First off, I am not going to make an argument against the 2nd Amendment by analyzing the opinions and ideas of the founders. They lived in another world with another set of realities that do not apply directly to the situation today in a nation of 1/3 of a billion people. We need to divorce ourselves from the idea that we must justify contemporary ideas on civil rights and societal reform by couching it in self-satisfying quotations and references to men who would wet their pants if they saw an AR-15 in action.
In case you missed the context:
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher from Nevada who does not recognize the existance of the US Federal government, brought a bunch of armed milita members and “sovereign citizen” activists to support his “right” to pillage & destroy public land for his profit without compensating YOU. Mr. Bundy has been illegally grazing his herd of cattle on public land for 20 years without paying the government, the people, for that privilege. So he is stealing from you, and he is doing it while defying dozens of summonses, court orders, and citations. Mr. Bundy and his friends believe that if you have enough guns and you wish really really hard you do not have to listen to US law. Isn’t that special? The Bureau of Land Management stupidly backed down in order to protect people from the potential gunfire from the insurgents (because that is what they were, not “protesters”…protesters are not armed). The motivations of the BLM may have been admirable, but they have set a dangerous precedent here that if you have the firepower the government will back down and let you continue to be a law unto yourself. Expect incidents like this to continue and get worse. Eventually blood will be spilled and it will not be pretty. The government, at its best, is supposed to preserve and protect the rights of all the citizens, using force if confronted by force, and by backing down they have shown that the law only applies when it is safe to apply it, and that if you act like a big enough bully you can get away with attempted murder and theft. On her public blog Rachel Maddow and her editorial staff have a wonderful and insightful analysis of the situation and I suggest you read it—
This incident got me thinking about the 2nd Amendment, the legal device used to justify this continuing assault on the safety of US residents and the sanctity of the law itself. With over 300 million firearms in the US (more than most national armies possess) there is hardly a war on firearms ownership in this nation. For context, according to the Geneva Institute of International Studies, the US has 89 firearms per 100 residents, which is 30% more than the next nation on the list, Serbia (which recently went through a violent civil war and genocide) and 90% more than South Korea, a nation with similar levels of economic development and a similar form of government. The US, supposedly the most safe, stable and prosperous democratic nation on the planet, has nearly as many gun deaths per 100,000 as does Mexico, a nation in the midst of a bloody war against armed drug cartels. The US population is armed to the teeth and, as recent activism in favor of open and concealed carry, stand your ground laws (shoot first ask questions later doctrine) and arming everyone from airplane pilots, teachers, and preachers has shown, is eager to use these weapons. The US has 50% 0f the world’s civilian weapons and less than 5% of the world’s population. Again, this is not a nation in danger of losing its essential right to own a deadly weapon of war.
The 2nd Amendment is perhaps the most successful of all the amendments…far too successful in fact. People criticize every other Amendment, rightly or wrongly, and these arguments are largely embraced or at least considered by the general population and our representatives. Every Amendment save for the 2nd. If you dare to bring up any reservations about our most archaic of Amendments you are deemed a traitor, a fool, a weakling or worst of all, a supporter of tyranny. Somehow we as a nation have come to believe that if 100 million + arm chair patriots are not armed the US will turn over night into a Orwellian hellscape complete with death camps for Christians and tattooed social security numbers on foreheads. Talk about a Straw Man argument!
I could go on an on about the logical fallacies underpinning many of the conservative arguments in favor of unlimited gun rights but that has been done better and more thoroughly before. Instead I am going to move on and suggest some common sense ideas to allow US to balance resident’s desire to own firearms and the public’s right to be safe from what is essentially a nation that has become a free fire zone. If you have some suggestions or some revisions to my proposals please feel free to mention them in the comments. I may even debate you!
1. Repeal the 2nd Amendment and replace it with a new one establishing more common sense and humane gun laws and rights. The right o bear arms must not be held on the same level as the right to speech or the right to not be enslaved. Here is a proposal for the wording of such an amendment:
“The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution is hereby repealed. The right to bear arms, based on tradition, historical precedent, and for reasons of personal safety, shall be respected but shall not be unconditional nor shall it override the right of the people to a safe and secure public space. The people have the right to regulate and restrict firearms and to set standards for ownership and proliferation of arms.”
2. Based upon this new Amendment institute some laws and regulations to protect US citizens from gun violence and proliferation. I propose the following as a start:
Ban the importation of all firearms.
Mandate that only a certain number of firearms are manufactured every year and only at federally owned and regulated factories.
Ban sales of semi-automatic handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and fully automatic rifles
Round up all non approved weaponry using a gun turn in program (with the price every weapon turned in counting as a deduction or credit on Federal and State income taxes)
Faze out all semi-automatic and automatic weapons used by law enforcement and federal agencies
Mandate mandatory penalties of at least 10 years in federal prison for the conviction of the the unlicensed manufacture or selling of prohibited firearms. 5 Years for individuals who repeatedly [more than 3 convictions] violate of federal laws banning ownership or use of prohibited firearms.
Firearms for use in hunting and/or sports will be regulated by state authorities as they see fit.
These are just a few ideas and I have many more. New Zealand has laws similar to these I have listed and they are hardly a Stalinist dictatorship. Just some food for thought.
Bundy supporters planned on using unarmed women as human shields so that they would be the first to die after they provoked the Feds to shoot. According to both the hyper-conservative website the Blaze and the left wing site Think Progress Bundy supporter, and former AZ sheriff Richard Mack told Fox News Sunday:
“We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”
So not only did the supporters of Mr. Bundy all but admit on national tv that they were willing to let unarmed innocents die to make their anti-federal government point they also show that they are using what are terrorist tactics in their attempt to nullify federal, democratic, authority. This is concerning and shows that milita/tea party/2nd amendment types may now be prepared to kill to preserve their perverse sense of entitlement. These people are armed and afraid and see hate as one of their greatest weapons. This is a violent insurgency waiting to happen. The 2nd Amendment may have a long and storied history in the US but to quote Robert H. Jackson talking about another amendment, the 1st, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact”.