Thursday, March 20, 2008

That Pesky Constitution

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," viewing the Supreme Court with a wary eye since 1991! So far we've avoided having to learn about Intelligent Design in schools, but thorny issues still bedevil our learned justices.

This week the court is hearing arguments about a handgun ban in Washington, DC. Certain citizens of our nation's capital think this ban is unconstitutional.

At issue is the interpretation of the Second Amendment: "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."

Now, you guys and gals out there who want freedom from religion, just remember that there's more than one Amendment on that ancient parchment. The troublesome clause above has been used for years by groups like the NRA to oppose gun control legislation.

To me the Second Amendment seems contradictory. Do you understand it? Seems to me to suggest that only the well-regulated militia ought to have the arms. Personally I would not call a bunch of drug dealers on a DC street corner a well-regulated militia. Nor does the term spring to mind when some scary wackadoo runs amok at a university and starts shooting everything that moves.

On the other hand, the second half of the sentence states that We the People can "keep and bear arms." Does that mean people who aren't part of a well-regulated militia?

Personally I have not been, nor am I now, a member of a well-regulated militia. So I don't own any guns. Guns give me the creeps, because, you know, "production for use" and all that. If I owned a gun, I'd be so curious whether it was working or not that I'd probably plug some innocent bunny or squirrel from time to time. And that wouldn't be very nice.

In the state of New Jersey, getting permission to purchase a firearm is a long and arduous process. A local newspaper reporter decided to try her luck. The cops came to her house and interviewed her entire family. Then they interviewed her neighbors. Then they did a thorough background check. She had to release her medical records. I think it took her about two months to get a permit, and by that time her privacy had been pretty much ripped to shreds.

Across the river, in Pennsylvania, it takes about three hours to buy a gun. Then you have to wait a day before you can buy another gun. The state legislature debated changing the gun laws -- lots of people from inner city Philadelphia went to Harrisburg to support stricter controls -- but Pennsylvania's law held.

On this one I think I would be a strict constructionist. You want a gun? Join the National Guard. That's our well-regulated militia.

But what about the little old lady in the bad neighborhood who owns a handgun and knows how to use it? Wouldn't an intruder think twice before trying to rob her?

My personal solution to this dilemma would be to dig up the authors of the Constitution, re-vivify them, set them adrift in an inner city for a few days, allow them to sample all the state-of-the-art automatic weaponry, and then convene them for discussion. They might want to tweak the grammar on the Second Amendment a little bit.

As for me, the only arms I'll ever bear are the two that attach to my body at the shoulder. Can't kill bunnies with those.



yellowdog granny said...

ahh, you always get it right..

Thalia said...

I was under the impression that the 2nd amendment was there so that if the government got out of whack and crazy with power the people would be able to defend themselves and overthrow it. Because only allowing the government to have the weapons is a recipe for an oppressed populace.

But maybe I just had an anarchist Government teacher in high school.

Also, that in 1780-whatever if you were to eat a gun was a necessary thing, and banning the people from having them meant they might starve.

NOT that I disagree with you, I should stress.

THE Michael said...

Until the government can guarantee me that no criminal, or anybody other than a cop or soldier, can get their hands on a handgun, then I demand equal access to my only means of self defense. But, even then, I believe the forefathers meant to make it extremely dicey for the government to oppress us without a good fight. Donald Rumsfield thought subduing the Iraqi's would be a piece of cake. Donald Dumb Ass was WRONG.

I have had this one Walther PPK sitting on my headboard for over a decade, and the only time I used it was to protect my animals and wife from a huge rattlesnake. If nobody threatens me in my own castle, no one need fear anything from me owning a handgun.

Flick said...

It only seems contradictory if you don't know what the founders meant the militia to be. Fortunately, that is codified in the US Code Title 10 Sec 311. Basically the militia is We the People. Voila, no more confusion...unless one insists on searching for some other explanation to fit one's worldview.

Also, well regulated in this context in 18th century English meant well trained and orderly, not the 21st century meaning of bureaucratic red tape.

In fact, the need for the Second Amendment is growing clearer and more noticeable by the day since 9/11/01, and it's not because of the "terrorists,"...or at least not the terrorists "over there."

That with rights come responsibilities is widely if not universally accepted. So what is the responsibility that comes with the right to keep and bear arms? It’s in the opening phrase of the Second Amendment. “Owning guns and complaining to your representatives being sufficient to the security of a free state,…” Right? Well that’s what most gun owners seem to think.

For any who wish to take seriously the responsibility that comes with the right to keep and bear arms, I’d like to invite you to explore today’s militia at We might surprise you, especially if you still believe what the mainstream media and groups like the SPLC say about us.


Anonymous said...

Right off the top I own a few guns.
I disagree with the notion that we need guns to “protect” ourselves from the government. Gandhi proved this point. Further, should we reach the point where armed rebellion becomes necessary, the US Army would blow the “rebels” away in a heartbeat. The discrepancy in firepower is simply way too lopsided. The vision of an armed populace, plinking away at tanks, planes and such with hunting rifles is just- ridiculous.
The “problem” with gun ownership is that it is the source of most of the guns on the street. It drives me up the wall when I read of a break-in where 78 guns were stolen. Why anyone would need 78 guns is just beyond me. Those living in rural areas do indeed have reason to own a gun. Protection from dangerous wildlife, slow police response and those that rely on a good fall hunt to feed the family should be considered.
I don’t know the answer. But something is wrong.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Anne, by 18th-century rules, the "well-regulated", i.e., well-trained, militia, was all able-bodied men (so you are out) between roughly 16 and 60.

In other words, the voters.

The word has been perverted by subsequent splinter groups, but that is what it meant in the Founders' day.

It did not mean the National Guard or similar bodies. To read the Second in that sense makes about as much sense as having an amendment to authorize the Navy to own ships.