…Demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.
— Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
I have been naïve.
My temperament has always bent toward seeking common ground — the Willie Nelson ethic of bringing the cowboys and the hippies together. I have opined multiple times in the newspaper I edit and in other forums that gun owners have significant responsibilities as well as rights and that it is incumbent upon us to work with people of good faith to reduce violence and especially horrific mass shootings. After all, we are to be a “well regulated militia,” right?
I still believe that. The problem is that I no longer trust in others’ good faith. It’s not that I question the sincerity of my friends — both gun owners and those who would prefer never to touch a gun — who have “moderate” views on the matter and truly are interested in “common sense” regulation. It’s just that they are not the ones who are driving the agenda. In fact, they have been used as a stalking horse by those whose true agenda is and always has been disarming law-abiding citizens.
Turns out, the NRA was right all along.
I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with that organization. They do many valuable things in the shooting community that are overshadowed by the political bombast. I have recoiled at rhetoric that seemed extreme and likely to alienate potential allies, those moderate folk of good faith. I was wrong. The NRA was right. I’ll be re-upping at the end of this month.
Justice Stevens’ op-ed, which ran in the New York Times this week, starkly states the real agenda. Retired at 97, Stevens has no further need to mask his desires. It’s not about “common sense gun reform” or even about banning the “bad rifle.” It’s about taking it ALL.
His appeal for repeal is classic “never let a crisis go to waste” opportunism. Everyone is horrified that young men seek self-annihilation in nihilistic violence against innocents. Those who seek repeal of one of the 10 foundational amendments to the U.S. Constitution, those who seek to disarm and criminalize law-abiding citizens who have DONE NOTHING WRONG, are exploiting a very natural desire to see our children safe. But their agenda is not about safety; it is about control.
The lust for control infects both sides of the political spectrum, though it may manifest in different ways. It must be resisted.
The argument that the Second Amendment is a “relic of the 18th Century” is a popular piece of sophistry. All of the 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights are “relics of the 18th Century” if you chose to look at individual liberty as a quaint, outmoded notion. It is chilling to see how many people do.
The Second Amendment reads: “to keep and bear arms.” It does not say “to keep and bear arms permanently at the technological level of 1789.” If such were the case, the Fourth Amendment would not cover any form of personal communications other than handwritten letters. Instead, the Fourth Amendment has been — rightly — interpreted to include the contents of our vehicles, our electronic communications, etc.
We have acquiesced in many infringements upon the Fourth Amendment in the name of safety and security. Many of those infringements are so incremental and insidious that we do not really recognize that they are happening. And there are always the voices that say, “Well, if you’ve got nothing to hide…” The liberty-loving right shouldn’t feel too smug about their virtue: Remember that “Total Information Awareness” was promulgated by the Bush Administration in the name of protecting us from terrorists. Never let a crisis go to waste.
The Second Amendment also reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” The “militia” is the people in arms. The right argues that the amendment was designed to allow for defense against a tyrannical government, which is partially true, but not necessarily the main point and purpose. It was considered important that the people themselves retain the capacity for defense and security internally as well as against external foes. In other words, in a circumstance of civil unrest or breakdown, or other threat, the people themselves — you and me — should have the capacity to deal with it. That’s as operative now as it was in 1789.
Example: For three days during the Rodney King riots in L.A., the LAPD effectively abandoned the south-central portion of the city to hordes of looters. Dozens of businesses were looted and burned and people were beaten and killed. The businesses that didn’t get looted and burned out were those of Korean and Chinese grocers who got up on their roofs — many armed with semi-auto rifles — and kept the looters at bay. That is a contemporary exercise of the intent of the Second Amendment. Other examples abound from any number of disaster scenarios, natural or man-made.
I have never believed that “shall not be infringed” means that there cannot be ANY strictures placed on the means and manner of keeping and bearing arms. That’s where the “well-regulated” part comes in. Whatever those strictures are, however, they must NOT infringe upon the legitimate rights and liberties of free, law-abiding citizens that are clearly enumerated in the Constitution. Unfortunately, good-faith discussion of what those strictures might look like is impossible. The developments of the past few weeks have made it starkly clear what the real agenda and purpose is. We can thank Justice Stevens and the petitioners of Oregon IP 43 for doffing the mask. It clarifies matters.
I will no longer be seeking common ground, because the common ground has been cut from beneath my feet. That’s on them, not me.
No negotiation of our rights. No compromise.
I’ve been playing this a lot for the past few days. A relic of the 19th Century, in honor of a relic of the 14th Century. Love of liberty has a long pedigree.
Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;Welcome to your gory bed,Or to victory!Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;See the front o’ battle lour;See approach proud Edward’s power—Chains and slavery!Wha will be a traitor knave?Wha can fill a coward’s grave!Wha sae base as be a slave?Let him turn and flee!Wha for Scotland’s king and lawFreedom’s sword will strongly draw,Freeman stand, or freeman fa’,Let him follow me!By oppression’s woes and pains!By your sons in servile chains!We will drain our dearest veins,But they shall be free!Lay the proud usurpers low!Tyrants fall in every foe!Liberty’s in every blow!—Let us do or die!