that there does seem to be a bias to policing everyone else except your criminal element at home. Are you saying that this is done to scare the ordinary Joe soap into allowing further reductions in his freedoms by Federal Guv/Bushadmin?

  25.  

    After the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was largely disbanded. Individuals were expected to take up a bigger role in defence from internal and external enemies. Rag-tag groups would fight the Indian when there was trouble, and afterwards the gun would rest once again by the fireplace. Of course, the defence needs and military policy of the US today is far removed from that reality. Nevertheless, I do agree with the right to bear arms, but would prefer if it was perhaps given to members of actual militias trained in the use of arms (like in Switzerland) or where most people have military or weapons training (Israel) – these countries having huge gun ownership amongst civilians but very low in gun crime as well as other varieties of crime. This is not the situation in the US, where any idiot can just buy a damn gun and have no competency in its use whatsoever.

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