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January 7, 2013


The Gun Thing, Part IV: What the Second Amendment Really Means

So the Second Amendment is not about hunting. It is not about muskets. It is not about being a member of a standing army. It is not about militias being “regulated” by the government.

What is it about, then?

It’s very simple, but it’s also very provocative; and being very provocative, it makes a lot of people’s brains hurt.

The people whose brains hurt the most are, not surprisingly, statist liberals, who think the natural and correct order of things is for people to be subservient to the government, and not the other way around.

The Second Amendment is about this:

The liberty of private citizens to possess weapons of war such that, collectively, they pose a formidable threat against any government that would presume to tyrannize them… and that includes their own government.

Now, the idea of private citizens taking up arms against their own government is something that sets liberal heads spinning, but then again pretty much everything that involves opposing more government control over individuals does that.

The real problem is that such a radical and provocative notion also tends to unsettle thoughtful, non-insane people as well. There are plenty of folks who just want to live their lives in peace, embracing neither far left or far right politics, and the idea that there even needs to exist a mechanism by which the government can be thrown off by its citizens is deeply unsettling to them.

If you’re one of these people, I suggest you spend a little time coming to terms with the fact that… yeah, this is exactly what the Second Amendment is all about. It’s about meeting government force with citizen force. It’s about, frankly - if it comes to that - shooting the kinds of people who would disarm you and leave you to the tender mercies of the police state.

Many men have fought and died to preserve this liberty for you, and while it’s nice to live in a world where the government’s interests are more or less aligned with those of its citizens, the fact is that across the broad sweep of history, times like that are the exception, not the rule. Don’t be lulled into thinking this is the way things have always been, or that they can’t disintegrate overnight into something very different and much worse.


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34 comments

Don’t be lulled into thinking this is the way things have always been, or that they can’t disintegrate overnight into something very different and much worse

Which is exactly where we are in America.  Ever since the end of WWII [except perhaps for a few weeks under the Cuban missle crisis], there really has been no sense in this country that we were in peril.  Despite some natural disasters and 9/11, we go about each day with certainty; and feeling certain tomorrow will be the same.  Why, one of our biggest problems seems to be boredom with the routine of it all.

Even the Obama administration to this point has not upset us too much; we either voted for him again or we sat at home on our hands.

But what we are about now, as a Federal Government, is getting ready to change that game fundamentaly if it is not stopped.

The Second Amendment not only creates positive tension between citizens and their government, it protects all the other rights we have.

If we go into the dark rabbit hole of gun confiscation [and make no mistake that is where Obama, Bloomberg, Feinstein, et al want to go] then good men [and women] will have some very tough choices to make.

We may even be looking to this backstop: 

http://godfatherpolitics.com/8806/county-sheriffs-can-block-federal-gun-control/

What do you know about your local sheriff?

[1] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-7-2013 at 09:03 AM · [top]

Think Greg’s exaggerating?  Check this out.

Governments like to expand; sinful man likes to enlarge.  That’s a honey of a combination.

Yes, the prognosis for the linked action is “0% to even get out of committee.”  But it shows that we have, via our votes, monarchists in elected office.  People who want to make kings or high priests or whatever in place of a President with limited powers.

We had only one President for more than two terms, and it was during “emergency” circumstances.  With our hyper tendency to declare everything (housing market collapse, Newtown, big gulp sodas, Kardashian pregnancy, you name it) an emergency worthy of government attention,  we really need all the government restraining stuff we can retain.  The time is ripe for ideologues and tyrants.

[2] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 1-7-2013 at 09:07 AM · [top]

In the TV series The Game of Thrones Sansa Stark want to learn how to fight with her sword Needle.  Her father asks her if she knows anything about fighting with a sword and she replies with what her half brother told her:


“You stick them with the pointy end.” she says.  Her father replies:

“Well, that’s the essence of the thing, I suppose.”

This indeed is the essence of the thing.

And note we are not even asking for the actual military assault rifles to which we are entitled.  All we want it to preserve is our right to semi-automatic only copies of those rifles.  To that extent we have already compromised our principles.  And no one is lobbying for grenades, nerve gas or inter-stellar planet buster bombs so don’t even bring up these straw men.

And we see many examples of the un-Constitutional expansion of government at all levels.  Presidents can either accept a law or veto it, yet they issue “sighing statements specifying which items of law they will or will not enforce.  Kings do that and it makes an absolute mockery of the rule of law and the people’s duly elected legislatures.  If the President can make and enforce laws and select the laws he wants what does that mean for constitutional government?

And the liberals need to understand that the law and adherence to the Constitution protects them too.  They will not always be in power and they might need to use the pointy end themselves.

[3] Posted by Br. Michael on 1-7-2013 at 09:30 AM · [top]

Wow.  The Constitution, and the 2nd Amendment, and there to allow citizens to overthrow the government duly elected through that Constitution if we don’t like it.

I don’t understand this line of thinking at all.  We are not some third rate banana republic.  We are great because   we don’t think like the people in a banana republic. 

I want some form of gun control to protect us from the kooks, but I am generally not against gun ownership.  The line of thinking I see in these posts is very frightening, though.

[4] Posted by Paul B on 1-7-2013 at 09:45 AM · [top]

The line of thinking you see in these posts is the line of thinking the authors of the 2nd Amendment followed, Paul B.

[5] Posted by evan miller on 1-7-2013 at 10:03 AM · [top]

And the line of thinking follows because the writers of these posts, and many other people across the land, are frightened by what we see happening in Washington DC.

And why are they frightened?  They read history; particularly the history of gun confiscation and the aftermath of those schemes.

They do not want that history to visit these shores.

[6] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-7-2013 at 10:39 AM · [top]

Paul B,

The Second Amendment is stern stuff. It’s not teddy bears and lollipops, but make no mistake: While it is about fending off foreign invaders, it’s also very much about throwing off a domestic government should it become oppressive.

That doesn’t mean it’s not frightening. Armed insurrection usually is.

[7] Posted by Greg Griffith on 1-7-2013 at 11:00 AM · [top]

Dear commenters, I hope you are all aware that your posts here put you into the “potential domestic terrorist” category of Janet Napolitano, and that all of your electronic communications will be filtered out and examined from the vast store of all things that the NSA keeps in its every expanding data centers like the new Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center in Utah, stocked with ever increasing numbers of yottabytes ( equal to terabytes squared) of disk storage to keep track of everything we do.  Is what they’re doing illegal; you bet it is.  Does it stop them from doing it; not for a second.

[8] Posted by Daniel on 1-7-2013 at 11:43 AM · [top]

#8, I suspect most commenters here have resigned themselves to that reality.

Many of us who have fought a somewhat similar battle within The Episcopal Church also had that notion in the backs of their minds [particularly those of who learned we were on a “list”].

The alternative is to keep quiet and go along to get along.  Personal confession: I did that for a lot of years but finally decided that was not what I was called to do.

To paraphrase Greg; we [I am actually only speaking for me] would rather go down swinging than cowering in the dirt.

[9] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-7-2013 at 11:59 AM · [top]

[4] Paul B.

You will not be comfortable with the Founding Fathers either, in that case:

“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments to which the people are attached [i.e., the States], and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprizes of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

- James Madison, January 29th 1788

[10] Posted by Justin Martyr on 1-7-2013 at 12:27 PM · [top]

Capt. Father Warren is right - I think most of us long ago resigned ourselves to being on somebody’s list, somewhere. In fact, by the time you stop to ask yourself, “Hmmm… I wonder if I’m on a list somewhere?”... you almost certainly are.

[11] Posted by Greg Griffith on 1-7-2013 at 12:39 PM · [top]

What’s the difference between a terrorist and a patriot?  The patriots won their war, the terrorists lost theirs.

I fully understand the idea that lots and lots of guns makes us hard to invade, as does the simple vastness of our country.  I also understand the idea that some people believe that if the federal government becomes too tyrannical to them (i.e. they lose several elections in a row) that they feel justification to talk about somehow throwing the bums out by force. 

That is simply unacceptable.  We have been a country for hundreds of years, and others flock to us, because we are stable and believe in the orderly transition of power and the checks and balances of our system.  Threats of armed insurrection are the realm of made-for-tv movies, not serious discussion.

[12] Posted by Paul B on 1-7-2013 at 02:16 PM · [top]

RE: “Threats of armed insurrection are the realm of made-for-tv movies, not serious discussion.”

Agreed—but since nobody is threatening that on this thread, but merely pointing out that the second amendment of our Constitution was designed with that option in mind, one wonders why you have brought up such “threats.”

So how about getting back on topic, which is “what the second amendment really means.”  If you’d like to argue that the second amendment means something else, then feel free of course.  But huffing and puffing about somebody or other threatening armed insurrection merely demonstrates that you don’t wish to debate the actual topic of this thread.

I can certainly see why.

[13] Posted by Sarah on 1-7-2013 at 02:34 PM · [top]

#13: The high road: well done.

Let’s not feed the troll.

[14] Posted by paradoxymoron on 1-7-2013 at 03:03 PM · [top]

Sarah, the thesis statement, conveniently in bold, of Greg’s post is this:

The liberty of private citizens to possess weapons of war such that, collectively, they pose a formidable threat against any government that would presume to tyrannize them… and that includes their own government.

So, I didn’t make it up.  I’m not huffing and puffing.  I’m simply reacting to what is being written by others. 

So, actually, I am debating the actual topic of this thread.  It’s the ownership of guns as a deterrent to government from overreaching, and as Greg wrote “It’s about meeting government force with citizen force.”

So, I would argue that all that allowing citizens to posses the weapons of war has gotten us is a lot of innocent people being killed.  Government tyranny is not kept in check because there are a million or more AR-15s out there.  It’s kept in check because of who we are.

[15] Posted by Paul B on 1-7-2013 at 03:19 PM · [top]

Your article provides no analysis from the Keller decision.  This article would be much more helpful if you explained how the Supreme Court has interpreted the 2nd Amendment.

[16] Posted by david.crumplar on 1-7-2013 at 03:55 PM · [top]

Paul - interesting you say “...allowing citizens to posses the weapons of war has gotten us is a lot of innocent people being killed.”

Care to provide some stats?  Hmmmmm?  Care to guess how many good, law-abiding citizens were killed by their own governments in the last 100 years?

Most estimates say that there are at least 270,000,000 guns in the US.  And that there are 90,000,000 gun owners.  Estimates range between 800,000 - 2,000,000 crimes were NOT committed due to someone having a gun (not necessarily discharging it - just brandishing it in front of a bad guy in most cases is enough to scare them off). 

If this is true, then how many lives were SAVED because someone had a gun?

Guns are way down the list as a “cause of death”.  You are way more likely to die of cancer or be killed in a car accident.

There are no perfect solutions.  It is just the “lesser of evils”.  If you take away the guns from the law-abiding citizens then only the government and criminals are left.  Then you are left with a gigantic “gun free zone”...

[17] Posted by B. Hunter on 1-7-2013 at 04:27 PM · [top]

Let’s review a little history about lawful governments and innocent citizens;

*1929 Russia instituted gun control—20 million unarmed disadents died

*In 1911 Turkey instituted gun control—1.5 million unarmed Armenians died

*Germany instituted gun control in 1938—13 million unarmed Jews died

*China instituted gun control in 1935—20 million unarmed Chineese citizens died

* In 1964 Guatamala instituted gun control—100,000 unarmed citizens died

*In 1970 Uganda instituted gun control—so far over 300,000 unarmed Christians have died

*In 1956 Cambodia instituted gun control—over 1,000,000 unarmed Cambodians died

*No reports from Australia, Canada, and Britain [yet] on total deaths due to crime and riots because law abiding citizens had their guns taken away

I believe this is what Greg and the commenters to this thread are deeply concerned about as we look at the trajectory of this country.  “Lawful” governments responsible for the deaths of over 56 million innocent citizens.

[18] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-7-2013 at 05:18 PM · [top]

Capt Father Warren:

I guess I was raised to believe that this is the greatest country on the planet, not like those that you listed.  We are exceptional.  It is insulting to patriotic Americans to compare the United States, to, say, Russia under Stalin.

I, too, am troubled at the direction of the country.  But, I also know that the pendulum swings both ways.

[19] Posted by Paul B on 1-7-2013 at 08:45 PM · [top]

It is irrelevant to discuss what the drafters of the amendment meant it to mean.  All that matters is what the amendment says.  And it says nothing about “throwing off a domestic government should it become oppressive.”  If in fact the drafters had that in mind, they were manifestly unable to get the amendment passed with that wording, so that wording does not represent the intention of the government of the day.

[20] Posted by Michael D on 1-7-2013 at 09:35 PM · [top]

It says “the security of a free state” and that can be threatened by a federal government as well as a foreign government.

And the discussion of the framers in important because it shows legislative intent and provides a guide as to the proper interpretation (exegeses if you will) of the Second Amendment.

[21] Posted by Br. Michael on 1-8-2013 at 05:53 AM · [top]

Paul B,
I disagree with your statement that the US is exceptional.  The USA is its citizens and we are humans subject to the same desires (both good and bad) as any human being. However what is exceptional about this country is that our founding fathers had the insight and vision to create a new kind of governing document. No other group of men had done this before. Now we are going down the road to destry this document little by little. When that happens, all will be lost hence why some are so concerned about the destruction of the Constitution.

As for MVHO about this post. The second amendment may be frightening to those who do not believe in individual liberty and instead wants the government to control every aspect of your life. Personally, I find the idea of the government controlling every aspect incredibly frightening and yet that seems to be where we are headed in the US.

If the atmosphere were to radically change and it was required by law that every citizen over 18 had to be trained how to properly use a gun, I would be signing up for my training without a problem. Right now, I don’t own a gun and my skills are definitely rusty but I did learn some basics as a child. To own and properly use guns is our right and that should not be infringed upon by any one especially the government.

[22] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 1-8-2013 at 06:59 AM · [top]

Hey Paul -

I have $20 that says the Germans thought they were “exceptional” too.  I work for a German company, and can tell you they think the same way about their country as we do about ours. 

Hitler’s government did EXACTLY what our government is doing today - slowly eroding freedom over time.  Hitler took advantage of the economic crisis to come to power - and he restored order to the German culture.  But with it he took away thier freedom.  And MILLIONS died because of it.

Has it occurred to you that Obama, Reid and Pelosi are DELIBERATELY trying to create a similar economic crisis of the same magnitude?  How else do you explain the “fiscal cliff” bill that includes another $330,000,000 in NEW SPENDING?  No rational person could possibly think that is OK, could they?

[23] Posted by B. Hunter on 1-8-2013 at 07:25 AM · [top]

B. Hunter said, “Has it occurred to you that Obama, Reid and Pelosi are DELIBERATELY trying to create a similar economic crisis of the same magnitude?  How else do you explain the “fiscal cliff” bill that includes another $330,000,000 in NEW SPENDING?  No rational person could possibly think that is OK, could they? “

Well, I think those democrats are unabashed socialists and can’t help but continue with their redistribution of wealth.  I do not believe that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are plotting to establish a totalitarian regime.

I DO believe in American Exceptionalism.  While all of the other countries in the world have gone through multiple governments and multiple constitutions, we have had ONE.  Just ONE.  Sometimes we are more liberal, sometimes we are more conservative.  But we are always the United States of America.

[24] Posted by Paul B on 1-8-2013 at 08:20 AM · [top]

I DO believe in American Exceptionalism

You’ve said that twice.

I would be interested in hearing what that means to you and where you believe it springs from.  Because in gross general terms, we as humans are no different than the folks in all the countries I listed in an earlier post.  In fact, those folks came to settle this country and as you pointed out we have not [yet] duplicated the horrible circumstances seen in those countries.

So, what does it mean [to you] and where do you think it comes from?

[25] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-8-2013 at 08:25 AM · [top]

It is irrelevant to discuss what the drafters of the amendment meant it to mean

Not at all.  That is how we as a people can flesh out the meaning of the constitution when disputes arise as to the meaning of the plain words we can read. 

And that is precisely how the SCOTUS works to make decisions it renders.  Looking at the intent of the founders for meaning in the constitution and looking at the intent of the legislature when their deliberations are about laws passed by congress [eg, Obamacare].

Nice try.

[26] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-8-2013 at 08:30 AM · [top]

CFW asked: “I would be interested in hearing what that means to you and where you believe it springs from.  Because in gross general terms, we as humans are no different than the folks in all the countries I listed in an earlier post.  In fact, those folks came to settle this country and as you pointed out we have not [yet] duplicated the horrible circumstances seen in those countries.”

People in other countries are amazed that we have a normal transition of power every four or eight years, or after assassinations, resignations, scandals, whatever.  For goodness sakes, Gerald Ford was never elected to anything higher that the House of Representatives, but he was acknowledged as the President!

We are exceptional because we are the people from every other country on earth who were not satisfied with life where we were.  We are the people who were fleeing oppression.  We are the people looking to succeed past what our birth would dictate.  We are the best (and sometimes the worst) people, the people with the most drive, the people with the most ambition, the people (or their ancestors) who wanted to be here, living under this form of government.

We are the best the world has to offer.  We are the All Stars, if you will

[27] Posted by Paul B on 1-8-2013 at 09:13 AM · [top]

Okay, and what allows us to be all those things?  To be the best that we can be?  To allow us to pursue our dreams as we envision them and to fail in that process or to succeed beyond all expectations?

Pure luck?

Or, was it something else?

[28] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 1-8-2013 at 09:35 AM · [top]

RE: “So, I didn’t make it up.  I’m not huffing and puffing.  I’m simply reacting to what is being written by others.

So, actually, I am debating the actual topic of this thread.  It’s the ownership of guns as a deterrent to government from overreaching, and as Greg wrote “It’s about meeting government force with citizen force.”

Yes, actually, you did.  Discussing the meaning of the Second Amendment is in no way “threats of armed insurrection” and you will do the former and not try to distract by pretending to discuss the latter.

I am quite comfortable with your arguing that the Second Amendment is not, in fact, about

“The liberty of private citizens to possess weapons of war such that, collectively, they pose a formidable threat against any government that would presume to tyrannize them… and that includes their own government.”

Make your case, Paul B.  So far, you haven’t, but we all wait with bated breath to hear it.

Waxing misty-eyed about how America is exceptional makes no case at all, since it’s in part the Constitution and its Second Amendment—and the meaning of it pointed out by Greg—that makes America so exceptional!

[29] Posted by Sarah on 1-8-2013 at 09:46 AM · [top]

Okay, I’m really busy today, so can’t spend a lot of time here.

Let me pose a question:  Say that I throw in with all ya’ll and agree that an armed citizenry keeps the tyrants in check and ensures our freedoms.  I do lean in this direction.

Well, we don’t have issues with tyrants, good.  But we have a huge problem with guns in the wrong hands.  Is that a byproduct of the second amendment we have to live with?

[30] Posted by Paul B on 1-8-2013 at 12:27 PM · [top]

PAul (30),

I’m glad you’ve thrown in with us!  However, I disagree that we have a huge problem with guns in the wrong hands, and even if we do, the best answer to that problem is armed citizens who have the means at hand to defend themselves from predators of any kind.

[31] Posted by evan miller on 1-8-2013 at 12:40 PM · [top]

It’s really funny to hear people say that the 2d Amendment couldn’t possibly mean preserving the means of overthrowing the government when it was written by people who had actually done that themselves recently at the time.

[32] Posted by Ed the Roman on 1-10-2013 at 08:23 AM · [top]

Ed the Roman, very good point. 

Much food for thought here.

[33] Posted by Paul B on 1-10-2013 at 10:09 AM · [top]

“we don’t have issues with tyrants”

Uh… get ready to have issues with tyrants. The day is coming, soon and very soon, when you will be glad that you practiced your marksmanship and stocked up on hign-quality jacketed hollow point ammunition so that you and your next door neighbors can bring down the insidious tyrant who is looming even as we type at our keyboards. Maranatha Lord Jesus.

[34] Posted by Chazaq on 1-12-2013 at 12:57 AM · [top]

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