Thursday, June 26, 2008

Second amendment

Wow, the supreme court is having quite a run, Striking down the DC ban on handguns today. To me this sounds pretty open and shut, what does the second amendment say if not that you can own guns?

"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."

Many people try to point to the word militia to say that this right belongs to the state, not the people. To me this is absolutely absurd. After all, these militias they are referring to had just overthrown the government! In a very real sense the second amendment is ensuring that the people are always physically capable of overthrowing the government should it become so obviously corrupt than an overwhelming majority believe the violent overthrow and rebuilding of the government is the best option.

An earlier version of the second amendment makes this a little more clear:

"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."source

The militia they refer to is clearly not the national guard, or some similar state run army, but "the body of the people" The militia was actually defined in many, if not all states, as all the adult white males. So it seems reasonable this is what the founders intended. Now, they did want some state control over this militia, which is where the term "well-regulated" comes in, but it was often seen as a force to protect the states from the national government. There was some history in England of the government forcibly disarming some groups of the population. This was also something they wished to avoid as it made the oppression of that group easier.

Now, I can understand why people would wish the second amendment didn't exist. The proper thing to do therefore is repeal it. Pretending it doesn't protect an individuals right to own some very dangerous weapons is silly. I would much rather the abolition of the second amendment in a fair way, than just ignoring it. That sets a bad precedent.

"Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation"

PUBLIUS (Madison) - Federalist 46

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