2nd Amendment

Posted: July 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

I agree that the issue with the 2nd Amendment is not about gun technology. It is not about machine guns or assault rifles. It is about the rights established in the Constitution and for whom those rights were established. On that basis, the 2nd Amendment does not give all individuals the right to own guns… Preventing slave rebellions was one of the primary reasons for the 2nd Amendment. The larger reason was that the Founders never intended for everyone to be armed.  Conservatives insist on an “original” reading of what the founders wrote. But their reading of the Constitution is not original and just plain wrong.  If we want to know what the founding fathers thought, we cannot limit ourselves only to the vaguely written second amendment. We have to read and understand the entire Constitution.image

When we read the full Constitution, we see clearly what they thought and agreed to. Yes, they were afraid of tyrannical leaders. But they were also afraid of the people. That is why they did not give the right to vote to the vast majority of people living in the 13 colonies. That is why they made the Senate a body whose members were selected by the legislatures of the 13 new states and not by voters. That is why they created the Electoral College to establish a buffer between the voters choice, as limited as it was, and the ultimate decision about who becomes president. That is why states are equally represented in the Senate, no matter how large or small their population. All of these features of the proposed new state appeared or were not changed in the body of the Constitution. The Amendments were meant only to amend, not eliminate, the powers enumerated to the federated state created by the new Constitution. They did not change the kind of government they wanted or who was allowed to have input. They merely softened it’s impact and offered citizens, who were a small minority, the right to challenge the state through speech, assembly, etc. But these enumerated rights were not given to the entire population. Those rights were given to only the small number of people who had the right to vote.

So, when the 2nd amendment specifies a “well-regulated militia”, they were not talking about all the people. They were referring to a small volunteer militia regulated by the state governments (to prevent slave rebellion, as some historians have shown). They did not want to arm all the people. Certainly not slaves. Just as they did not want to fully enfranchise all of the population. The passage of the XV Amendment in 1869 established a right to vote. But it does not explain how the majority of the people can get that right. Women still could not vote till 1920. And Native Americans could not vote till 1921. The Founders were, in fact, deeply afraid of, what they perceived as, the people’s irrationality and passion. Giving the people, the vast majority of which were not given the right to vote, a right to bear arms is the last thing they wanted to do. The writers of the constitution were ambivalent about democracy and vague in the writing of this document. But they were not illogical. They categorically did not give all of the people “the right to bear arms.”

A lot of our knowledge of early America comes from westerns on TV and movies. Those were 19th century experiences with people moving out to territories out west. In the original 13 colonies, people lived mostly in towns and cities. And guns were restricted. Or, at least, Natives, slaves, and propertyless white men were not given the legal right to own guns in colonial and post-Constitution 18th century America. There is plenty of historical research that confirms that. Here is one… “Laws largely proscribed Indian militia service, thus limiting Indians’ lawful access to guns, and numerous colonial statutes forbade the sale of guns or ammunition to Indians altogether.” http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/2012/06/Riley.pdf

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