One of the arguments in favor of unrestricted ownership of firearms in the united states is that the 2nd Ammendment guarantees gun ownership as an inalienable right for all Americans. It doesn’t of course. Depending on which version of the Contitution you look in, it says this:

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.

or

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 it really means is what the courts have said, and that is largely a set of 20th century case law leading to the “rights to bear arms” concept. But what it REALLY REALLY means, with respect to having an armed populous, is this:

…Sure, political and bureaucratic takeover isn’t as sexy as a cold, sleek piece of metal that makes noise and holes, but it’s the reality. Eric Rudolph didn’t change anything for any length of time except his own address. Same with the mountain militias. Same with every idiot who ever shot a government agent performing their duties….


Which you will find in its fully expanded form here.
Worth the read, go there please.

Comments

  1. #1 Ericb
    April 7, 2009

    I’d still like to know what good a shotgun or even an AK47 is going to be for someone if the government really wanted to get them. I mean the government has access to weaponry that can kill someone from hundreds of miles away. What good is a shotgun against an assault helicopter or a stinger missile? This whole “I need arms to protect myself from the guvmint” is a fantasy. If the government wants you dead you’ll be dead before you can load your stupid rifle.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    April 7, 2009

    The Right To Bear Predator Drones Shall Not Be Infringed.

  3. #3 David Lee
    April 7, 2009

    Well, I’m anti-gun and nutjobs myself, but it does seem that small arms can hold off the U.S. government. Look at Iraq, Afghanistan and other places where the weaker force with small arms outlasted the bigger forces armed with bigger guns.

    It’s not going to help the individual dueling with the Feds but in aggregate resistance can be successful.

    So I say, tasers for all and black powder for the original intenders.

  4. #4 Spiv
    April 7, 2009

    EricB- I believe the idea would be a large scale uprising that involved both military and citizen against military and citizen. Soldiers are people too. Honestly I think this idea is completely dead as well, since, well, we’re lazy apathetics. The civil war was an awful long time ago, not that there’s been reason for repeat necessarily anyway.

    So now we’re advocating total removal of this right? I mean no argument that we’ve banned things much less dangerous, but we also have failed to ban things much more dangerous. We also don’t seem to give a crap about enforcing the laws in place.

    What are we looking at- about 10,000 gun homicides a year? As apposed to ~25,000 drunk driving deaths (which I would happily classify as vehicular homicide)? Why is alcohol still legal?

    Not that I want to give up my collection of fine spirits. But I’m justifiably more concerned at being murdered by a boozed up moron in a car than I am getting shot.

    You sure do love these gun posts.

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    April 7, 2009

    Spiv, what is it about examining the rhetoric of guns that makes you so uncomfortable? Where in either Greg’s post or mine do you find any advocacy for any position?

  6. #6 Art
    April 7, 2009

    In the days of the founding fathers it was possible to wrest control from the powers that be and to create a revolution. Today, it just isn’t a reasonable goal.

    Little known fact is that while the IEDs in Iraq get the press the majority of casualties come from small arms fire. Concerted and organized employment of small arms to disrupt life and harass anyone seeking to restore normal functions can keep a region ungovernable indefinitely.

    The disrupted region, over time, becomes a running sore, a harbor for illegal activity, a route for smugglers, a haven for terrorists, and an insult and challenge the the powers that be. This has been shown in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the brush fire wars in Africa.

    It is also a living hell for the residents in the area as war, a lack of law, and the struggles between two-bit warlords and tribal factions destroy the physical, mental and economic infrastructure.

  7. #7 Wayne Conrad
    April 7, 2009

    To those who say that men with rifles cannot win against jets, bombs, and all that gee-whiz stuff: Viet Nam.

    That a rifle is probably useless against a government turned tyrannical (and I agree, it probably would be useless) is not a great argument for getting rid of it. For one thing, it has other good uses. For another, “probably” isn’t good enough. Just because the odds would be long is a poor reason to pick no chance at all. However, the superior choice, as I’ve said before, is to work for representative government, so that these terrible things never come to pass.

    Speaking of working for representative government, I can’t tell you how many “patriotic gun owners” sit on the couch and moan and groan about how terrible (by which they always seem to mean “liberal”) things are getting and how “unrepresented” they are in congress, but when asked, “When’s the last time you’ve written your congress-critters?” the answer is “Oh, it wouldn’t do any good.” So then I ask, “Ok, what civil rights organizations do you belong to that will do the lobbying for you?” The answer is usually none. Or, possibly the NRA, which is a poor excuse for a civil rights organization. And a far distant second to actually lobbying congress yourself with letters and phone calls.

    I don’t want to pick on gun owners, because I don’t think they’re unusual. I think that most Americans are apathetic, and don’t take part in federal and local politics as they ought to (but sure don’t mind complaining when politics doesn’t go their way).

    A conflation in the article: McVeigh and Nichols, whatever they thought they were, were not revolutionaries. They were mass murderers.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    April 7, 2009

    Rifles are probably not the problem. Hardly any of the 30 thousand gun deaths per year are from rifles, and it is probably reasonable to not be overly concerned about hunting accidents.

    I’m talking about regular rifles, and also, normal size shotguns, not assault weapons and carbine type weapons.

  9. #9 Stephanie Z
    April 7, 2009

    Wayne, that’s kinda the point.

  10. #10 Wayne Conrad
    April 7, 2009

    But if we’re talking about whether or not small arms are any good in the event of a revolution, it’s rifles we must be talking about. Sidearms play an auxiliary role in such a matter.

  11. #11 Stephanie Z
    April 7, 2009

    What kind of weapons we’re talking about is a distraction. The fact is, with the kind of organization that would be required for an armed revolution to succeed, one can grab the reins of power in a way that will cause far less resistance and make for a more stable rule.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    April 7, 2009

    The weapons may not matter to the issue of the revolution or protection from the government, but I think it matters a lot to the on the ground carnage that currently happens.

  13. #13 Stephanie Z
    April 7, 2009

    Well, yes, but I’m often of the opinion that trying to talk about too many parts of a complex, contentious issue at once results in a lot of moving goalposts and not much else. Like the discussion of what kinds of weapons would be good for a revolution rather than whether an armed revolution is remotely feasible.

  14. #14 the rEaL tURnER dIARY
    April 7, 2009

    OK Steph: back in my days with the right wing maternal incest practicing homeschool folks, the prefered choice of “home” proteckshun–in case “they came to get our guns/the Treasury Dept comes to take our house/the so-called minorities get more rights than us and take away our government/ or the UN one world government uses FEMA to….ooops, they actually DID use FEMA to____ in Louisiana…–

    But the basic home stockpile was always held to be a .22 rifle (or carbine)with a scope because “the .22 bullet hits, goes in, and bouces around awhile” causing serious damage.The rifle can also be used in sniper mode, or close range.Compliment that with a .22 pistol because you can interchange the ammo, and the ammo is widely available; and a 12 guage shotgun for close range perteckshun.

    Now: everyone then seemed to have their preference for handgun options beyond the .22 basic pistolo, like the ol’ Desert Eagle–Israel’s cannon-like answer to thin necked Nazi Lugers–and some folks prefered the close range durability of the ol’ clunky forty-five, but bottom line was that you need these as listed above for a starter kit.

  15. #15 Stephanie Z
    April 7, 2009

    C, I have my favorite guns, too, but if it came down to a question of letting them disrupt society, I’d starve them out from a distance, kids or no kids. I’m sure they stockpiled food too, but time’s always on the side of the person with the good supply chain. It’s just not a shooting war.

  16. #16 DuWayne
    April 7, 2009

    I tend to think that the real distraction is the idiot notion of armed revolution. I mean christ, I know people who actually consider that a reasonable discussion and live in a fantasy land where their neighbors are going to band together with them and together we’ll all kick the shit out of the man!!! And the military types are gonna hep too!!!

    This is patently absurd on it’s face.

    However, types of weapons and regulation is not.

  17. #17 Doctor Faustroll
    April 7, 2009

    I’m proposing a new amendment that will give every good patriot the right to arm bears and allow Michelle Obama to bare arms in the White House.

  18. #18 Dan J
    April 7, 2009

    For some strange reason I always think of that awful movie Red Dawn when I read these kinds of posts.

    I’m often torn between sides when I hear of another nut-job who kills people with a gun. I don’t want people like that to have access to weapons of this sort, but how are we to know which people are “like that”?

    This evening I read a post that helped put this sort of thing into a different light for me, and maybe swayed me toward tighter gun control in this country. The post is The Most Dangerous Person in the World? by John Goekler over at CounterPunch. Two points that stand out for me: “…the things that genuinely threaten us are the ones we are most likely to ignore or simply accept. … The ones that we’re scared witless of — and spend trillions of increasingly scarce dollars to avert in our boundless paranoia — are less likely to harm us than a bag of peanuts.” and “Imagine, then, what might happen if we simply quit listening to the scaremongers and those who profit from our paranoia. Imagine what the world could look like if we made a conscious choice to live out whatever time we have with courage, compassion, service and joy.”

    I suppose some would remark that this is a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude, and is infantile and unrealistic. But if I am happier and more relaxed, do I care?

  19. #19 Sevesteen
    April 7, 2009

    Individuals or fringe groups should not be able to stand against the government. That is not a purpose of the second amendment.

    The government should not be able to stand against the majority, if the majority are willing to fight.

    I believe we have that balance now.

    Sometimes guns are used because of unfair government inaction–The armed Deacons for Defense stepping in when the government refused to do anything about KKK drive-bys, for example. (The KKK preferred that the civil rights movement remain nonviolent–they didn’t like return fire)

  20. #20 Matt Springer
    April 8, 2009

    I’m going to hold off on the gun control debate for a while because I’m cooking up a post on my own site for next week. But I do what to comment on this:

    “But the basic home stockpile was always held to be a .22 rifle (or carbine)with a scope because “the .22 bullet hits, goes in, and bouces around awhile” causing serious damage.The rifle can also be used in sniper mode, or close range.”

    The .22 doesn’t bounce around internally (that’s an urban legend) and is ludicrously inaccurate beyond 100 yards or so. It’s great for hunting rabbits or something equivalent, but horrible on anything much bigger. Most states ban their use in deer hunting on the grounds that it can’t kill humanely. For deer I’d say .223 as a minimum – it’s also what the military uses in the M-16.

  21. #21 Michael D A
    April 8, 2009

    Living in Europe until a few years ago, I had the common (over there) impression of gun-fanatic Americans and their 2nd amendment. Since moving here, I have started to wonder. If there had been an equivalent to the second amendment in European countries before WWII, Jews might have had a chance to defend themselves. A substantial chunk of my family and my wife’s family disappeared during that time. Though the psychology of an unwarranted trust in the goodness of government played the predominant role, they never had a chance without arms.

  22. #22 Kermit
    April 8, 2009

    “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.”

    Where does it say anything about armed revolution here? I’ll grant that Tom Jefferson and the others had it in mind, but not necessarily exclusively. It can be argued that a country where the people are afraid to leave their house is not free, or a country where the neighboring country is a well-armed bully state, or where the police are simply armed thugs murdering political dissidents.

    Personally, I wonder if I am in greater danger from mass murderers or from having the legislature rewrite a constitutional amendment. Do we want them messing with the Bill of Rights?

  23. #23 Nathan Myers
    April 8, 2009

    If you go about infringing the right of the People to keep and bear arms, who’s going keep your militia well-regulated? Who, I say? They seem to run roughshod at the best of times.

    Maybe we need to establish a legal principle that tasering a cop doesn’t count as weapon use, to correspond to cops’ own well-demonstrated pattern of taser usage.

  24. #24 Stephanie Z
    April 8, 2009

    Michael, they never had a chance with arms. Had, say, a Jewish ghetto organized an armed resistance, they would have simply been starved or burnt out where they were. Don’t underestimate the political will or military organization it took to create the Holocaust.

    Kermit, you’re in no danger from either, and fear is a lousy basis for decision-making. You don’t need a gun to protect you from the monster under the bed. A gun may or may not protect you from other things, but that should be evaluated based on something more than your feelings. Besides, who said anything about changing the Bill of Rights?

  25. #25 thE REal Ted TURner Diary
    April 8, 2009

    “Though the psychology of an unwarranted trust in the goodness of government played the predominant role, they never had a chance without arms.”

    Michael, you are absolutely right, which is why Israel has become one of the most ferocious recipients of US military might, via the Israel Lobby. Now we just have th problem of everyone else in the Middle easy folloing their very bad–our very bad–example of “arms BEFORE harms”

    Matt S.: yeah, I’m just repeating….and I forgot to mention the other rationale: the .22 causes more damage “when” it hits, has ricochet potential, AND pass-through possibilities at a low stockpile cost to Jethro et al., or “gore IS more” in battlefield terms, and in terms of using the enemies resources.

    The really really sad fact of these ppl was that they could not visualize much further than the edge of their land–or a hundred yards or so, which in and of itself is a sad commentary on the opportunity structure in Amerikka.

    For instance: Joe and Jane Politicorekt, the white collar folks with the cozy pensions and retirement investment capital, disavows guns and gun nuts ( Greg, this isn’t you I am talking about!) and then invests his/her retirement funds in the military industrial complex, and its enablers–Honeywell, 3M, banks, Fannie and Freddies new military barracks project; whereas all that Awshux Rednick has for whatever reason is little to no practical education, and even less opportunity for those cozy investments: but he does have his land, a couple of WalMart weapons, and a basement full of baked beans.

  26. #26 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    April 8, 2009

    The language about “taking up arms” and replacing a tyrannical government is from the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution. It’s pretty obvious that the 2nd Amendment is talking about having armed citizens available to counter external threats. The memory of sharing North America with the French and their Indian allies was very fresh when the Constitution was written.

    The Founding Fathers never thought we could afford a Standing Army or a Fleet in Being, and of course an Air Force never entered their minds (or the Navy having its own private Army.) We do “keep and bear arms” in all these different ways.

    Since the 1890s also, each state has a National Guard, which people like to connect with the old state militias, but which of course were established at the behest of the Robber Baron Capitalists, who got tired of hiring insensate thugs to murder strikers and their families out of their own pockets. They are there, though, and nowadays are available to any governor to use to counter any threat they may perceive.

    “Keeping an bearing arms” is covered, in spades. The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with a bunch of individuals owning guns, since they do not add up to a “well regulated militia;” quite the opposite, in fact.

    What would be really funny would be explaining to these gun nuts what “well-regulated” meant in 18th Century military parlance: rigid hierarchy and discipline so ferocious as to make the soldier much more afraid of his own officers than he was of the enemy. If they could be transported back in time and spend just one day as a private in a “well-regulated militia,” it might just scare them straight!

  27. #27 Ana
    April 8, 2009

    The Very Reverend… – I read the 2nd that way too (I mean, that use of the word ‘militia’ implied ‘MILITIA’), but that is not the way the Amendment reads today. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Washington D.C. gun ban a year ago, and in doing so interpreted the language as conferring an individual right to own a firearm (for “self-defense”.) Obama agreed with that decision, btw, though of course he would, as a Candidate for Election and with 70% of the country cheering Scalia and shooting off into the sky. We have got to do something about the illiteracy…

  28. #28 Nathan Myers
    April 8, 2009

    Battleaxe: “Well-regulated”, at the time, meant “functioning well”; it might be said of a clock, or a mill, or a business office. There’s no implication there of ferocious discipline, although there’s no doubt some people (the less competent, of course) think that’s what it takes to have an effective militia.

  29. #29 Andrew
    April 8, 2009

    Most legal experts think of a “well regulated militia” as the army and/or the national guard, and the part about Joe the Plumber packing heat as a constitutional guarantee as pandering to the masses via judicial legislation.

  30. #30 Spiv
    April 8, 2009

    Stephanie Z; that’s a lovely coy redirect, however it fails to address the issues at hand. “I’m not advocating anything, I’m just saying…”

    To the rest, the implication that gun ownership automatically relegates one to right wing, uneducated trailer trash is more than a little bit insulting. I, like many others, happen to be a non-religious, liberal democrat, holding a variety of higher educational degrees. I’m a gun-owning hippie if anything. Myself and the standard wingnut do not have pleasant conversations when it involves political, social, or economic concerns.

    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge: You make a well reasoned point against the 2nd amendment argument. One of the better ones I’ve seen. To this level I think it does settle the 2nd amendment requirement even if you do ban all personal firearms ownership, though the courts clearly do not agree, and take the side of the supposed ‘spirit’ of the law (as in the Jeffersonian interpretation). I don’t know how I feel about that, other than it being a convenient tool to maintain personal ownership rights.

    Which I suppose is my point- even if you throw out the 2nd amendment, court upheld precedents, I still view it as the removal of personal freedoms in such a way as to imply guilt prior to intent or action.

    As for rifles vs pistols: the debate of banning handguns comes up from time to time, and the usual people against are police force. Apparently the standard issue vest is not terribly effective at preventing puncture by rifle grained rounds, and they feel it would sway the type of thing they are up against. Frankly I don’t buy the argument. I’m also a long range target person who almost always leaves the pistols at home and view them almost exclusively as collector/historical items. I do not believe in home defense via firearms either. I keep all such things impossibly hard to get to, and secured to prevent theft should someone break into my home (no desire to contribute to the stolen arms market). However, there are many people who find their enjoyment in firearms used for hunting, or pistol-range practice (which admittedly is much more convenient, most ranges do not allow rifles around here). It seems greedy and petty to remove their right simply because it is not my desire.

    Most anti-regulation is about preventing ownership from becoming a slippery slope. Chipping away until the industry shrinks and eventually makes non-military firearms impossible to obtain. It’s that whole “when they came for me … there was no one left to speak up” thing.

    I stand by my original solution: freaking take care of our mentally ill, work to remove the stigma and obstacles surrounding treatment, and enforce the laws we already have. I’m also for stricter transport and storage rules, but there’s not really a good way to enforce this.

  31. #31 Sevesteen
    April 8, 2009

    I’ve never understood what a “collective right” theory of the second protects, especially when compared to the rest of the bill of rights.

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    April 8, 2009

    Spiv, that’s nothing like a redirect. That’s my personal anger that pointing out that someone is using a stupid argument as an obstruction to exploring solutions gets me labeled an anti-gun freak. Nothing pisses me off faster than someone telling me I have no right or basis to speak.

    As to stereotypes, don’t assume anyone who doesn’t agree with you isn’t a gun owner, either. I am. I also happen to have spent several years of my life growing up in a trailer, so you can drop the classist name calling too.

    If you want to actually know what I think will make the most difference, try asking. Right now, I’m mostly trying to figure out why we can’t talk about it without all the hostility.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    April 8, 2009

    I reject all slippery slope arguments. There is a slippery slop aregument for every single progressive idea. And, some regressive ideas. Once you start with the slippery slope arguments …

  34. #34 Matt Penfold
    April 8, 2009

    Michael, they never had a chance with arms. Had, say, a Jewish ghetto organized an armed resistance, they would have simply been starved or burnt out where they were. Don’t underestimate the political will or military organization it took to create the Holocaust.

    One only needs to look at the Warsaw uprising in ’44 to understand how the Nazis would have dealt with armed insurrection.

  35. #35 Spiv
    April 8, 2009

    Stephanie Z: My apologies for the assumptions. What do you think would make the greatest improvements?

    I also apologize for the trailer related comments. Where I grew up it referred to a certain type of person, unrelated to their socio-economic class. I’m a firm believe in judging on the quality of character alone.

    Greg: speaking of, what would you like to see done? IE what is the ultimate level of ownership you would like to see achieved?

  36. I’ve met Stephanie, she’s totally trailer trash. You should see her mullet.

    Spiv: Greg does not have a specific plan at this time.

  37. #37 Stephanie Z
    April 8, 2009

    Says the man who unquestioningly trusts my taste in Belgian beer and opinion on split infinitives. And it’s called a bob. It’s longest on my right, not in the back, and it’s perfectly suitable for both work and play all over.

    I do need a haircut, though.

    Spiv, more later, but I think it has to start with deflating the myths that make a gun a symbol of entitlement for far too many people. You know, some real discussion of what using one buys you (or doesn’t) and what it costs. That’s part of what I was working to do with the post Greg linked to.