Lots of room for interpretation in the Second Amendment but it’s all academic…

October 23, 2017

Note: a few posts ago I wrote that I wanted to do something on the Second Amendment. Well what follows is something but certainly not a complete analysis.


 

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (part of what we call the Bill of Rights) is terse and ambiguous in that it seems to connect the right of citizens to keep and bear arms (have guns) with something called the militia.

(I don’t think we are talking the modern phenomenon of self-proclaimed vigilantes running around in camouflage looking like a cross between GI Joe and a deer hunter.)

Well except the late Justice Antonin Scalia did not see it that way and the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court agreed — citizens have a constitutional right to have guns for their own use irrespective of military service, it concluded.

So really for all intents and purposes that pretty well settles it unless a future court decides otherwise, and the high court does not like to reverse its own rulings, rather it prefers to follow the principle of stare decisis, going by legal precedent (what has been decided in the past), I guess to avoid uncertainty and promote trust in the law — even though on occasions it has, such as Brown v the Board of Education when it decided that separate is not equal in public services and accommodations, in the landmark civil rights case, thus overturning a ruling some 56 years previous.

I’ve been trying to research the Second Amendment but my work life and other things have impeded that. But I know the confusion in part comes in by the outdated language and the weird syntax and punctuation and even the strange choice of capitalization of the one-sentence amendment. I think it is correct to say that the more modern rules of English grammar were either not in effect or universal at the time of our forefathers. And today those modern rules seem to be fading with the use of the internet and tweets and the lack of emphasis on grammar in our schools — but like I often note in my blogs, that is another subject.

To further confuse matters, there are various versions of the Second Amendment with slightly different punctuation — such as the one used for ratification and the final official one approved by congress. And that leads to confusion. I think that in itself proves the value of universal rules and the correct usage in grammar (something I strive for but don’t always attain myself). The official version of the Second Amendment follows:

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. 

Now at first glance I’d have to say there is some connection with serving in a militia (a kind of self-defense force) with the right to keep and bear arms. But if I understand it correctly the high court majority felt that the first part of the sentence was nothing more than words — a “prefatory clause” they called it — or that even if it did express the need for a militia, the important part of the amendment is what it called the “operative clause”, the right of the people to keep and bear arms. I have to ask: does people really mean individuals or the plural like in the people of a state or nation? But of course this is all academic. The high court has spoken; we all have a right to have guns.

But to the chagrin of some ardent all-or-nothing gun enthusiasts the high court did hold that there can be some restrictions.

A primary concern at the time of the writing of the amendment was the role of local or state militias as opposed to that of a standing federal army. Some did not even want a regular federal army. It would take a historian to figure it all out really, or at least supreme court justices reading a lot of history (of course I guess that is what they do).

One book I am reading says that there just was not much of a public record of what the authors of the Second Amendment or those who voted for it thought about the individual right to have guns. Most of the discussion seemed to center around the role of the militia. However, in some proposed drafts or some state bills of rights, the individual’s right was protected.

As to my own opinion or feeling: I have come to the conclusion that individuals in the U.S. do have what appears to be a unique guaranteed right to keep and bear arms with some reasonable restrictions, still not clearly defined by the high court.

And I somewhat reluctantly agree with gun enthusiasts that if you get too carried away with restrictions then the right to keep and bear arms is a little empty.

Just before I began to write this post (actually several days ago) I read about another wild shooting, this time in Maryland. Several people were killed and others wounded. And of course we are just coming off the worst gun massacre in our history in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. And of course, especially in the inner cities, we have constant gun violence.

We have a problem in this country with the free flow of weapons and the phenomenon of apparently mentally deranged people wanting to make a name for themselves in this era of social media and instant mass communication. They want to go out in a blaze of glory (well what they think is glory but is really infamy).

While we cannot stop all of these deranged people we can do something to stem the free flow of weapons even if it approaches infringement on our right to have guns.

Who can think living in a society with the bullets flying is a good idea?

On the other hand, it can be comforting to know that each and every one of us does have a right to protect ourselves, even though not all of ourselves are going to take advantage of that due to personal considerations or interests.

I had wanted to do a more thorough presentation on the subject but even though the Second Amendment is only one sentence the subject is rather complex.

However, for the time, I remain at least a nominal supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.

p.s.

And about the militia. I think history shows that in the context of the Constitution we are talking of a state-organized military type unit, which in modern times is our National Guard, which each state has but which can be federalized when the need arises.

I personally don’t believe that the National Guard should be used for foreign engagements except in extreme emergencies when all qualified citizens might be subject to a military draft. But that is of course another subject.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The danger of crazy men with guns versus the need for self protection…

June 18, 2017

At the news of the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice I began a post one way and then another incident happened and it seemed to reinforce in me an understanding of why so many people support the right to keep and bear arms (and that  sometimes reluctantly includes me).

But first, my initial reaction:

Automatic assault rifle gun fire at a Republican baseball practice, several injured, including the majority whip. And yet the Republicans (and many Democrats) still feel they must be absolutists against sensible gun control. I mean they are locked into that position because they depend upon the support of the gun lobby and citizens who are in no mood to compromise on the Second Amendment and their belief that it guarantees every man woman and child the right to pack automatic weapons. Never mind that the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen the advance in weapons technology centuries later and that the Second Amendment speaks more to a citizen’s army than simple citizen gun ownership.

But still, I support the Second Amendment. And for now I will go along with the notion that the consensus seems to be that it does indeed give citizens a right to tote their own guns. However, the courts have allowed some forms of gun control nonetheless.

I don’t have an answer as to how we on the one hand preserve our right to keep and bear arms and on the other how we protect ourselves from mad men with weapons that spray hundreds of rounds per minute.

Some suggest that if we all packed weapons like on those old TV westerns the nut cases would not be so emboldened. First, I doubt that. They are nuts, remember? Secondly if we all packed guns, given the temper of the nation now — you have been out on the interstates? it would be mayhem, more than it already is,

(At the congressional ball practice the congressmen and others at least had some Capital Police on hand who bravely faced the gunman and shot him dead, even though they were outgunned in firepower. And isn’t that horrendous that bad guys often have more fire power than our police?)

No I don’t have an answer. But I do know the free flow of automatic weapons primarily benefits the arms industry and is a detriment to our personal safety.


And then there were those two animals out of a Georgia prison who murdered two guards on a prison bus and escaped, going on a rampage of carjacking and one incident where they terrorized an elderly couple. Finally with the help of two citizens — two civilians as it were — with their own firearms, they were apprehended. As I read it (and the reports seemed to be somewhat vague) the two were lying face down held at gunpoint by the good citizens when the police arrived.

If you saw the photos of those two desperadoes you might agree with me that there was something chilling about them.

The police cannot be everywhere and see everything all the time and we would not want it that way. But with animals like that on the loose it could be a comfort to be armed thanks to your Second Amendment rights.

Still, there is a likelihood for it to backfire, so to speak. You cannot be wide awake all the time and it might not be legal nor practical to have a firearm on your person at all times. Often the bad guy, the intruder, is likely to get the drop on you.

And we often have incidents in which innocent people, often young people or lost foreigners, are shot when a homeowner misperceives a threat.

So this uniquely American notion of every citizen’s right to keep and bear arms often presents a conundrum.

I can only say: preserve the Second Amendment, support reasonable gun control, and stem the flow of automatic weapons.

p.s.

I did not go into gun safety. There are so many tragic incidents of children getting their hands on firearms and accidentally shooting themselves and others, often siblings. And far too many of these incidents happen in households of policemen. But there are a lot of deadly dangers we all face every day. But yes, gun safety courses for all ought to be a requirement of gun ownership.

One more note: I think in the incident where the citizens apprehended the escaped convicts the bad guys had lost their stolen weapons at that point.

 

 

 


Why do we ‘love’ our guns so much? Protection is one reason…

April 29, 2017

Just read an article on CNN in which a correspondent who is now a U.S. citizen but who is originally from India, the land of non-violent resistance Gandhi style, wanted to determine what those in other parts of the world consider is the reason behind America’s “love affair” with guns.

 

So she went to an NRA confab.

 

She claims although she did not completely get her head around it all, she did come away with “much to consider”.

 

To boil it down, I think she found that some of the reasons law-abiding citizens want to own their own guns include: self-protection (the police may not always be available in time), the feeling of freedom from an overpowering government that would run every aspect of one’s life, and sport shooting.

 

(And not to make a sick, sick joke, but by “sport shooting” I was not referring to drive by shootings.)

 

 

One person indicated to her that it is black people who of all people should support the right to keep and bear arms, claiming that the notion of gun control was really a device to keep control of ex slaves after the Civil War (I’m not clear on the history of that, but the correspondent herself noted that when the former British colonial masters took over India they instituted strict gun control).

 

I know the NRA and others often proclaim that if you outlaw guns then only the outlaws will have guns. There is some logic there alright. If you drive toward the Mexican border you will see signs that warn you that firearms are illegal in Mexico. Doesn’t seem to stem the tide of narco gun violence down there does it?

 

The writer said that people in her native India often ask: what is this obsession Americans have with owning guns?

 

I myself was asked that question on one of my trips to Spain by some Spanish people. Spain as I understand it has fairly strict gun control.

 

 

But I listened to the local news in Spain and I’ll be darned, they have armed robberies there too.

 

 

Whatever, I will concede that gun violence seems to be out of hand in our American society.

Guns have been part of our culture. We broke away from Great Britain via gun-toting colonists who fought the revolution.

 

 

Also it was the way we settled the continent. Law and order did not come to the territories until after they were settled and local governments were set up. In the meantime it was like every man for himself, whereas in Canada, the King or the Queen’s law came first (at least that is what I was taught in a comparative government class in college).

 

 Canada has much less gun violence than we do here in the U.S. (but they have had some incidents in relatively recent times).

 

 

And of course we have that Second Amendment in our Constitution that is read by most as ensuring that we all have a right to carry our own heat. I’ve written so much, well at least so many times, about the ambiguity of that one-sentence amendment that I won’t bother repeating it here. I still support the Second Amendment, although that incident in Connecticut in which a whole classroom of school children were murdered just about did it for me.

 

 

There has to be sensible gun control and it needs to be relatively difficult — not impossible — to obtain guns and people should have to prove they can handle them safely and there should be no gun-show or mail order loopholes. President Kennedy was assassinated with a mail-order rifle. And I don’t know how many mass shooting perpetrators or other murderers have gotten their weapons via a gun show (have not tied to look that up).

 

 

Oh, and back to India: maybe those “non-violent” people can’t understand our obsession with guns but you know if women there were armed maybe they could go about without fearing gang rapes so prevalent in India’s “non-violent” culture.

 

 

p.s.

 

The CNN article that inspired my post: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/world/indian-immigrant-nra-convention/index.html

 

 

I would not have been able to have guns in the house when my children were growing up. I would not have been able to sleep or be anywhere else knowing that somehow one of them might accidentally shoot themselves — so many tragic reports of children of police officers having deadly mishaps.

 

 

But I know years ago an in-law of mine said he always carried a gun under the seat of his car when travelling out on the open road, particularly in places like the wide-open desert. Today as I drive a big truck through wide-open deserts and questionable neighborhoods in inner cities, I sometimes wonder….

 

 

 

 


Sometimes the right to keep and bear arms is hard to argue with…

January 14, 2017

I have written many times that something should be done to stop the free flow of guns in this country and especially to keep them out of the hands of unstable people.

On the other hand I have been consistent in not outright opposing the right of the public to keep and bear arms; I just think we have to have some reasonable control — we do have some, depending upon where one lives.

And I won’t go into what the Second Amendment actually says or how it should be interpreted because it is not pertinent to the point this time and I don’t think it is crystal clear, when one considers its history.

But sometimes something happens and you have to say, thank god a citizen was armed.

If he survives, at least one Arizona trooper must be thinking this (if he is conscious) about now. I don’t have many details but I just read that a citizen came upon an Arizona Highway Patrol officer who had been shot by someone and who was being beat with a gun as well from his assailant. A good Samaritan happened upon the scene and told the assailant to stop. He did not. The good Samaritan shot the bad guy dead.

And while it might be dangerous if everyone took the law into his or her own hands, in this case justice and humanity was served.

This was reportedly on Interstate 10 in the Tonopah, Az. area about 50 miles west of Phoenix. Been there many times. It’s pretty lonely out there. Anyone might be well off to have his or her own weapon for protection.

And what would you do if you came up upon that? I have to ask myself that. Without a gun how do you face someone with one?

In a perfect world being armed would not be necessary.

This ain’t a perfect world.

P.s.

Still the free flow of weapons is a problem. I don’t know the story of who the bad, and now thankfully dead guy was, but seems like he should not have had a gun.


Note:

Reading a subsequent story I see there was more than one citizen who came to the trooper’s aid. One used the trooper’s own radio to call for help, and I don’t know who did what, but one also retrieved the officer’s first aid kit and gave aid till more help arrived. This all has to be a good morale booster for law enforcement in general. Most citizens support the cops (except the cops who go bad of course).


We seem powerless in the face of evil all because of one ambiguous sentence…

June 13, 2016

I awoke Sunday morning and checked the news. I was surprised, only surprised, not shocked, to see that there had been another mass shooting, this time in Orlando, Florida. The first report I read was a breaking news story that put the death toll at 20. But I was shocked or stunned later when I read it had climbed to 50, with at least that many more injured, making it the worst mass shooting event in U.S. history.

(I’m reading both 49 and 50 as the immediate death toll; I guess the 50 would include the gunman who was killed after police stormed the site of the shooting.)

But I’m not writing this to report on the details, I want to ask the question: why do we keep reading that the FBI (and others maybe) have these mass murderers on their watch lists and yet they go ahead and do their dirty deeds? I realize the authorities can’t follow around every demented person and catch them just before the act, and they can’t simply jail someone because they think he (or she, but seems it’s always a he, so far) might do something bad. But in this case we are told that the gunman had made comments at work that he had connections with ISIS terrorists and had talked about committing some type of act (maybe vague references or direct, I don’t know). But, you know? you can be arrested for threatening the president. But maybe not people in general.

However, the real frustrating thing in here to me is the fact that of course this was carried out with an automatic assault rifle. After all of these mass shootings, we still have not stopped the free flow of these terrible weapons in this country, and all because we have something called the Second Amendment which a powerful political lobby interprets to mean anyone and everyone can have guns. I’m not at all sure a majority of the American public thinks that. But politicians respond to lobbies and their ability to fund political races and their ability to fund campaigns against those who defy them. Of course the Second Amendment still stands and cannot be altered simply by legislation because it is part of the Constitution and therefore would require the difficult amendment process.

In  reality, however, it would be possible to put much tighter controls on assault rifles without touching the Second Amendment. It has been done previously and then the regulations lapsed and were not re-instated due to pressure from the gun lobby (which of course really represents the commercial fire arms industry).

So the shooter in this case, even though he was on the FBI radar because of comments his co-workers had heard him give and because of connections to terrorists he was believed to have had, was able to legally purchase weapons, to include the assault rifle he used along with a handgun to kill 50 people in this mass shooting. Again, what is this FBI watch list for? (and I may not be using the term “watch list” accurately, but he was on their radar so to speak.)

At my last reading it had not been determined whether this gunman was actually connected to the terrorist group ISIS, which he claimed to be, or whether he was a lone wolf, which ISIS encourages.

And I have to note that reports indicate that the gunman had it out for homosexuals. The event occurred at a “gay” night spot. So we had a twofer for a motive: ISIS terror and hatred of homosexuals (and maybe those go together because of the demented religious or faux religious component of ISIS).

So while there is an international terrorism connection to all of this, the primary problem for all of our safety is the fact that we have a free flow of automatic assault weapons.

I have addressed the Second Amendment, the so-called right to keep and bear arms provision in the Constitution, before. As a general thing, I have always accepted the general notion that citizens have this right, but not without qualifications. And I have done some reading on the history of the amendment and have only gathered that it is ambiguous as to its clear meaning because it is only one sentence long and seems to have a dependent clause which ties the right to keep and bear arms to a citizen militia. And one has to realize this was enacted before we had a regular standing army and before the advent of assault rifles.

The text of the Second Amendment follows (and there is more than one version of it I think, something about commas, but I don’t have the original in front of me, so this is off the web):

————-

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.

————-

So you see the dependency of the militia thing there. And lord help me that we might have home-grown militias running around vigilante style. That would be terrorism too.

But I don’t want to get into a Second Amendment discussion here. I don’t care what it says or what it does not say. It is absurd that we let this situation continue.

In a previous incident a whole classroom of school children was mowed down. Nothing was done.

What does it take?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


No way to stop gun violence, our guns and our Second Amendment are as sacred as the Bible…

August 27, 2015

What could be more horrific than to see two TV news people murdered on air?

Well noting except maybe a class full of school children mowed down or a movie theater crowd sprayed with deadly gun fire.

Nothing but all of the other senseless shootings that are a result of our wild-west attitude toward guns and the availability of firearms to deranged people, not to mention the criminal element.

I saw that video out of Roanoke, Va. Wednesday, showing the woman reporter interviewing a woman out in the field and then the shocked face of the news anchor back at the studio who could not yet fully grasp the horror before her eyes. I don’t know how much that original footage showed on live TV. But if that was not enough, the gunman posted a video of himself on social media shooting the reporter, and I think it showed as well the shooting of the woman being interviewed and the TV cameraman. The reporter and the cameraman died. The woman was rushed to the hospital (I don’t know her fate as of this writing). The gunman apparently committed suicide as the police closed in.

The assassin was a black man who had been a reporter at the television station in question and who had been let go and who had filed a discrimination suit. He reportedly complained he was discriminated against both for being black and homosexual — his former employer and co-workers saying he was always looking for things that he could label as discrimination but that in reality he was a troublemaker. We don’t know about all of that. But of course even if he was correct, the actions he took show he was crazy.

And I just read that he expressed admiration for recent mass murderers.

Unfortunately, in this country upset and crazy people have easy access to firearms.

But we are all powerless to stop it.

So we just shrug, or say, “how awful!” and move on, but somewhere the thought moves briefly through our minds, we could be next. We could all be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the right to keep and bear arms (which really had more to do with the concept of an army of the people in place of one representing the ruler, rather than everyone having an inalienable right to tote a gun, always ready to react to anything that makes them unhappy) guaranteed in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it impossible to control the alarmingly easy access to firearms in this nation.

To politicians looking for votes or not to lose votes, the Second Amendment is as sacred as the Holy Bible.

And maybe it’s just a trade-off between freedom and making sure we have guns to protect ourselves from bad folks and bad government (we can all rebel at an instant like the Minute Men) or to hunt deer on the one hand as opposed to suffering the tragedy of wild gunmen mowing people down.

Like I always say, I thought for sure the Connecticut school massacre, Sandy Hook, would be the last straw for the American public.

I was wrong.

P.s.

I personally am not in favor of repealing the Second Amendment, even though I feel it is so ambiguous, as to make it almost indecipherable in today’s world. But it’s just a unique part of the American experience. So far the high court has pretty much gone along with the notion that although there can be some amount of control, there is a basic right for virtually every individual in the country, with few exceptions, to own firearms.

There just must be a better method, not a foolproof one I suppose, of keeping them out of hands of the deranged and the criminal element.

For now, the gun lobby rules and a public jaded from violence being so commonplace moves on to something more positive to think about.


Angry young men and we just can’t give up our right to pack military assault rifles…

July 17, 2015

Yesterday a mixed up young man was convicted of mass murder in a Colorado movie theatre and on that same day an angry young man shot to death four Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a few weeks ago another angry white racist young man murdered several people in a black church in South Carolina, and not long ago another misfit of a young man murdered a class full of little school children — and the list of atrocities goes on and on in this modern age.

There are some commonalities in all of these incidents. All the atrocities were committed by young impressionable men. Also in some of them twisted views of religion (or maybe twisted religion) plays a part.

And then in some of the mass murders, 9-11 being the big one, fanatical Islam plays the major role. It seems to have in this most recent one.

But the biggest commonality is that in most of these murders easy access to high-powered automatic weapons plays a major role. I guess that is not the case in the 9-11 attack since as I recall the weapons used were box cutters — so yes for you die-hard fans of everyone packing weapons, if you outlaw guns then either the criminals will not follow the law or they will just use another kind of weapon.

But seriously, because of our inability to shake or deal with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we are hamstrung when it comes to sensible gun control. I thought that when that class full of school children was gunned downed that the public would be so horrified that for sure stricter controls on high-powered automatic weapons would be enacted.

But the right of everyone to possess deadly weapons seems ingrained into the American psyche, even though admittedly not everyone supports the notion that there is such a right. I myself have an ambivalent attitude toward the perceived right of every man woman and child having the right to pack a weapon, to include a military assault rifle. I have always felt that I support the Second Amendment because there is something unique about being a United States citizen in that our own government must contend with the fact that it faces an armed public — that might give some would-be dictators or plotters of a military coup some pause. In addition, it says that the individual is responsible to himself (or herself) and does not totally depend upon the government for protection.

But I know that in my visit to Spain last year some of the people I met there could not comprehend our fascination with guns or the right of every citizen to have them.

I know that if you can outlaw one kind of fire arm then the door is open to a ban on all, but I still cannot comprehend why we must guarantee the right or at least tolerate citizens carrying around military assault weapons that are meant for only one thing: to kill a whole bunch of people at once.

P.s.

And go ahead and read the actual Second Amendment and try to decipher what the connection or meaning is concerning a well-regulated militia. From what I have read on the subject it may have been a bit ambiguous when it was enacted and it certainly is now.