“‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin.
Probably the most controversial amendment in our Bill of Rights, the second amendment has garnered both a vocal opposition and a passionate group of supporters.
We as Americans value our freedom to a point that borders on being a religious view. If you were to ask average Americans what they love about living here, it will usually have the word freedom in it; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of unwarranted searches. These freedoms, and others that most people couldn’t name without the aid of Google, are enshrined in our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the US Constitution.
The Bill of Rights, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, are not rights granted to us by the government; rather they are natural rights of our existence, protected from infringement by the government. If people read through them and apply them to their modern lives, they can appreciate their significance. In fact, a general consensus can be formed as to their importance. Well, for nine out of the ten anyway. One amendment is constantly questioned as to it’s role in modern times. No other amendment is continually debated and at some points infringed upon so regularly as the second amendment.
The often asked, fiercely debated question surrounding the purpose of the second amendment is one that pro-gun and anti-gun forces attack with equal passion. What does the amendment mean? What is it’s purpose? Well, all we have to do is look at the events that caused the American Revolution, and use that historical context to understand why the second amendment exists.
The opening fight in the American Revolution came as a result of a tyrannical government attempting to disarm the populace.
Our Founders decided that they had had enough overstepping in their lives by the British Empire. Years of warfare had accumulated a massive debt on the British Empire, as they fought to expand and control their colonies. In their American Colonies, it was decided to levy heavier and heavier taxes on the population to recover some of this debt. This was met with resistance, as the colonies felt that they were not properly represented given how much they were paying in taxes. The British countered this resistance by replacing those taxes with other duties and taxes, and in some instances sending troops. The rise in tyranny by the British is what led to a call for separation from England.
The American Revolution came about due in large part to a governmental system that held too much power over it’s populace. The Americans who helped form the nation remembered this after the Revolution when they began to flesh out a system of government. They were so fearful of a centralized government that they created the system we know today, which has three branches. One branch does not hold most of the power, it is (supposed to be) spread among the three branches of government. Each branch has the ability to challenge the other if they deem it necessary. This system is called checks and balances, and it allows for power to not be centralized.
Now I’m sure you are asking, ok why the history lesson? Well for one I’m a history buff so it is easy for me to ramble on and on. But in order to understand why changing our amendments is a delicate decision, you have to understand why the founders documented them in the first place. The Bill of Rights is the limits on government power, a list of what they can’t do. However, limiting government power in writing is one thing. If a government truly chooses the path of tyranny, no amount of writing on paper will truly protect someone’s rights.
That’s where the 2nd Amendment comes in.
It is the final check on governmental power, that when all other means of protecting liberty have been violated, an armed populace has the ability to protect itself from tyranny. The Founders had tried to petition the British government to stop infringing on their lives, and in response the British sought to disarm the populace as the tension escalated. They fully well knew what an armed populace meant to short stopping tyranny. An overbearing government would be less likely to step on their own people if those people were armed.
Now, whenever this argument comes up in the gun debate, those against guns say,
“What, do you think you with your guns can stand up to the most powerful military in the world?”
Uh yeah. Great Britain was the most powerful military in the world at the time of our Revolution. We fought them to a point where it was too costly for them to continue the fight.
In modern times, you have to look no further than our war in Afghanistan. Currently our government is negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, the same people who we have been fighting for the last 18 years. We have the most powerful military in the world, and have been fighting guys armed with AK’s, RPG’s and IED’s, who we are now negotiating a peace deal with.
Third world religious zealots have fought the most powerful military in the world to the negotiating table after 18 years of combat, using some low tech but innovative ways to wage war.
If the government became tyrannical, how long do you honestly think they would wage a war against the populace? They would have to also use a force that wasn’t part of the American populace. I have a hard time believing that American forces could be convinced to wage a war against it’s own population. So yes, I believe an armed population could and would be able to defend itself against a tyrannical government. I also believe it is essential to liberty for that same reason.
In modern times, guns have become one of the most divisive and controversial topics. This is due in no small part to a variety of highly publicized mass shootings in the nation. No doubt tragic, these shootings strike at the heart of American society, as they generally take place in areas society considers “safe havens”; schools, religious buildings, malls etc. The American media, no longer a source of information, salivate at these types of horrible crimes as opportunities to push their narrative, be it from an anti-gun or pro-gun side. Images of crying scared children strike at the hearts of all Americans, no matter what side of the political or ideological fence one resides.
Anti-gun politicians do not hesitate to jump on any and all tragedies if they relate to guns. It is predictable that if any news headlines come from a shooting, the politicians that are anti-gun will be the loudest voices calling for gun control of all colors and sizes. It has become so predictable that their “concern for public safety” has lost it’s veneer. They are pushing their agenda, which is that law abiding citizens should not have access to firearms. They have reached a point where they no longer wait for the facts of the issue to come out before they begin their highly predictable preaching on the major news networks.
One narrative that they push is a call for “common sense gun laws”. This blanket statement can be and is used to push whatever gun control those wielding it choose. Common sense is a subjective term, and it’s meaning varies from person to person. What is considered common sense to one person may not be to another. So then, who decides what is truly “common sense”? Who are we willing to allow to determine the degree we can pursue a right? Those in office, who are protected 24/7 by armed men with guns? See what kind of lunacy that is? See how that flies in the face of what the founders intended when they developed the Bill of Rights? Allowing those in power, who are so out of touch with what it is like to live as an average American, to dictate and infringe on our rights is an outrage and an affront to the sacrifices made by our founders to prevent that EXACT thing from happening!
Another disingenuous tactic used by anti-gun politicians is the citing of the “startling” statistics of gun violence in America. They cite that there is an epidemic of mass shootings in America, that our lax gun laws (ask anyone who has tried to legally obtain a firearm how lax gun laws are) is causing this crisis of an increase in mass shootings to happen.
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), in 2016 there were 33,594 total deaths by firearms in the United States. A shocking number when viewed on the surface. But if one takes the time to break those numbers down, (which anti-gun politicians and their media mouthpieces refuse to do) the reality actually shines through. Going beyond the shocking number that the media touts, of that 33,594 deaths by firearms, 22,938 were firearm deaths by suicide. While still tragic, it can be argued that no matter what, those people intended to kill themselves. Are any gun laws going to prevent someone intending to end their own life? Maybe by using a gun yes, but they have other ways to do it.
14,415 out of the 33,594 deaths by firearms were homicides. While that in of itself is truly tragic, the CDC further states that 80% of those were gang related. So following the gang lead as that is the major cause of homicides with firearms, according to a poll taken by the FBI in 2016 of inmates who had committed a crime with a firearm, 43% of those guns used came from “off the street”. That means that they were not purchased by conventional means, for example from a store, gun show etc. Meaning they were obtained illegally, which is breaking the law at the outset.
Lastly, in 2016 71 people were killed in the epidemic mass shooting touted by the media. Keep in mind that the threshold for a mass shooting classification is four or more people. While tragic, this number, when compared to the 22,938 self inflicted gun deaths, does not speak to a national crisis. Especially not to one requiring arbitrary “common sense gun laws”.
Which one of the two weapons shown above is a military style rifle? If you said both, you’d be right.
Then there comes the “military style” weapons argument. Once again, anti-gun politicians like to use subjective terms because they are able to apply them to whatever they want. Military style can mean any number of attributes that fit a narrative or even look like something people saw in an action flick. If it makes the populace imagine that only cold blooded killers use these weapons, then they can get buyin for banning them.
Well, when does the use of the term stop? Once all semiautomatic weapons are banned? What about bolt action “sniper style” rifles? What about “pump action” assault shotguns? What about the rapid fire lever action rifles that John Wayne terrorized his adversaries with?
Does this all seem a bit ridiculous? Can you see where this is going? Every firearm since the creation of gunpowder has been a military style weapon. From the matchlocks to the flintlocks, to the invention of the self contained cartridge, from breach loading to lever action, semiautomatic to full automatic, every weapon has had it’s formation as a weapon of war. So, to answer the anti-gun politicians’ rhetoric of “do weapons of war belong on our streets”? Well, every firearm at one point in it’s history WAS A WEAPON OF WAR. It’s a dangerous precedent to set to allow such a subjective term be used in limiting a right intended to keep the government in check.
I’ve heard the remark “The founders never would have envisioned the weapons we have today when they wrote the second amendment.”
The founders most certainly did not believe that the weapons they had at the time were as far advanced technologically speaking as weapons would ever get. They did not believe that what they had was the best that would ever be created in the history of mankind. We certainly do not believe that the technology we have today is the end of the line, that nothing else will ever be created again. Why would they feel that way either?
Two firearms of the day were the most technologically advanced and were exactly what the founders meant when they wrote the amendment. The Brown Bess musket was the mainstay infantry firearm of the day. Used by both the British and the Colonials, it was the premier firearm in military usage. Also, the long rifle, which was technologically speaking more advanced than the Brown Bess, as it had rifling in the barrel, as opposed to the smooth bore barrel of the Bess. This rifling placed a spin on the musket ball, adding a further shooting distance over the Brown Bess. It took longer to load, which is why at the time the long rifle was used mostly by hunters who didn’t need to reload as quickly as an infantryman in a fight. However, American Riflemen brought their long rifles into the fight for Independence, especially in the southern theater, which gave them an edge over their British opponents. This was exactly the idea the founders had when they wrote the second amendment.
American Rifleman of the Revolution. Painting done by the great Don Troiani.
Once touted as a place for free speech, Facebook has declared itself a moderator of content on it’s site. It seems though their algorithms bias a bit one way over the other.
Except when the rules change. Except when the powers that be in Facebook or other social media sites decide they do not like a certain subject, or viewpoint, and decide that they will ban not only those subjects, but those who violate the rules regarding those subjects.
Case in point; guns. It used to be there were pages for buying, selling and trading guns, as long as it was withing the bounds of the law. Gun rights and pro gun pages were free to express themselves in any way they saw fit. Then came the political movements of the Moms Demand Action (or as I have heard them called Mom’s Demand Attention) putting pressure on Facebook and other social media companies to crack down on gun content. Overnight the gun selling pages were gone, the gun rights and pro-gun pages were getting shut down over violations of the new “rules”, and even pro-gun individuals were getting their accounts banned for liking too many pro-gun candidates or pages. I experienced it myself first hand when I couldn’t like, share or comment anything from my page. It was locked up.
Now, Facebook is a private company and we agreed to the rules to play by in participating. That being said, they and other social media outlets have become the place where a vast majority of Americans get their information, yet they are heavy handed with a certain portion of American society. If they were to crack down on LGBT, or vegans, or any other facet of society, how would that be received?
This leads me to the end of this long blog post. If you have made it this far, you have a clear idea of my opinion on this matter. I challenge anyone reading this who is either indifferent to or doesn’t like guns to do the following. Pick one of the other 10 amendments, and think about to what degree you would be willing to allow the government to restrict that right. Would you allow the government ot restrict how much you write or speak against it? Would you allow them to force you to pay a fee to have a social media page, that you had to pay every five or ten years following a back ground check? Would you be willing to allow the government to enter your home without a warrant because you are deemed dangerous? Or allow them hold you in prison indefinitely for public safety?
No other amendment in the Bill of Rights has been so willingly sacrificed and infringed upon as has the second. When the founders wrote it, they weren’t safeguarding guns for hunting purposes. That would be like saying they put in an amendment to ensure you could get groceries. They weren’t concerned with hunting, it was part of how people sustained themselves. Nor were they safeguarding your right to self defense. Self defense is a small part of our rights. They created this amendment to ensure we the people had the means to keep our government in line when all else fails. An armed populace safeguards it’s liberty by existing as such. Look no further than the injustice that has befallen Venezuela currently. The government there a few short years ago banned private ownership of firearms. Now the government is firing on protesters and running civilians over with armored vehicles, on top of other travesties.
We must be careful how we proceed. If we allow our rights that were hard fought to gain in the first place to be stripped away so easily now, we may never get them back. What we do now sets a precedent for future generations. Allowing the government to restrict rights in the name of “common sense” or “safety” is a dangerous path for us to go down. There may come a time that we need the second amendment as it was intended, and what we do now may shape how we are able to defend our liberty in the future. I for one, value our liberty above all else.