Civics Quiz

Here is a civics quiz: which is the wording of the Second Amendment:

  1. In order for the people to feel secure in their homes, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
  2. 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.
  3. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The answer is B.

Given that the American colonies had relied on a militia to overthrow the British government, having a militia would have seemed pretty important at the time.  Also, it was not at all clear that the new government would not be subject to tyrants whom the people would also have to depose in order to keep the State free: for example, there was a fear that the office of the president was the first step to establishing another form of monarchy. (Even now, I have felt a fear of the office of the president lately, so it is easy to imagine that the fear was reasonable at the time).

One of the mysteries is how the Supreme Court found in that wording, so precise and such a product of the time, a general right to keep guns, semi-automatic rifles, unlimited ammunition for any and all purposes: hunting, recreation, protection, delusions, and just for fun. The mystery is not dispelled by reading the Supreme Court decision, a  piece of work that gives the legal profession its due as capable of constructing an argument that effectively dispenses with common sense. Suffice it to say, the Supreme Court has blood on its hands; it missed an opportunity to establish the simple truth behind simple words, an exercise in responsibility that would have saved countless lives, prevented untold suffering and grief, and would prevent all the deaths and suffering still to come –because of course there will be so many more shootings.

What is as bad as the tortured arguments of the Supreme Court wrung out of a legal mind to achieve a desired goal in the guise of stare decisis analysis, are the puny and pointless measures proposed to address the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and address the gun culture: background checks, limits of rounds of ammunition; banning a piece that turns a killing machine into a bit better killing machine. I heard on NPR, by a proponent of gun ownership, that not one measure that has been proposed would have had any effect on the shootings that have occurred. He is right of course. Just like Trump’s travel ban has no relevance to any terrorist attack we have ever known, those measures will not stop the carnage. Only dispensing with the Second Amendment, as erroneously and absurdly interpreted, will achieve the goal. Gasp!! Overturn something the founders wrote?  It has happened before that some 18th Century notions do not stand the test of time and amendments are in order –and in this case, it defies logic to think that any one of them would have countenanced the current state of guns in this country — at least there is no evidence that they had a particular tolerance for the mass murder of children.

All rights are limited in a society to the degree they run up against other rights –old idea to which I refer you to John Stuart Mill.  Sorry, folks, you want to own guns –semi automatics, Saturday night specials, Glocks, rifles, and high powered scopes, whatever your killing toy — but your joy is at the base of hundreds of dead children, untold sorrow and a creeping rational fear that we are not free to live with safety in the “free State.”

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