“My faith informs my life [. . .] it all for me begins with cherishing the
dignity, the worth, the value of every human life“
(Mike Pence, Rep. VP Candidate)
“‘Every human life’ . . . except those stolen by #gunviolence . . .
like my mother’s. Then, you simply just don’t care”
(Erica L Smegielski; daughter of a Sandy Hook victim)
Guns v. The Second Amendment
I recently ran across a fresh and novel (stupid) but still interesting “new” thesis, courtesy of Larry Pratt, executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America. Last Saturday (Oct 1) on his Gun Owners News Hour radio program, Pratt’s guest was Don Brockett, author of a book called “The Tyrannical Rule of the U.S. Supreme Court” in which Brockett poses the proposition that the Second Amendment was written so as to allow states to defend themselves against invasion, and was added to the Constitution because of Article I Section 10, the part which reads:
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, . . . engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
“[H]ow can it defend itself if it’s being invaded if the people don’t have any Second Amendment right to arms? And I maintain in the book, even though some may think this is going too far, that you’re entitled to the same measure of weapons as the weapons that might be used against you. So does that mean everybody can have an RPG in their home? I don’t know. I think we need to discuss it, because how could you stop the invading army unless you have the equal weaponry? Or if you want to provide it by your national guard, which can be distributed to individual citizens when that need comes about.”
Pratt completely agreed with Brockett’s thesis, and pointed out that the Second Amendment essentially stands as proof that the Founders’ original intent was to constitutionally allow that every future man of military-age, in each and every State, be fully armed in order to confront and combat armed invaders of said State. Pratt added that in re today, the Founders would have allowed that “at a minimum,” every man should be carrying, at the least, an M-16 rifle. RPGs too, probably.
Pratt and Brockett are, of course, totally and completely wrong and off-the-wall. The Second Amendment had absolutely nothing at all to do with Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. It was, instead, written by Virginia slave-owner and ‘Founder’ James Madison in response to Article I, Section 8, Clauses 15 and 16:
The Congress shall have Power . . . [Clause 15] To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; [and Clause 16] To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress . . .
The 1787 Constitution assigned, in short, complete and total control of “the Militia” to Congress and not to the States, a fact which quickly became a matter of deep concern to, especially, the slave states. At the 1788 Constitution Ratifying Convention in Virginia, Patrick Henry expressed those concerns when he said:
Let me here call your attention to that part which gives the Congress power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States. . . .
If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress insurrections. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress. . . . Congress, and Congress only, can call forth the militia. . . .
In this state there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States. . . . In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone.
“Insurrection of slaves” and “property” are the key words here, given that Article I Section 8 specifically says that only the Congress shall have power . . . To . . . suppress insurrections. NOT the State(s), i.o.w., and THAT was clearly the clause most worrisome to slave owners, to slave states, in the emerging USA, because it put their property in jeopardy.
Henry was also concerned about the attitudes of the abolitionists in the “northern” States, i.e those who wanted to completely do away with slavery. As he pointed out to James Madison,
“[T]hey will search that paper [the Constitution], and see if they have power of manumission. And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power? This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it. This is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress.”
In short, arguments such as Patrick Henry’s
convinced instructed James Madison to write what we now know as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Madison’s original draft read,
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.
In the final version of what was to become the Second Amendment, Madison succumbed to the suggestions of Patrick Henry, George Mason, and other Southern State voices that wanted slave patrol militias to remain free of Federal control mainly by changing a single word in his final version:
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.
“Country” now become “State” — Federal control of Militias now back in the hands of the STATE — not to ward off an invasion, but to deal with SLAVE INSURRECTIONS via a WELL REGULATED MILITIA (and whatever happened to the concept of a ‘well regulated militia’? Where is it today? Is the concept — and its regulatory manifestations — dead? Gone? Buried?).
If the answer is left to politicians and/or gun nuts, it’s likely that we’ll never know.
In any case, for a further and much deeper analysis of the Second Amendment’s origin and purpose, see Law Professor Carl Bogus’ Research Paper 80, The Hidden History of the Second Amendment which begins with this abstract:
. . . there is strong reason to believe that, in significant part, James Madison drafted the Second Amendment to assure his constituents in Virginia, and the South generally, that Congress could not use its newly-acquired powers to indirectly undermine the slave system by disarming the militia, on which the South relied for slave control. His argument is based on a multiplicity of the historical evidence, including debates between James Madison and George Mason and Patrick Henry at the Constitutional Ratifying Convention in Richmond, Virginia in June 1788; the record from the First Congress; and the antecedent of the American right to bear arms provision in the English Declaration of Rights of 1688.
“Strong reason” indeed.
Since James Madison’s Second Amendment was clearly written for the sole purpose of addressing the perceived Constitutional issue of Militia accessibility by the Several States, and since the sole purpose of the ‘well regulated Militia’ mentioned therein was to provide slave states with the means to put down and control slave ‘insurgencies’ and/or ‘insurrections,’ and also since the Thirteenth Amendment specifically states that Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States — and since the Second Amendment was clearly written solely to protect the interests of Slave owners — the final question becomes clear and obvious:
WHY was the Second Amendment NOT automatically invalidated at the very moment slavery was disallowed, at the very moment the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified (Dec. 6, 1865) by a majority of the Several States?
Why? Why the constant misinterpretation of the Second Amendment? Why the romance with any variation of that one contrivance — the GUN — the SOLE purpose of which is to KILL something – anything – that lives? Is the ability to KILL something the main driver of ‘our’ culture? Of the entire of Human society? One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Emily Dickinson spoke in the voice of a gun when she wrote,
My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun —
In Corners — till a Day
The Owner passed — identified —
And carried Me away —
[. . .]
To foe of His — I’m deadly foe —
None stir the second time —
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye —
Or an emphatic Thumb —
Though I than He — may longer live
He longer must — than I —
For I have but the power to kill,
Without — the power to die –
The Gun — ALL Guns — thereby Defined.
I, for one, will never understand the “magic” implicit in
a tool whose sole purpose is
I know. I’m weird.