Some interesting points have come up in discussions with friends, other conservatives, leftists and other internet nincompoops, regarding the 2nd Amdt, what it is, what it means, and what it covers. But mostly, in regards to the later, it has done little more than run up against Saul Alinsky's lucky number #13'th rule:
"13) Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. "and in such a collision, the position that is least well understood, loses. That should give you pause.
For if your understanding of the 2nd Amdt doesn't extend much further than having memorized a couple quotes from our founders who DID understand it (and so were able to express themselves in those words you are quoting today), or if your understanding amounts to something along the lines of "The Constitution says so, I believe it, that settles it.", if that is the case, then you place yourself entirely under their power, and when they hit you with ol' #13, you will lose and lose badly.
For instance, as good an example of this as any, of Alinsky's 13th rule being flexed against the 2nd Amdt, came up in the comment section to my post on a despicable comment by Jay Carney made in a press briefing. An anonymous aninnymouse commenter was doing his best to avoid discussing whether or not there is a Right behind the 2nd Amdt, and frustrated at my refusal to take his bait, he jumped directly to Rule #13, and you would be hard pressed to find a better example of it than this one from the uber-leftist former Air America host Thom Hartmann (brought to you by RT... that'd be 'Russia Today'... Pravada... Hint)):
"The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. "I'll have more to say about this putz in the next post, but for now, this is truly evil stuff, and I use the term evil advisedly. If Good comes from using information to communicate a fuller, deeper, more integrated understanding of what is real and true, then Evil is advanced through selectively using facts, not to illuminate, but to obscure the truth, to dis-integrate, and prevent understanding, putting the listener under the power of lies, and that is what this is all about (see Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals' dedication page). To "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. ", means to separate you from what is true and place you under their power.
To Freeze a target, requires isolating and separating it from reality - if you don't know why the 2nd Amdt is true, how are you going to prevent them from transforming what is a defense of everyone's right to bear arms in their defense, into a tool for slave owners to deprive others of their liberty?
They are personalizing the 2nd Amdt as you, as a knuckle dragging lover of violence, as someone who sympathizes with slave owners - how are you going to escape that?
They have polarized your attempt to defend everyone's rights, into a position which supports rich whites using guns as a valuable tool with which to oppress slaves and the poor. What are you going to do about that? Say "No I'm not!"?
Good luck with that.
If you don't understand why what they are saying is complete crap, which it is, but if you don't understand why it is, then what will you do?
I'll tell you what you'll do, having been successfully targeted, frozen and separated from reality, personalized as a friend of evil and polarized as supporting oppression and mindless hatred, what you will do is lose, and lose badly.
Every single time.
So please, pause with me here for a few minutes to consider our mutual interests, for it does require some serious consideration as to what it means. What does this Mean?:
Second Amendment:Understanding the 2nd 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."
What is it that we understand the 2nd Amdt to be protecting? What do our Rights recognize that needs to be upheld in law? Is the 2nd Amdt necessary, even if you do not own a gun and have no intention of ever owning a gun, is it still of use to you?
Yes. Emphatically Yes!
Rights, in the sense they were understood in regards to our Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, are a legal/political recognition of the actual nature of human beings ("..., that all men are created equal...") living in the real world ("...We hold these truths to be self-evident..."), and without which, a person would forcibly be living a less than fully human life ("..., that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."). The existence and power of the 2nd Amdt identifies, asserts and preserves each persons nature as a human being.
To live in a society that does not recognize that, to say nothing of one whose laws empower others to govern your life without appeal to such a Right, is one where a person is implicitly (and eventually explicitly) forced to live a life that is less than fully human.
We should all find that abhorrent, and especially abhorrent the idea of justifying an Individual Right upon a 'need to have' basis. As one Twitter wit put it the other day:
"I don’t “need” my AR any more than Rosa Parks “needed” to sit in the front of that bus"That is exactly the right way to view our Rights. Rosa Parks did not in any way NEED to sit in that 'Whites Only' seat on the bus, but the mere existence of that 'Whites Only' seat was a forcible infringement of her Right to live as a fully human human being. The fact is, that a life deprived of the requirements of its nature, is implicitly under compulsion at all times, even when not explicitly suffering under the direct threat of physical force, and that does not change depending upon which fundamental Right you are abridging. It does not matter whether we are talking about the 2nd Amendment, or the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th or any other amendments, if you are recognized, through no fault of your own actions, to hold claim to anything less than a fully human life, then you are neither free nor in possession of anything resembling liberty.
Under the 2nd Amdt, aspects of that requirement of human life ("...Inalienable rights...") are recognized and preserved against the good (or ill) intentions of our fellow man. It is because they are secured under law, that we are able to enjoy liberty, and if denied to anyone on account of their simply being alive, then though some might enjoy certain privileges, liberty is denied to us all.
I've gone into establishing how Rights are derived from reality over and over again within this blog, and elsewhere, here's one instance "Liberty - It all hangs together, or we all hang separately" , or here "Rights from the source... so to speak", so I won't expand this post by going over that again here, but I do want to address the question of how the 2nd amendment should be applied.
First, I think it is important to not allow the 2nd Amdt to become parsed apart in your mind. We tend to try to focus on the later portion, but it is extremely important NOT to do that, because you jeopardize the full meaning and requirements of all of our Rights, and of Liberty, by allowing yourself to do so. Any savage, noble or not, has the freedom to hold onto what is his, and to fight off attackers (or to try and take what others have), that is a consequence of living in freedom, but such a state of nature is NOT Liberty. Liberty only exists, can only exist, under a system of laws, upheld by a govt which respects them, and allows the faculty of Reason in its best sense, to rule in our actions and disagreements with each other.
Under a just Govt that upholds the rule of law, the nature of individuals are preserved and defended, because they are not individuals alone, but individuals living in community with others, under the rule of laws which enable you to live free from the threat of arbitrary force, which is a liberty that the savage living free will never know.
The beauty of the 2nd Amdt is that it recognizes not only the individuals right to defense, but it also recognizes their right (and responsibility) to associate with others and to combine their rights and powers in order to preserve the liberties of all, which is the meaning of the militia, and it provides for them to do so within their state, which will preserve their right to do just that.
Under this law, the Right to bear Arms, Liberty lives and prospers.
To threaten that law, is to threaten the rights and liberties of us all, and it is an expression of the tyrannical soul, to seek to do so.
But given that, does the 2nd Amdt give you, as an individual, a Right to amass weapons of unlimited nature, size and scope? Does it give you a Right to exist as a danger and perhaps even a threat, to your fellows in your society?
To answer that, first look at what is meant by Arms. From Webster's 1828 edition:
"To take arms, is to arm for attack or defense., and from Black's Law Dictionary, 2nd ed.: Arms.
... In law, arms are any thing which a man takes in his hand in anger, to strike or assault another."
"Anything that a man wears for his defense, or takes in his hands, or uses in his anger, to cast at or strike at another. Co. Litt. 1616, 162a; State v. Buzzard, 4 Ark. 18...." *That was the common understanding at the time of our Founders, it was certainly what they had in mind when striping the traditional English 'right to arms' of its inappropriately limiting nature:
"...that the subjects, which are protestants, may have arms for their defense suitable to their condition, and as allowed by law."Such a 'Right' strips not only Protestants, but all humanity of their Rights, by means of dealing with them as distinct particular persons, rather than as human beings as such, transforming their Right, into a particular privilege bestowed upon some of them, by those in power, who are presently pleased to do so. That is not a Right, but a means of controlling the citizenry.
" William Rawle, A View of the Constitution of the United States 125--26 1829 (2d ed.)
The prohibition is general. No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both."
"Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, Declaration of Rights, art. 13But an ominous notation from Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution notes,
XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."
"...The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers...."and then warns,,
"...The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them. And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights."But recall the entirety of the 2nd Amendment, "A well regulated Militia",
"The body of soldiers in a state enrolled for discipline, but not engaged in actual service except in emergencies; as distinguished from regular troops, whose sole occupation is war or military service.", a 'well regulated' did not mean laws banning this or that weapon, but mandating that suitable weapons be kept, kept up, and regularly drilled with, by members of the community, coming together as their local militia. It was to control weaponry, but to ensure they existed and would be available for service in emergency. Such was what was expected of members of the community, coming together under reasonable laws for the common defense and support of the law, meaning laws that are respectful of the rights of those who live under them, and for the protection of the community, a civic right and responsibility.
In James Madison's original wording, when he insisted that congress keep their word to the people and consider a Bill of Rights, he had put it this way:
"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person..", it is obvious that the meaning was that the people should be well armed so as to be able to form up a militia to ensure their continued liberty, and as you follow the debate, it was edited not out of concern for being too well armed, but over people seeking ways to get out of being armed and attending to the militia.
As Justice Story warned, we have let our responsibility, to our community and ourselves, waver, and gradually we have undermined our Rights. It needs only for a political community, be it a ward, township, county, etc, to resolve to correct that, and they could, in some circumstances, deliberate and conclude that their common defense requires them to own a fully operational Tank (that may not be too far fetched for some border communities in the not too distant future). Now, that presumes that a reasoned discussion and vote precedes that decision, one which is directed towards real, actual concerns, and not the least of which would be, does the cost of purchasing and maintaining such a vehicle justify the concerns?
Given that then, I can think of no good reason why a well regulated militia could not decide that it should own tanks, or F-15's for that matter. That would be an example of citizens, gathering together in community, in a well regulated manner, and providing for their right of self defense, and at a political level below that of the level of the State (though under it's oversight), let alone the Fed Govt.
But since we are dealing with leftists, we've got to consider the ridiculous... does that extend to an H-Bomb?
First lets dispense with the silliness of malicious hypotheticals which seek above all to distort and even dispense with Reality. To own and maintain an H-Bomb, would require investments of wealth, knowledge and manpower that no community in our world today, is going to have.
Reality is in some sense self regulating.
But lets say we're dealing with a community which consists of Bill Gates, George Soros, and the like, a billionaire Beverly Hills, who do have the resources to make the acquisition at least, a potential reality. In that case, given our world as it is today, then I think the surrounding communities would be justified in their own Rights to life, liberty and political security to say no those Beverly Hills Billi's desires to add H-bombs to their militia. And those communities would be justified in doing so for many of the same reasons that it is justifiable and proper for a community to pass an ordinance that homes shall not stockpile quantities of volatile and explosive materials in garages or apartments, as they would constitute an unreasonable danger and threat to the lives and property of their neighbors. Neighboring communities would reasonably and justifiably have the same concerns about not only their safety, but the intentions of that community, and as such they could pass laws in their state that would not permit the good people of Beverly Hills to acquire or stockpile nuclear weapons.
So no tanks? Did I say that? No, I did not.
So did I say that an individual could not own a tank? A brief googling will deliver up to you information and evidence to the effect that in our Founders era, individuals purchased, owned, fitted out, and put to sea, Ships capable of engaging in war with pirates, or later Redcoats... and certainly, as Pirates did, those ships with cannon, could threaten entire communities.
So why could an individual not own a tank?
I believe a person can own a tank. They do have a Right to own a tank. Fully operational, or not. Read the 9th and 10th Amendments,
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
Tenth Amendment:The 2nd Amendment is not the last word on our right of bearing arms in defense of our selves, property and community, or of any other Rights. But it IS limited to owning weapons that qualify as 'Arms' referring to, IMHO, to what an individual can grab, carry, and use in their defense, as extensions of their physical arms as an ability to defend themselves. Knives, swords, pistols, hatchets, AR-15's, laser blasters, etc, a case could even be made for RPG's (see end of post) , though the rights of the community to safety and security could conceivably be brought against such as an existential threat, rather than simply defensive weapon.
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
It strains credulity to picture a Tank, or a Battleship as being an extension of your physical arms and ability to defend yourself.
But that does not rule out your Right to own one. It only calls into question whether such a possession would be protected, or not, under the 2nd Amdt as an individuals right to bear arms. And if not, then ownership of such items would not be immune from the passage of reasonable laws by your community or state, in regards to them.
Is my word law upon this? No, of course not. Can you disagree with me about this? Of course you can (see 1st Amdt), and I can see some areas of my comments that need to be argued out. As long as we share an understanding of the principle behind the right which the 2nd Amdt upholds, then we can have fruitful discussions, and loud disagreements, over how to apply it, without endangering the existence of the Right itself.
But you've got to make an effort to understand it yourself, first.
* interesting note, Blacks Law goes on in its definition of Arms, to add,
"... This term, as it Is used in the constitution, relative to the right of citizens to bear arms, refers to the arms of a militiaman or soldier, and the word is used in its military sense. The arms of the infantry soldier are the musket and bayonet; of cavalry and dragoons, the sabre, holster pistols, and carbine; of the artillery, the field-piece, siegegun, and mortar, with side arms. The term, in this connection, cannot be made to cover such weapons as dirks, daggers, slung-shots, sword- canes, brass knuckles, and bowieknives. These are not military arms. "As I said, there's room for discussion. Please do so.