Jan 28, 2013

January 28, 2013: A Well Regulated Militia, It Hasn’t Always Been This way, Awash in Weaponry

“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.

         -- --The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

So reads the Second Amendment, part of the so-called “Bill of Rights” to the Constitution of the United States.  The precise meaning and what in heaven’s name the founders were thinking when they passed this provision has been a subject of debate since the founding of the republic

Americans are bat-shit crazy about their guns. So much do they value their guns that we protest not when the State requires that we register our children to be ground up like hamburger in the maw of war, but we will passionately resist any attempt to register our beloved phallic symbol.   No nation on earth is so heavily armed.  There are more than 300 million guns about in these here United States. There are more gun stores in America than there are supermarkets and McDonalds restaurants combined.  America’s biggest retailer of firearms is none other than Wal-Mart.  If sales continue unabated we will soon have more guns in this country than people.  The result has been the predictable bloodbath.  More American’s die each year from firearms than were killed during the worst years in Vietnam.  More Americans lose their lives to gun accidence and violence than are killed each year by auto accidents.  Among some populations and age groups guns are the leading cause of death and injury
It hasn’t always been this way.   We have had eras in this country when the madness that springs from the lack of regulation has brought about public revulsion.  Such was the case during the mob violence during Prohibition in which the streets were killing fields as Tommy guns reigned supreme in places like Chicago, and the countryside was terrorized by automatic weapons in the hands of people like Baby-Face Nelson, John Dillinger, and Bonny and Clyde.  At some point the public had enough, and the state legislatures and the congress passed additional laws removing these weapons from the streets of America. 
It was settled law.  Automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons were banned.  It was simply illegal to own them, as it was illegal to own a sawed-off shotgun.  These are not hunting weapons.  They are “street-sweepers” –military-style weapons meant to kill people.  Our ancestors understood that no good can come from having such weapons in the hands of the “people”.  The courts, ruled that the purpose of the Second Amendment centers on a well regulated  militia.  That is, in order to provide for a well regulated militia, it is necessary for the people to keep and bear arms.
The courts have never taken this too far, some would argue that the courts have never gone far enough.  But the Supreme Court, in its collective wisdom, did rule that the “Militia” clause was controlling.  The Court ruled that the so-called “right to bear arms” was meant in the context of maintaining a militia and that the state, through its inherent police powers, had a legitimate interest to regulate.  Note here too that this is one of the places in the Constitution where the word “Regulate” appears, and here the right to bear arms is in the context of the explicit charge to create and maintain a “well regulated militia”.

This was the established understanding until the idiot wrong agitated through the NRA (National Rifle Association, or National Reactionary Association, or Not Really American take your pick). and got men appointed to the Supreme Court that,  ignoring all previous legal precedent, ruled during the Renquist era that the right to bear arms meant that everyone had a right to keep and bear arms personally.  
The amendment is undoubtedly vague. What is meant by “keep and bear arms” is not further clarified.  What is meant by “keep”? In your home?  On your person?  Or in an armory?  Which arms?  Muskets and black powder pistols?  Rifles? Machine guns?  Mortars?  Anti-tank weapons?  Surface to air missiles?  Nuclear weapons?   Clearly some lines have to be drawn.
And what about ammunition?  Again, black powder?  Full metal jacket? Rocket propelled grenades?  Hollow point cop-killer bullets? Armor piercing bullets?  Hollow point bullets?  Where do we draw the line?

Even Justice Scalia, who otherwise fails to understand stare decisis, has recently mumbled on national television that some limits exist and are legitimate.  But the barn door has been opened and the country is awash with weaponry that has no other function than to commit murder and mass murder as the country reels from one tragedy to another, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newtown. 

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