Posts Tagged ‘Second Amendment’

Do black people have Second Amendment rights?

September 28, 2016

Bruce Webb posted an article on the Angry Bear web site asking whether Second Amendment rights apply to black people.

Supporters of Open Carry and ‘Must Issue’ Concealed Carry insist that no one should be afraid of someone exercising his or her 2nd Amendment Rights whether that be in some public park or the aisles of your local Wal-Mart.

Yet right along side that we have a doctrine that everyone should comply with every request made by a Peace Officer without question and without hesitation and if refusal to comply ends up with the application of force up to and including deadly force, then a sufficient defense is “I feared for my life”.

[snip]  North Carolina is an Open Carry State.  Anyone has the right to carry a handgun in or out of a holster as long as they are not actively threatening someone.  Which you think at a minimum would mean pointing the weapon at someone with some apparent hostile intent.

But instead a man who was NOT the subject of the particular police search action stepped out of his car while visibly armed and after a disputed set of events was gunned down.  Because police “feared for their lives”.

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A whole new meaning for ‘trigger warning’

February 29, 2016

A new Texas law gives college students the right to carry guns.  College administrations are allowed to establish “safe zones”, but these cannot include classrooms or dormitories.

Below is an advisory by the University of Houston faculty senate to its members.

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Peter Van Buren wrote on his web log that it might also be advisable for Texas faculty to wear Kevlar vests and put bullet-proof transparent screens in front of their lecturns.

I don’t think the warning is far-fetched.  There is such a thing as road rage, and there is such a thing as people flying into a rage at hearing ideas they think are reprehensible, or even not being called on when it is their turn.

It is a statistical certainty that someday some armed student will fly into a blind rage about something.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution affirms the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, but, as the late Justice Antonin Scalia once remarked, that right is subject to reasonable limitations that are consistent with its purpose.

As Van Buren pointed out, even the U.S. military, whose members have all received weapons training, keep firearms locked up except when necessary for training or combat.

LINKS

Texas Academics Told to Avoid ‘Sensitive Topics’ to Prevent Angering Armed Students by Peter Van Burn on We Meant Well.

University of Texas President Hates Guns on Campus, But Will Have to Allow Them by Jeff Herskovitz for Reuters (via Huffington Post)

 

What I think about guns and gun control

November 2, 2015

Gun prohibition would not work, and would create worse problems, just as alcohol prohibition did and drug prohibition is now doing.

samuelljacksonguns6ca1bd46d6925b46071c077bcf8d6e72Ownership of firearms by law-abiding, responsible people is not a social problem.

Much (not all) gun legislation is security theater.   It doesn’t make people safer, but it makes them feel safer.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The Supreme Court has held that this is an individual right.

The right to self-defense is a human right.  Thomas Hobbes and other philosophers have called it the most fundamental human right.

Throughout history and across many cultures, freedom is associated with the right to own weapons and the duty to fight for one’s community or nation.  Throughout history and across many cultures, slaves and subjugated people are denied the right to own weapons.

The United States historically is a gun culture.  Guns have had a cultural and symbolic significance in American culture similar to the sword in Japanese culture.

However—

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The passing scene – October 9, 2015

October 9, 2015

Welcome to a New Planet: Climate Change, “Tipping Points” and the Fate of the Earth by Michael T. Klare for TomDispatch.

How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens America’s Recent Manufacturing Resurgence by Alana Semuels for The Atlantic.

Harvard’s prestigious debate team loses to New York prison inmates by Laura Gambino for The Guardian.

10 Stories About Donald Trump You Won’t Believe Are True by Luke McKinney for Cracked.com.  Donald Trump is notable not as a business success, but as a promoter with the ability to distract attention from failure.

Can Community Land Trusts Solve Baltimore’s Homelessness Problem? by Michelle Chen for The Nation.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The Second Amendment’s Fake History by Robert Parry for Consortium News.  (Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack.)

The Afghan hospital massacre: Snowden makes a brilliant suggestion by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire.  Why does the United States not release the gunner’s video and audio?

Ask Well: Canned vs. Fresh Fish by Karen Weintraub for the New York Times.  Canned fish is probably better.  (Hat tip to Jack)

Shell Game: There Is No Such Thing as California ‘Native’ Oysters, a book excerpt by Summer Brennan in Scientific American.   The true story behind Jack London and the oyster wars.  (Hat tip to Jack)

The passing scene – October 5, 2015

October 5, 2015

Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism, an interview of Michael Hudson, author of Kllling the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy, on Counterpunch Radio.  Highly recommended.

More Leisure, Less Capitalism, Thanks to Tech, an interview of Jacobin contributing editor Peter Frase for Truthout.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The 2016 Stump Speeches: Bernie’s Epistle to the Falwellites by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

How Steve Jobs Fleeced Carly Fiorina by Steven Levy for BackChannel.  (Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack)

The model minority is losing patience by The Economist.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

The Second Amendment Is a Gun Control Amendment by Adam Gopnik for The New Yorker.  (Hat tip to Bill Elwell)

Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends a special place in Japan’s soul by Michael Holtz for The Christian Science Monitor.  (Hat tip to Jack)

AP Investigation: Are slaves catching the fish you buy? by Robin M. McDowell, Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza.  (Hat tip to Jack)

Black Panthers and the Second Amendment

August 25, 2014

Back in 1967, members of the Black Panther Party in California decided to exercise their right to carry loaded weapons in public.  California at the time had an open-carry law.  You can probably guess what happened.

The gun rights movement and its lunatic fringe

June 9, 2014

I am not a gun person, but I don’t consider myself an enemy of  gun owners or gun rights advocates.

I’m philosophically in accord with much of what the gun rights movement says, while not in sympathy with some of its manifestations, including people in public places who carry around deadly weapons as if they were fashion accessories.

I believe that:

  • Self-protection is a fundamental human right.
  • The Constitution gives Americans an individual right to keep and bear arms.
  • Firearms have useful and legitimate purposes.
  • Ownership of firearms by responsible, law-abiding people is not a social problem.
  • Down through history and across many cultures, denial of the right to own weapons is a defining mark of a subjugated people.  (The other is denial of the right to testify in court).
  • Guns are an icon of American culture, just as swords are an icon of Japanese culture.

A lot of gun-related legislation seems to me to be “security theater”—aimed at making people feel safer even though it doesn’t actually make them safer.

Here in New York state, where I live, the SAFE law requires a background check on the private sale of a firearm to someone not a close relative.   Which means that if someone in rural New York sells a hunting rifle to a neighbor down the road he’s known most of his life, he has to go through the rigamarole of a background check.  That is a big nuisance and adds little, that I can see, to public safety.

I haven’t followed the Open Carry movement in Texas, but it does seem to me illogical that if you can carry a concealed handgun and you can openly carry a firearm much more deadly than a handgun, you can’t openly carry a pistol in a holster.

open-carry-txWhat I don’t understand is why gun rights advocates insist on bringing the deadliest and scariest-looking military-type weapons into public places where they have no useful purpose.

If I saw one of these guys come into my favorite diner while I was eating lunch, my reaction would be to wonder whether I was about to witness a holdup, or the next psycho gun massacre.   The person might say he was making a political point, and the gun is actually unloaded.   How am I supposed to know that?

Besides, one of the main things my father taught me about guns is that the most dangerous gun is the one you assume is not loaded.   Guns have a way of going off when you don’t expect them to.   That’s why they should be treated with respect, as you would treat any other potentially hazardous machine.

I’m well aware that gun deaths are declining.  So are deaths in motor vehicle accidents.  The latter fact does not reduce my responsibility, as a motorist, to drive with care.

Gun ownership in the United States is declining.   I don’t see how the gun rights cause is advanced by its supporters behaving in a way that alienates the public.

There is a lunatic fringe to the gun rights movement.   I am certain it does not represent the majority of gun owners, and I hope that it does not represent the gun rights movement as a whole.  Its effect on public opinion is not to make people more favorable to gun rights.

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Sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander

May 2, 2014

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If supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy have the Second Amendment right to engage in armed protest against the federal government’s demand that he pay rent for using government land, surely ranchers and farmers in the path of the planned Keystone XL pipeline have the right to do the same thing to prevent confiscation of their own land and the possible contamination of their water supply by the corrosive tar sands slurry that the pipeline will carry.

But do you have any doubt as to what the result would be if they tried to exercise that right?  I don’t.

What happens to protesters depends not on their tactics, but on how great a threat they pose to powerful people.   That is  why police treat Tea Party rallies with kid gloves, and come down brutally on Occupy protesters.

I won’t even speculate on what would happen if Cliven Bundy and his supporters were black.   The fate of the Black Panthers is the last noteworthy effort of black people to exercise Second Amendment rights.   As far as that goes, I have yet to hear, and never expect to year, about an armed black person who was exonerated on “stand your ground” principles for shooting an unarmed white person because he felt threatened.

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Why is open carry worse than concealed carry?

February 13, 2014

Under current Texas law, qualified citizens have a right to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun.  Wendy Davis, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas, has been accused of letting down Team Blue by supporting legislation to allow qualified citizens to openly carry handguns.

Why is it more extreme to license people to carry unconcealed handguns than to carry concealed handguns?  I would think the reverse would be true, that the moderate position would be “open carry” and the extreme position would be “concealed carry”.

This is an honest question, not a sarcastic one.   I would appreciate help from somebody who knows more about gun laws than I do.

Afterthought about guns and gun ownership

July 14, 2013

If it were up to me, every state would have a law taking away the right to own a firearm or carry a firearm from anybody who pulled a trigger and killed an unarmed person, unless such action prevented a homicide.

No exceptions.  The law would apply to hunting accidents, to “I didn’t know it was loaded” incidents, to stand your ground situations, to suspects shot by police while reaching for their wallets and to any other situation where there is a dead, unarmed person on the ground and person with a gun left standing.

Justice Scalia on the Second Amendment

February 1, 2013

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a District of Columbia ordinance forbidding the carrying of handguns without a license, and requiring that handguns be kept unloaded.   The court ruled that this violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, and not limited to members of state militias.

Justice Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia

Here is what Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the 5-4 majority, stated that the ruling did not say:i

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.  From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. … For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. …

… … Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [Precedent says] that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time’ [the Second Amendment was approved]. … We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

via UPI.com.

I’m of two minds on this issue.  I’d like to live in a less heavily-armed society, but I don’t see a way to legislate that goal that wouldn’t be at best useless or at worst the equivalent of the current war on drugs.

My expectation is that Congressional gun legislation will result in (1) more extensive FBI files on American citizens to implement background checks, (2) more stop-and-frisks and no-knock break-ins by police in search of illegal weapons and (3) more armed police and security officers in public schools because federal money is available to pay them.

Hat tip to the New New York 23rd for the Scalia quote.

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Is there a right to freedom from guns?

January 18, 2013

Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo doesn’t own guns, doesn’t like guns and resents the aggressiveness of the “gun culture”—people such as Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, who think the solution to gun violence is as armed citizenry.  He wrote the following earlier this week in defense of the values of the “non-gun tribe.”

… … Do I want to have people carrying firearms out and about where I live my life — at the store, the restaurant, at my kid’s playground?  No, the whole idea is alien and frankly scary.  Because remember, guns are extremely efficient tools for killing people and people get weird and do stupid things.

bildeA big part of gun versus non-gun tribalism or mentality is tied to the difference between city and rural.  And a big reason ‘gun control’ in the 70s, 80s and 90s foundered was that in the political arena, the rural areas rebelled against the city culture trying to impose its own ideas about guns on the rural areas.  And there’s a reality behind this because on many fronts the logic of pervasive gun ownership makes a lot more sense in sparsely populated rural areas than it does in highly concentrated city areas.

But a huge amount of the current gun debate, the argument for the gun-owning tribe, amounts to the gun culture invading my area, my culture, my part of the country.  So we’re upset about massacres so the answer is more guns.  Arming everybody. 

There’s a lot of bogus research (widely discredited) purporting to show that if we were all armed we’d all be safer through a sort of mutually assured destruction, pervasive deterrence.  As I said, the research appears to be bogus.  But even if it was possible that we could be just as safe with everyone armed as no one armed, I’d still want no one armed.  Not at my coffee shop or on the highway or wherever.  Because I don’t want to carry a gun.  And I don’t want to be around armed people.

via TPM Editors Blog.

I feel the same way Marshall does.  I don’t own a firearm and, if I did, I wouldn’t carry it around in public.   I don’t want to have to be constantly thinking about whether the person next to me is a threat, or the circumstances in which I needed to use deadly force.

Like Marshall, I recognize that there is a right to own guns, and that there are valid reasons why people might want to own guns.  I have no problem with someone who has a gun at home for hunting or in their home or place of business for self-protection.  I can see why someone might want to carry a gun in public for self-protection.

I think gun prohibition is a terrible idea.  The Branch Davidian massacre and the Ruby Ridge tragedy were the results of misguided attempts to enforce federal gun laws.

On the other hand I have no problem with the fact that you can’t bring a gun onto an airplane or into a federal building, or, in many places, within the vicinity of a public school.  I think the Obama administration made a mistake in deciding to allow concealed weapons in national parks.  I wish the President would issue an executive order rescinding that decision.

bushmaster-man-card-bannerWhat I do have a problem with is people who own guns as a form of self-expression.  I don’t personally know anybody who owns a large individual arsenal, but my impression is that, for most of such people, their stockpile of firearms is primarily a statement of who they are and what their values are, rather than for personal use.

Gun control is a symbolic issue.  President Obama’s proposals, and the legislation enacted with lightning speed here in New York state here this past week, are a way for Obama and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to affirm that they have more sympathy for what Josh Marshall calls the non-gun tribe than for the pro-gun tribe.   Sometimes there is a need for symbolic actions to reassure the public.  Whether these actions—such as New York state’s limitation of seven rounds to a magazine—will have any practical effect is another question.

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Click on Being Part of the Non-Gun Tribe and Guns Kill People for Josh Marshall’s full comments on TPM Editors Blog.

 

Why I don’t own a gun

January 14, 2013

I accept that the Constitution affirms an individual right to keep and bear arms, I believe that self-defense is a basic human right and I don’t think gun prohibition would work any better than alcohol prohibition did or drug prohibition does.

But speaking for myself, I have no desire to own a firearm.  I would be terrified at the possibility that, in a moment of panic, I might take a human life.

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s in Williamsport, Md., a small town on the Potomac River at the foothills of the Appalachians.  Almost everyone in town owned a gun, mainly for hunting and sometimes for killing animal pests or target shooting.  I have fond memories of my father, with newspaper spread out across the kitchen table, cleaning and oiling his deer rifle prior to hunting season.  What I never heard back in those days was the need to own a gun to defend yourself against somebody else who owned a gun.

A Gannett editor who worked in Las Vegas once told me that young men in Nevada like to take junk refrigerators and other appliances out into the desert, and blow them to pieces with high-powered firearms.  That sounds like a lot of fun.  I don’t have any quarrel with anybody who likes to do that.

I’ve met owners of convenience stores in high-crime neighborhoods who think they need to own guns for self-protection.  That is their decision and their right.

But count me out.  If I bought a gun for self-protection, I would have to make up my mind that I was in such grave personal danger that I would have to be willing to take a human life.  It would be like being in the military.  Then I would take firearms training in order to be sure I could handle a gun safely and responsibly, without a danger to myself or bystanders.  That would not be a casual decision.  If my life had taken a different course, I might have found myself in circumstances in which I thought differently.  But such circumstances are not the norm.

The vision of a society in which everyone carried a gun at all times, like the movie version of the Wild West, is an appealing fantasy to some people.  To me, it is a nightmare.  Robert A. Heinlein many years ago wrote a science fiction novel, Beyond This Horizon, set in a future in which every citizen carried a gun and duels were common.  Heinlein thought this would result in a process of natural selection, in which survivors were either quick and accurate marksmen, or very, very polite.  I don’t think this would be the reality.

The idea of teachers in the classroom being armed is dreadful.  Teachers would be like prison guards.  If this idea were implemented, I would expect a rash of “stand your ground” shootings in the schools.  Now there might be circumstances in which bringing armed police officers into the school is necessary, but it would be a necessary evil.

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Elaine Scarry on citizenship, war and terror

September 11, 2011

The Founders of the United States rejected the idea of a monarch with power to take a nation into war on his own sole decision.  Let a single individual have this power, they thought, and all other power would flow to him.  That is why the Constitution gives the Congress, not the President, the authority to declare war.

In the Atomic Age, this is thought to be obsolete.  Decisions about peace and war must be made in minutes, which means that it must be done by a single individual, not a deliberative body or the people as a whole.

Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, in an article published in the Boston Review in late 2002, pointed out that this theory was put to the test during the 9/11 attacks, and found wanting.  The military, despite ample warning, failed to stop American Airlines Flight 77 from crashing into the Pentagon.  But ordinary American citizens on board United Airlines Flight 93 were able to figure out on their own what was happening, discuss it, take a vote and act to prevent the airplane from crashing into the Capitol or White House.

Elaine Scarry

The military was unable to thwart the action of Flight 77 despite fifty-five minutes in which clear evidence existed that the plane might be held by terrorists, and despite twenty minutes in which clear evidence existed that the plane was certainly held by terrorists.  In the same amount of time—twenty-three minutes—the passengers of Flight 93 were able to gather information, deliberate, vote, and act.

September 11 involved a partial failure of defense.  If ever a country has been warned that its arrangements for defense are defective, the United States has been warned.  Standing quietly by while our leaders build more weapons of mass destruction and bypass more rules and more laws (and more citizens) simply continues the unconstitutional and—as we have recently learned—ineffective direction we have passively tolerated for fifty years.

We share a responsibility to deliberate about these questions, as surely as the passengers on Flight 93 shared a responsibility to deliberate about how to act.  The failures of our current defense arrangements put an obligation on all of us to review the arrangements we have made for protecting the country.  “All of us” means “all of us who reside in the country,” not “all of us who work at the Pentagon” or “all of us who convene when there is a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

This is the true meaning of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, she wrote.

When the U.S. Constitution was completed it had two provisions for ensuring that decisions about war-making were distributed rather than concentrated.  The first was the provision for a congressional declaration of war—an open debate in both the House and the Senate involving what would today be 535 men and women.  The second was a major clause of the Bill of Rights—the Second Amendment right to bear arms—which rejected a standing executive army (an army at the personal disposal of president or king) in favor of a militia, a citizen’s army distributed across all ages, geography, and social class of men.  Democracy, it was argued, was impossible without a distributed militia: self-governance was perceived to be logically impossible without self-defense (exactly what do you “self-govern” if you have ceded the governing of your own body and life to someone else?)

Now it is not possible to literally replace the professional U.S. army with a militia, which would be National Guard and Reserves.  Nor is it possible to do without an air defense system.  But I hope it is still possible to get out of the mind-set which says that the only way to be safe is to surrender to Big Brother the power to make decisions about peace, war and national security.

The size and scope of our Homeland Security bureaucracy is comparable to the old Soviet KGB.  Yet the real terrorist plots—the ones that weren’t sting operations or somebody’s delusions—were thwarted by the actions of alert citizens noticing that something was wrong, and acting.

Scarry’s article is still relevant, and worth reading in full.

Click on Citizenship in Emergency here or my “Interesting Articles” in my links menu my Archive of Good Stuff page to read her whole article.  It is still relevant, and worth reading in full.

Click on The ideas interview for a 2005 interview of Elaine Scarry in The Guardian newspaper on the Second Amendment and other subjects.

Click on Rule of Law, Misrule of Men for a review of Elaine Scarry’s 2010 book of that name in the Ludwig Von Mises Institute’s Mises Review.

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Gun ownership: an inconvenient right

January 20, 2011

Whenever there is a terrible tragedy such as the Tucson shootings, the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms  becomes a subject of debate.

I am not a gun person myself.  I don’t own a gun.  I don’t have a hunting license.  I have fired guns less than half a dozen times since I qualified in marksmanship in Army basic training back in 1956.  I am not an expert on existing gun legislation.  But I don’t think it is necessary to be an expert to be aware of certain truths.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes the right to keep and bear arms an individual right.  Because of the wording – “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 people hold that it only applies to members of the National Guard and Army Reserve.  But this is not how it has been understood, either in the Founders generation or by the present-day Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Joseph Story, in his influential Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, had this to say:

“§ 1889. The next 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.

Ҥ 1890. The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them. [FN1]

And yet, thought this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How is it practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights. [FN2]

via Justice Joseph Story on the Second Amendment.

That reads almost like a manifesto of one of the self-organized “militias” of today.

Justice Story’s vision is realized less by the present-day United States than by Switzerland, which depends for its defense on a citizen army, many of whom keep high-firepower arms at home.  In the United States, citizen militias proved inferior to disciplined British troops on the battlefield in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812; we defeated the British in the Revolution by outlasting them and by calling in the aid of professional French troops.

But the Second Amendment still stands.  The U.S. Supreme court ruled in District of Columbia vs. Heller in 2008 that “the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.”  And last June in McDonald vs. Chicago, it ruled that this right applies against state and local governments.

You may or may not agree with that interpretation, but until or unless the Supreme Court changes its collective mind, this is the law of the land.

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The right to keep and bear arms

May 20, 2010

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that U.S. citizens have an individual right to own firearms, just as they have an individual right to freedom of speech and due process of law.

Throughout history and in many different cultures, denial of the right to own weapons and denial of access to the courts have been ways in which disenfranchised groups have been held down.

Ownership of firearms by responsible law-abiding citizens is not a social problem.

That said, even fundamental rights, such as the right to vote, are subject to reasonable regulation consistent with their purpose.

That said, taking firearms to Tea Party political rallies is an extremely bad idea.  I am old enough to recall the exercise of Second Amendment rights by the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense. That didn’t work out well.

The Second Amendment and the terror watch list

May 10, 2010

Sometimes it seems as though there are two schools of thought about the U.S. Constitution. One is that the only part of the Bill of Rights that matters is the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. A good example of this was Attorney-General John Ashcroft in the early George W. Bush administration. If he had upheld the Constitution as a whole as he did the Second Amendment, civil liberties in this country would be in better shape than they are.

The other school of thought is that the Second Amendment is the only part of the Constitution that doesn’t matter.  A good example of this is a recent proposal to forbid the purchase of firearms whose name is on the federal government’s terrorism watch list.  Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina came in for ridicule when he said that was a violation of a Constitutional right.

But like it or not, the Second Amendment is part of the Constitution, and the Constitution – all of it – is the law of the land.  And there are more than a million people on the terrorism watch list, many of them in error. The list has included dead people, an eight-year-old boy, government officials with security clearances, Nelson Mandela and Senator Edward Kennedy. Moreover people have gotten themselves removed from the list by the simple expedient of changing their legal names. Will prohibiting people on the list from buying legal firearms really make the country safer?  Is it so ridiculous to fear that a list may be misapplied?