On the 2nd Amendment

Let’s start from the beginning:

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.

If one is to look at the history of the Second Amendment, there’s plenty of arguments on either side for ways to interpret it. However, I think the most compelling argument is that it went through numerous revisions specifically designed to emphasize its militia/military aspects. Here’s what that says to me: The right to own a gun has limits. I do not believe, as our modern courts have been hinting at, that the Second Amendment gives a citizen free reign over gun purchases and ownership. The government has a right to put forth limits on gun ownership; states and the feds can outlaw guns in national and other parks, cities can ban their sale, and background checks can be as big of a pain in the ass as a group of representatives or voters wish to make them.

All that said, I do happen to favor a fairly unfettered right to gun ownership. There are clearly weapons which serve no purpose other than to terrorize, but for the vast majority of gun purchases, I have no issue. People are often safer if they own a gun or if they’re in an area with an average law-abiding, gun-toting member of the NRA (the awfulness of that organization aside). However, there are limits to this argument: specifically, to the United States and similar countries. We already have prolific gun ownership and a thriving black market for guns. To attempt to curb it at this point will most likely just end up in a greater disparity between law-abiders and criminals who have guns – the line being skewed in favor of the latter group. After all, that black market isn’t thriving because it’s too easy to obtain a gun legally. However, on the flip side of things, I don’t think my arguments work in much of Europe. They have low gun ownership rates, strong gun laws, and a significantly reduced black market, all with the result of fewer gun crimes and deaths. Gun control is a success on that side of the pond. End of story.

So, while I do happen to be fairly in line with current mainstream, and especially conservative, view on the pragmatic end of this matter, I part in my basis. I favor liberal gun ownership in the United States, but I don’t think the Second Amendment gets us there.

The Second Amendment

My recent post about the ridiculous state of Arizona was mostly about a dumb birther bill the Republicans there were using to embarrass themselves, but the article I used also mentioned a gun control issue. As a result, that topic took off more than the birther topic. Here is my take from that comment section.

The Second Amendment was clearly intended for two main purposes. First, as Nate points out, it was meant to allow citizens to have guns should the government become oppressive. Second, it was meant to secure the government against attacks from foreign nations (or insurrection). Given the specific wording of the amendment, it is clear that the latter reason was more the point than anything.

What we have from the Supreme Court over the years are a series of rulings, many of which rely upon preceding rulings. This is common enough, but it is also political enough. What’s more, we have people like Scalia who – despite all the lies claiming the constitution is a static document – will ignore the original intention of the Second Amendment. (Sticking by his beliefs would be inconvenient to his purely political style of ruling.) This debate is not well-grounded in history.

So what we have is an amendment which does not guarantee what those on the right claim it guarantees. Both of the original primary reasons for the amendment are largely irrelevant today. What’s more, if those on the right were honest and took the Second Amendment to its conclusions, then we would be living in a very different world. That is, our Bill of Rights is based upon the idea of natural rights. While we only legally apply them to Americans and those on American soil (with some exceptions), the underlying principle is that it is an inherent right for everyone to bear arms (among our other rights). If that is the case, then it is a right for North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But we stop short of taking the principle that far. Or at least the right does. (The left isn’t operating on ahistorical principles in the first place.) And the same goes for American citizens: If someone argued to the Supreme Court his right to have an atomic weapon, it would never fly. This flagrantly violates the arguments being put forth by the right.

That said, I’m not against gun ownership. As always, we have to take a pragmatic point of view. While much of Europe has overwhelmingly superior statistics to the U.S. when it comes to not dying from guns, it is unlikely America will ever achieve such a state. We have to deal with the fact that there are millions and millions of guns out there, many in the hands of criminals. We should control ridiculous weapons that serve no real purpose outside a military setting (a point, incidentally, where the right will agree with me – when we’re talking about nuclear weapons; the point goes out the window for most other weapons), but it probably isn’t going to help anything if we prevent law-abiding citizens from getting guns. Sure, let’s curb gun show purchases and force waiting periods – that will be effective in keeping guns from some criminals – but complete bans have to be questioned.

So I do favor allowing law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons. It’s just that the Second Amendment does not get us there.