Monday, July 4, 2016

Towards a Sensible Second

[This is my response to the recent gun violence.]

As we celebrate another Independence Day and the anniversary of the Declaration, I’m thinking about Mr. Jefferson’s Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It seems to me that everyone’s inalienable rights must have some limits when it threatens life and liberty, not to mention my pursuit of happiness.
When some wacko can use a legally attained weapon to take the lives of dozens of people pursuing happiness dancing in a night club, watching a movie premiere or even children going to school, something is wrong. That guy’s unalienable rights are infringing on others’ lives and liberties.
When the founding fathers put the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights, I can’t help thinking that they didn’t think an individual citizen should have that kind of firepower.
It’s important to remember the revolution started when the British decided to seize the weapons from a makeshift armory in that hotbed of revolution, Concord, Massachusetts. Paul Revere and some other guy (thanks Mr. Longfellow) rode out to warn the citizens who grabbed their arms to defend their rights and themselves. A shot was fired, heard round the world and a revolution began.
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, this had to be on their minds. This was the freedom they were trying to protect. If the government got out of line and the rule of law collapsed, then the citizens could ban together in militias and fight off the government.
Remember, the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution were the response to a break down in the rule of law, a lack of representation many attempts at redress.
The language they agreed on for the 2nd Amendment is:

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.

Some folks read this as the right for every citizen to keep and bear arms. It doesn’t actually say that. People keeping and bearing arms is in support of a well regulated Militia. The murders in Orlando, Aurora, Newtown, et al. were not in support of a well regulated Militia. What I’d like to offer is a more sensible solution following what the Amendment actually says and offering a significant clarifying definition. (I’m not the first person to have these thoughts.)
A well regulated militia suggests an organized, trained and armed unit of citizen soldiers. Its purpose is to maintain and secure a free state. While this might mean the National Guard, I think that it suggests an organization that is not controlled by any government agency in case the government threatens the security of a free state. The militia is to be filled and run by the people.
The word I want to clarify is ‘Arms’. In this case, Arms is a shortened form of the word ‘Armaments’. While Arms and Armaments can mean many things, the principle meaning is offensive weapons intended to cause harm to humans. So for the purpose of the Amendment, I propose a definition of Arms to be limited to offensive weapons whose sole purpose is to harm humans. This would not include most handguns which have an intended defensive use or reasonable hunting rifles. (It seems to me sporting rifles should be sporting, something that will obliterate the animal or shoot it dozens of time in a second is hardly sporting.) It seems that the Founding Fathers weren’t talking about hunting rifles so much as weapons of war.
Therefore, here’s my solution:
Everyone should join a militia. I will happily join and pay dues to the Culver City Progressive Militia. I will train with them in preparation of a time our services are needed to secure the free state. Arms/Armaments should be held by the Militias. People can keep and bear their handguns and hunting rifles, but automatic rifles and other weapons whose sole purpose is to kill humans should only be kept and held by the well regulated militias. This could include rocket launchers, cannons and an F-16. I’ll put in my share for my militia to be well armed.
Armaments in this sense could only be sold to well regulated Militias. People would at first be asked to give their weapons to the well regulated militia of their choice. In time, it would become illegal for armaments to be kept and held by private citizens. The arms will be held by the militia and taken out for well regulated training.
As part of the well regulated part, there would be specific by laws as to when the militia would act in defense of the free state. While I can foresee some militias going rogue and fighting against our properly elected government following the rule of law, it would be a different experience than any wacko being allowed to have the fire power to kill and maim a hundred people at a time.
I think that the NRA, the anti-gun lobby and the courts should read the 2nd Amendment and follow it. Or, they should change the amendment and let it adapt as the Founding Fathers intended.

[Please also read my series of essays on Violence in Entertainment and why I think we have an increase in the violent shooting. It begins with]

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