Four Distinct Components to End Mass Shootings – Part III

“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.

But … laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Adams, 1816

Part 3 in a 4-part series addressing components necessary to rid us of mass shootings.  See parts I and II, here and here.

De-Sanctifying the 2nd Amendment

Carrying through with professor David Hemenway’s suggestion in my previous article of changing the environment that can create a culture of violence where resorting to firearms becomes a solution rather than a problem, it seems we need to do a better job at putting the 2nd amendment in it’s proper historical context.

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Don’t make the 2nd amendment out to be a gift from God, “our American birthright”, as NRA VicePresident Wayne Lapierre recently asserted at the 2018 CPAC Conference. The claim that every American has a right to possess a firearm was not in the original Constitution and it was only in District of Columbia, et al vs Heller back in June 2008 that the Supreme Court took the position that the 2nd amendment does “protect an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.” Up to that time the traditional view held by the courts for nearly 200 years was that gun ownership was limited.

As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out in an Op-ed piece back in April 2014: “First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a ‘well regulated Militia.”

Even in the Heller ruling Justice Antone Scalia, a pro-gun, card-carrying member of the NRA stated emphatically that “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose:  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. “

I think Jefferson feared what we have become in regards to how some look at the 2nd amendment, with “sanctimonious reverence … too sacred to be touched” rather than as a secular law drawn up by 18th century thinking of humankind. One that needs to adapt to the times and confront the horrid reality of gun violence that I feel can in part be attributed to how we have allowed the for-profit gun industry dictate our relationship with firearms separate from its intended, primary use with a well-regulated militia.

Once we de-sanctify the 2nd amendment from people like Wayne Lapierre and put it in it’s common-sense, historical perspective, we can move forward with limiting the sale of assault-style guns prominently used in mass shootings like the AR-15 and other deadly weapons commonly found within police SWAT teams and our armed forces, without giving credence to the unfounded fear that one’s right to own a gun for hunting and self-protection in their home is being taken away.


The 4th and final article on this series will deal with the toughest issue of all.  How to break out of the culture of violence we have developed over the last two and half centuries

7 responses to “Four Distinct Components to End Mass Shootings – Part III

  1. I think the crux of such an effort is to establish that the SA (second amendment) was not about state militias but volunteer militias. State militias are addressed in Article 1, so what was the SA for? It was for the two main reasons that volunteer militias were used: to kill/exterminate Indians to take their land and to hunt runaway slaves. Many people gloss over how a world superpower like England could be defeated by the upstart colonies. A large part of this was the realization in England that the colonists could not be confined to the existing colonies. There was land to the west to be taken (land = wealth) and they were taking it. The French laid claim to much of that land and therefore there was a ongoing conflict with them in the offing. So, the British did not go all out against us.

    The “settlers” trespassed on Indian lands over and over and over and when the Indians objected, violently or not, the “settlers” responded with scorched earth warfare, wiping out whole settlements (men, women, children) and burning their villages. These were the reasons for the SA: exterminating Indians and killing fleeing black slaves. Slave patrols, the precursors to our modern police forces, were usually formed of wealthier ‘Mericans because if a slave were accidentally killed (some were deliberately killed to “send a message”), reparations might be demanded by the slave’s owner.

    Making it know widely what the real purpose of these volunteer militias was and that the SA was written to support them (and not the otherwise covered federal and state militias), would undermine support of the SA now, if for no other reason that the purposes of those militias no longer exists.

    BTW, the “purpose” of militias to resist government tyranny never entered the minds of the framers, so the strict constructionists on the Supreme Court can’t substitute that for the historical purposes supported by the SA. (This is an NRA fiction.)

    • Thanks for these insights Steve. Hopefully those who read my blog will check the comments section and see your statement about militias. Do you have any one particular source on this?

  2. Pingback: Four Distinct Components to End Mass Shootings – Part IV | Woodgate's View·

  3. The Heller ruling is actually a travesty of justice. If anything, it’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment…from both perspectives. It’s another case of Scaliaosis.

    1) The 2nd Amendment is all about militias. It says nothing about hunting, home invasions, shooting your slaves, your wife and/or yourself. Those have always been FAR more common uses of guns than militia use…and historically speaking, not terribly frowned upon by the law. That’s why the Founding Fathers didn’t bother to mention any of those uses in the 2nd Amendment. They didn’t require protection at the Constitutional level.

    However, the idea of an armed revolt against an occupying force, or especially a tyrannical government, is a radical idea that would always be considered illegal. Indeed, the Brits saw the American Revolution as an act of terrorism. This is why the Founding Fathers cooked up the Constitutional protection for militias. They (somewhat legitimately) thought the Brits might come back for a sequel Revolution2: Electric Boogaloo and figured they needed some civilian backup.

    That’s the 2nd Amendment, period! The supposed “original-ist” Scalia just straight up imagined stuff that wasn’t there in order to achieve exactly what he wanted, a gun worshipping populace.

    2) At the same time, the Heller ruling attacks the very viability of a militia, clearly mentioned in the 2nd Amendment. The ENTIRE POINT was to give Americans the ability to band together to combat a military force. In those days, ordinary citizens had essentially the same weapons as the military. Single shot, muzzle loaded, rifles. So Scalia & Co had 2 choices.

    a) They could live by the spirit of the 2nd Amendment and allow ordinary citizens to own military assault weapons, tanks, predator drones, stealth fighters and whatever a militia would need to combat a modern military. Insane, but Constitutionally defence-able.

    b) My favourite option, restrict “protected weaponry” to the kind of Revolutionary War era weapons the Founders had in mind when they wrote it. This includes old-time cannons, because Patriots used them in the Revolutionary War too. While you can feasibly hunt with the rifles, it’s worth noting none of these weapons are particularly useful for crime, especially mass shootings. Cannons don’t travel well and all you get from those rifles is one shot every 20-30 seconds. Constitution not technically violated, but body-counts would plummet.

    But the Supremes did neither. They denied Constitutionally protected militias the weaponry they would require. But they allowed any idiot access to military grade guns. This is great if you plan on killing a whole bunch of people. Not so great if you want to stand up to a tyrannical government. Worst of both worlds.

    Also in the Heller ruling was that trigger locks violate the 2nd Amendment because they somehow prevent the owner from using the gun…exactly the way key-operated ignitions prevent people from driving their cars. Morons!

    The final result is an ever escalating arms race and on-the-street chaos….Yet a tyrannical government has nothing whatsoever to worry about. With every single communication being monitored by Big Brother, the militia’s first & last meeting would begin and end with a drone strike. Any survivors would be cleaned up in no time. Even an AR15 can’t do much against a tank. This is a complete bastardization of the 2nd Amendment, something that ceased being relevant….even before Woodgate was born.

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