A Dose of Second Amendment Reality

It’s starting again…

On Monday, the people of the United States were “treated” to the second mass shooting incident in a week, when innocent people who were out shopping for groceries and the “essential workers” who worked at the supermarket to support their families, were subject to the whims of someone who is obviously a victim of mental illness.

In what has become far too common, the deaths of ten more people, coming just days after the murders of spa workers in the Atlanta area, were met with the usual spasms of guilt from liberals and unfounded nonsense from the far right/modern Republican segment of the politics.

One thing the far left and far right have in common is the tendency toward reaction and reactionary rhetoric, even when they are inappropriate. Right now, you have the far left demanding that all guns just like those used in the Boulder grocery massacre be banned once and for all. And they are putting on Joe Biden, demanding that he make an executive order banning “assault weapons,” like we did during the Clinton Administration in then 1990s. Never mind that the Clinton assault weapon ban – which did work, by the way, for the the years it existed. However, that law was passed by Congress, and was not established by an executive order. Not only that, but the law had to pass through reconciliation, which means it expired in 10 years because of the filibuster laws.

Of course, as reactionary and silly as the far lefties are, those on the far right are even dumber, by far. Instead of a gun ban, which has to be passed by Congress, without the filibuster and without reconciliation, the right wing insists that no gun control of any kind will ever work. That is just a pure lie. The Assault Weapons Ban was passed in 1994 and Republicans let it expire in 2004. During the ten-year life of that law, it saved a lot of lives, especially considering the huge increase in mass shootings after the law expired.

Before the assault weapons ban, there were 68 mass shooting deaths per year from 1981-1993. During the ban, there were 53 per year, so the assault weapons ban saved some lives, to be sure. However, since the ban expired in 2004, the number of deaths has skyrocketed to 309 per year. (Source)

What makes the far right’s position on guns so ridiculous is that it’s based on an insane reading of the Second Amendment. Not only is is wrong, but it’s based on a fantasy, in which nothing in the Amendment’s text is reflected in their interpretation.

The Second Amendment might have made sense when it was ratified in 1787, but there isn’t much to understand. The entire text of the Second Amendment is as follows:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

There isn’t a lot to it, but there is a hell of a lot more to it than “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” And yet, as the far-right gun loons see things, none of the other words even matter. The problem is, the other words set the meaning for the Second Amendment. In 1787, in fact, you could only “bear arms” as a part of a militia, so there is also that. And the idea that any rights acknowledged in the Bill of Rights are unlimited is absurd. And yet, when the typical far-right gun loon talks about the Second Amendment, they seem to think it means everyone can own as many of any gun they want, without restrictions, even though no other rights are absolute, not even religion and speech. For example, I can exercise my right to free speech anytime I want, except through a bullhorn on your front lawn at 3 in the morning. And if my religion required me to sacrifice pets on a barbecue grill, or it requires me to mainline heroin, the state or local government would have to step in.

This nonsensical belief that the Second Amendment provides American individuals with an overarching and quite unlimited right to own and carry guns comes almost exclusively from the National Rifle Association, or NRA. The NRA started 150 years ago as an organization designed to provide gun safety education to gun owners. It was ostensibly created to improve the marksmanship skills of those who might be called on to fight in another war. It has since morphed into a gun manufacturers’ lobbying organization, which explains its right-wing bent in recent years, as everything they do seems intent on improving gun sales by scaring gun owners into thinking the government is planning to take away their rights by taking their guns. That gets the excited and makes them head to the gun store to replenish their arsenal. Read the Second Amendment again; there is no individual right mentioned there. Not only that, but among the major duties of Congress, according to the very same Constitution (Article I, Section 8), is to:

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; (Source)

So, if the right to bear arms is meant to be so complete and unlimited, then why would the same writers of the Constitution include oversight by the Congress they just created? There is no oversight for any other right, except for the creation of the Supreme Court, to allow the people to appeal whichever decision the lower courts make.

There have been several historical periods in which the ownership of guns has been oversized. For instance, exactly a century ago from today, rifles shooting became such a popular sport, it was featured as an Olympic Sport, and colleges featured shooting tournaments in front of hundreds of fans. However, there has never been a time like we see these days, in which millions have been deluded into believing bullshit when it comes to the Bill of Rights. We have a lot of freedom in this country, but we all have it, not just those who have been suckered into believing nonsense. In recent years, the allegedly unlimited “right to bear arms” has become a party of what the Bill of Rights stands for.

To make matters worse, their cartoon version of what the Second Amendment actually says and means has become such a pillar of Republican Party ideology that, every time there his a mass shooting, a member of he GOP will insist there is nothing we can do to stop it because of the limitless right that their version of the Amendment created, there is no way we can stop the rampant murder. A few print righties, including Bill O’Reilly and Texas Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz, have taken the position that the mass shooting phenomenon is simply “the price of freedom,” since the right to “keep and bear arms” is absolutely guaranteed by the Constitution. That is ridiculous, since the Constitution also protects the right to life and liberty.

How can the government protect us, while also protecting an unfettered right to own as many of any type of weapon each of us wishes? The answer, of course, is that it can’t. This view of the Second Amendment is insanity, and has to go. It has no place in a country in which every person on our shores is entitled to the same rights.

The NRA is in trouble, and so is the GOP. And that is a good thing. We can not claim we’re doing everything we can to stop the murders, when we can’t even discuss the regulation of guns to any serious degree. Guns and gun ownership must be regulated. It should not be possible to get royally pissed off and immediately run to a gun shop and buy a gun and a few thousand rounds to “fix” the problem.

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