Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Right to Bear Arms, Part 1

I feel like discussing something other than my depression-induced misery, so in a change of pace, today's post is about gun control. Obviously, the recent tragedy in Orlando has brought this to the forefront of the national conversation again. Sadly, "again" has to be added to that sentence because these types of horrific incidents are all too common. Mass shootings in public locations have become par for the course. Go to a political event, run the risk of being shot & killed. Go to a movie, run the risk of being shot & killed. Go to college, run the risk of being shot & killed. Go to a nightclub, run the risk of being shot & killed. Go to the mall, run the risk of being shot & killed. Go to a place of worship, run the risk of being shot & killed. Even going to elementary school now comes with the risk of being shot & killed. Every public location seems to be fair game for people intent on shooting & killing others.

So the rallying cries of "citizens do not need assault rifles! Stricter gun laws needed!" sound from the left & "what we need is more people with more guns to shoot back! No more gun laws are needed!" sound from the right. It's an endless stream of the same things we've heard after every single one of these incidents. And ultimately, nothing ever changes because each side is beholden to the party line.

But something must change, unless we are willing to accept a routine mass shooting as payment for living in America.  The problem cannot be solved, however, until both sides are working with a correct understanding of what the 2nd Amendment is about. So let's start there.

The 2nd Amendment is not about hunting. It's not about protecting your home from an intruder. It's about protecting the citizens of the country from the government. Anytime you consider anything in the Constitution, it is important to remember that it was written by people who had lived under a government that they felt was unduly oppressive. It was written by people who had seen the lengths that oppressive government would go to in order to maintain its control & power over the citizenry. It was written by people who had seen the necessity to physically fight back in war against that oppressive government. It was written by people who feared a repetition of history by allowing the same conditions to develop again & allowing another oppressive regime to take power of the newly formed country. It was written by people who feared the government & who wanted to ensure that the citizens were protected from the government. That context is crucial in understanding any part of the Bill of Rights. It's why criminal defendants have so many rights, like a speedy trial, prohibition against cruel & unusual punishment, to confront their accusers, etc. Because historically criminal defendants were railroaded by the oppressive government & the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that couldn't happen in this newly formed country. It's why the federal government cannot quarter soldiers in your home. It's why police are required to get a warrant to search & why that warrant must specifically state what the police are looking for & where it is likely to be located. Fear of government drove the creation of the Bill of Rights. And that includes the 2nd Amendment.

The right to bear arms also mentions the need for a well-regulated militia. A militia isn't a hunting group. It isn't a home security system. It's a line of defense in case of war, almost always against one's own government. The right to bear arms means the right to physically fight back, if necessary, against the government. And that means that yes, citizens do need access to assault-style weapons. Because IF an armed conflict against the government were ever necessary, then the citizens need to be armed with the necessary weapons to fight back. If the government gets AK-47s & the government also says that the citizens can only have access to a 6-shooter, then the theoretical armed conflict is controlled by the government & the citizens have no chance at winning & an oppressive government gets to maintain its power w/o any way for the citizens to resist. The weapons need to be matched, the playing field needs to be level.

Is it a likely scenario that we'll ever come to an armed conflict against the government, a la the Revolutionary War? No. It's not. But that doesn't change the fact that the 2nd Amendment was written with that scenario in mind. It doesn't change the fact that the right to bear arms means the right to bear arms against an oppressive government as a last resort. The Founders attempted to achieve their goals in a peaceful manner through the proper channels in the government. When that failed, they declared independence from Britain. And when Britain came to keep the states from seceding by force, the citizens fought back. Sure, it was considered treason at the time. But they won, so it wasn't treason under the newly formed country. The fact that it's an unlikely scenario, that it's a last resort, doesn't change the reasoning for the 2nd Amendment. It is not meant for hunters. It's not meant for personal protection of your home against a burglar. It's meant to allow citizens to have access to weapons that would be needed in the event of an armed conflict against the government, should it ever come to that again.

To prohibit the citizens from having access to assault-style weapons is to permit the government to maintain its power & control over citizens. When the people in power are benevolent, there's no concern from the citizens about letting them have unchecked power. But when the power is unchecked, a benevolent leader can become, or be replaced by, a tyrannical one. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. So, should regular citizens have access to assault-style weapons & weapons used in war? Yes. Otherwise we stand no chance against a tyrannical leader using force against us to maintain control.

But do we need gun control laws? Yes. And that will be the discussion for the next post on this topic.