18 December 2012

The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, 
millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, 
carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, 
in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can 
be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.  
     – Gary Wills, from “Our Moloch”

I think that gun control matters. The issue has become vastly complex and vexing because of individual interpretations of what constitutes “civil liberty” and a personal reading of the 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment says: “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 all. No qualifiers, no conditions, no explanations other than what is offered in the single sentence.

I would point out that the first four words, “A well regulated Militia,” are the most overlooked words in the Amendment, and the last four words, “shall not be infringed,” are the most cited. The argument is that in order to meet the necessary level of security in a free State, there must be a well regulated Militia, and for it to properly function, the people must be allowed to keep and bear Arms. The conclusion is that in order to sustain the necessary security for the free State, the government may not infringe upon this right of the people to keep and bear Arms.

I keep going back to the first four words. Where is the “well regulated Militia” referenced in the amendment? At the time the Amendment was passed (1791), the USA did not have a standing military, the way we now do — if invaders showed up on our shores, the only way to protect ourselves was for every able-bodied, trained person to take up Arms and join the fight to defend our freedom. The colonists thought of themselves as primarily peace-loving, and made the conscious choice to not fund a standing army in times of peace. Now, however, we can scarcely imagine not having a standing army, navy, air force, and marines, along with whatever special forces and weapon-bearing alphabet-soup agencies we can underwrite.

I submit that we ought to be looking at the intent, and legislating accordingly. If the people are to keep and bear Arms as a “well regulated Militia,” then by all means, let’s invest in the regulating and training that goes with it, and get rid of the standing forces. We don’t need them if we can call on all citizens to take up their Arms and go into battle. On the other hand, if we think we need those standing armies, then why do the citizens need to keep and bear arms, if they aren’t a “well regulated Militia?”

I don't think we can have it both ways. Do you?

Excuse me. I have to write notes of condolence to the families of the 26 people who were mowed down in the Sandy Hook, Connecticut elementary school.


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