Friday, June 27, 2008

A confession regarding the Second Amendment

When I first read of the 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court to explicitly recognize the right of an individual, not a militia, to bear arms, I was dismayed.

I still am, but not because I disagreed with them. My dismay is that this decision (really, more the decision to decide on this issue) demonstrates how far along the radical right agenda for this country has proceeded. From the packing of the Supreme Court with the likes Thomas of Scalia, to the extreme politicization of the Justice Department, to the privatization of our military, the Bush Administration is hurrying the American people along to a very dark and troubling place.

Having said that, I have come to accept that I agree with the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the Second Amendment. I do think it is reasonable to conclude that the Second Amendment does support the idea of individuals bearing arms, owning a gun.

I think it is reasonable because the Second Amendment is weirdly ambiguous and terribly ungrammatical ("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."). As a result, there will never be a clear path to banning arms for individual use entirely.

I also believe it is reasonable given its context. The founders of our nation fought a revolution against tyranny and you can't do that with water pistols. If individuals are not allowed to own weapons, then how can we defend ourselves against a government that takes away our freedoms (like the Bush Administration is doing) and is ready to use state violence against us to accomplish their goals (what the Bush Administration is not yet doing on a widespread basis)?

No, I think we should all accept the reality that given our constitution and bill of rights, we must allow individuals to own weapons -- but not all individuals and not any weapon (this is pretty much what Scalia said in his statement as well).

The problem in our country is not the Second Amendment and not the idea that an individual can open a weapon. The problem in the US is that we allow extremist, fundamentalist zealots to set policy.

We should concentrate all efforts on removing NRA influence on our legislators (and more generally end corporate and lobbyist bribing of our politicians) so that we can have sane, reasonable laws passed to enact tight controls on gun ownership in this country.


Madison, Kristie, Aidan and Jim said...

I really enjoy reading your blog and books! But I don't agree with you on this one. In the past there have been attempts to ban more than just assault rifles and handguns. At one point hunting rifles have been the target. One could make a case that a hunting rifle in the right hands could be a sniper rifle. When I was younger I asked my Father why he was a NRA member. At the time I was thinking that the NRA was a little crazy with some of their opposition to gun laws. My Dad told me "Because of the way that Washington works, you have to be a little extreme on both sides, then we just meet in the middle." If we don't have influences like the NRA looking out for lawful gun owners, then lawful gun owners will not have guns to protect themselves.

I really enjoyed your presentations down in New Orleans!

Jim P.

Unknown said...

First, let me say I have always thought people should have the right to own a gun even though I do not currently own one. I do however believe we need to get the lobbist out of your political system; even the NRA influences. My biggest problem is they normally take a right to the extreme. Like I said earlier, I beleive citizens should have the right to own a gun BUT no a machine gun/ uzi/ some other weapon of choice for slaughtering the masses. Most people who own guns would agree that they too dont want a machine gun but the ability to own a rifle, hand gun, shot gun, etc. Most of the weapons I speak of are not for killing your neighbor but for hunting. Some people like the sport of shooting a weapon and that is where a hand gun comes into play; although it can be used for shooting people. Anyway, my point was not to be to stand on my soap box about owning a weapon. My point is GET THE LOBBIST OUT OF OUR POLITICS. Whether its guns, tobbaco, polution, oil, if a company has any sway over it they will use this sway to the peoples disadvantage and to the companies capitalistic advantage.
Thanks for the topic Steven.

wqbang said...

The ruling was an absolute no-brainer. What is really disconcerting is that so many judges dissented - and that the dissenting arguments were so weak. You use the 5-4 ruling to as evidence of the courts right wing tendencies - but ignore the left wing tendencies of the dissenting four judges. In this case their preconceived ideologies convinced them to come against consistent evidence that clearly supports an individual right.

That being said, the NRA did not fund this case and actually tried to derail it earlier during its travels toward the Supreme Court. They did file an amicus brief supporting Heller once it got to the SCOTUS.