Well Regulated

Thoughts I have a lot these days:

My favorite thing about pro-gun people is there total glossing over of the 2nd and 3rd words of the 2nd amendment: “well regulated.” Guns are no longer “well regulated” in this country. It is time to fix that. PER THE CONSTITUTION.

I feel like if the Founders could actually say something today it would be, “BUT WE WROTE ‘WELL REGULATED’ RIGHT IN THERE!”

Adam Winkler, in a stunning piece for the Atlantic, wrote this about that part of the second amendment:

Gun-rights supporters believe the amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms and outlaws most gun control. Hard-line gun-rights advocates portray even modest gun laws as infringements on that right and oppose widely popular proposals—such as background checks for all gun purchasers—on the ground that any gun-control measure, no matter how seemingly reasonable, puts us on the slippery slope toward total civilian disarmament.

This attitude was displayed on the side of the National Rifle Association’s former headquarters: THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. The first clause of the Second Amendment, the part about “a well regulated Militia,” was conveniently omitted. To the gun lobby, the Second Amendment is all rights and no regulation.

And my friend Paul Rubinson (who was the one that pointed me to Winkler’s article) wrote me the following in response to my thoughts above (and Paul gives total credit for these insights to Winkler’s work):

Hell, you don’t need to go back that far. In the 1920s, the NRA led the fight to PASS gun control legislation that included a requirement that every sale of a gun be reported to law enforcement. The NRA president said he did “not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” NRA vice-president, Milton Reckord, told Congress that the NRA was “absolutely favorable to reasonable legislation.” And back then the 2nd amendment wasn’t even considered relevant. The NRA pres again: Preserving the ability to own guns “lies in an enlightened public sentiment and in intelligent legislative action. It is not to be found in the Constitution.”

Winkler gets final thoughts:

Whether or not the Founding Fathers thought the Second Amendment was primarily about state militias, the men behind the Fourteenth Amendment—America’s most sacred and significant civil-rights law—clearly believed that the right of individuals to have guns for self-defense was an essential element of citizenship. As the Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar has observed, “Between 1775 and 1866 the poster boy of arms morphed from the Concord minuteman to the Carolina freedman.”

The Fourteenth Amendment illustrates a common dynamic in America’s gun culture: extremism stirs a strong reaction. The aggressive Southern effort to disarm the freedmen prompted a constitutional amendment to better protect their rights. A hundred years later, the Black Panthers’ brazen insistence on the right to bear arms led whites, including conservative Republicans, to support new gun control. Then the pendulum swung back. The gun-control laws of the late 1960s, designed to restrict the use of guns by urban black leftist radicals, fueled the rise of the present-day gun-rights movement—one that, in an ironic reversal, is predominantly white, rural, and politically conservative.

And then there are people like this:


Challenge ACCEPTED, sir.

This snapshot from the OED entry for the verb, “regulate” shows that in the late 18th century, “regulate” very much meant “To control, govern, or direct, esp. by means of regulations or restrictions.”

But I’m sure that’s NOT possibly what the Founders meant when they used that word. Or something. I don’t know anymore with this shit.

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3 thoughts on “Well Regulated

  1. The Second Amendment was, I feel, interpreted by the Second United States Congress in the Second Militia Act of 1792, which provides for the conscription of every able-bodied white man between the ages of 18 and 45 into their local militia, and which also requires these draftees to provide their own musket or firelock, bayonet, balls, powder, knapsack, flint, and other necessities. It specifies the number of cartridges and balls and the exact caliber of both the balls and the firearms.

    The full and exact text may be found at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_States_Statutes_at_Large/Volume_1/2nd_Congress/1st_Session/Chapter_33 .

    The gun lobby would probably be shocked by how intrusive and controlling this bit of legislation is, and how it impinged on the freedom and liberty of the citizens affected by it.

  2. I think Frank Tabor is getting his definition of “regulate” from the whistle-happy Nate Dogg and Warren G song of the same name.

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