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The Fiction of the Second Amendment

July 6th, 2010

While on the subject of revolutionary thought, I decided to check in on that favorite of right-wing topics: the Second Amendment. What makes the most fascinating reading is to review the earlier drafts of the amendment, most of which had a telling clause attached to the end:

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the People, being the best security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

I always found this telling because if, as the right wing claims, the Second Amendment is all about an individual right to keep and bear arms, then what sense would it make to add a clause regarding conscientious objection? That clause clearly indicates that the amendment was not intended to express an individual right to bear arms, but instead was intended as a collective right to assure the existence of a public militia, at the time considered the only way to evade a government tyranny. This is not to say that an individual right to keep and bear arms was not intended–it seems that it was simply assumed that if one wanted to, one could–but that the Second Amendment was never intended to serve that particular purpose. It was to protect local militias from being disarmed by a federal government. If you’re demanding your Second Amendment rights, then you are demanding that you should serve in the militia, which today is the National Guard. So by all means, go to it.

The discussion and debate regarding this clause makes that point even more clear. One might think, for example, that the final clause regarding compelled service were struck because it would make the amendment appear to not be about an individual right; that, however, was not the case. Consider these excerpts:

Mr. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts — This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the government; if we could suppose that in all cases the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous, and prevent them from bearing arms. What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now it must be evident, that under this provision, together with their other powers, congress could take such measures in respect to a militia, as make a standing army necessary. Whenever government mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishment of an effective militia to the eastward. The assembly of Massachusetts, seeing the rapid progress that administration were making, to divest them of their inherent privileges, endeavored to counteract them by the organization of the militia, but they were always defeated by the influence of the crown.

It is notable that Gerry, from the outset, clearly defines the amendment not as an attempt to secure the individual right to keep and bear arms, but instead to ensure that an armed public will always be available to serve as a militia so as to protect any one state from the tyranny of an over-reaching federal government. Many get caught on phrases like “rights of the people” and jump to the conclusion that this means, in this context, an individual right to bear arms–but the rest of the context makes clear that it is a collective right to protection by means of a militia that is being discussed. This neither affirms nor denies an individual right; the Second Amendment simply was not about that at all.

This is bolstered by Benson’s displeasure with the clause, which stemmed from a desire to leave exceptions to military service to the judiciary:

Mr. Egbert Benson of New York — Moved to have the words “But no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms” struck out. He would always leave it to the benevolence of the legislature — for, modify it, said he, as you please, it will be impossible to express it in such a manner as to clear it from ambiguity. No man can claim this indulgence of right. It may be a religious persuasion, but it is no natural right, and therefore ought to be left to the discretion of the government. If this stands part of the constitution, it will be a question before the judiciary, on every regulation you make with respect to the organization of the militia, whether it comports with this declaration or not? It is extremely injudicious to intermix matters of doubt with fundamentals. I have no reason to believe but the legislature will always possess humanity enough to indulge this class of citizens in a matter they are so desirous of, but they ought to be left to their discretion.

Even more interesting is the take of Mr. Scott, who expressed something one does not often hear about: that it was a common presumption that religion was in decline, and could even imagine a time when there was no religion in American society! This notwithstanding, he also speaks entirely in the context of the amendment’s purpose being to compel the public to military service.

Mr. Thomas Scott of Pennsylvania: objected to the clause in the sixth amendment, “No person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.” He said, if this becomes part of the constitution, we can neither call upon such persons for services nor an equivalent; it is attended with still further difficulties, for you can never depend upon your militia. This will lead to the violation of another article in the constitution, which secures to the people the right of keeping arms, as in this case you must have recourse to a standing army. I conceive it is a matter of legislative right altogether. I know there are many sects religiously scrupulous in this respect: I am not for abridging them of any indulgence by law; my design is to guard against those who are of no religion. It is said that religion is on the decline; if this is the case, it is an argument in my favour; for when the time comes that there is no religion, persons will more generally have recourse to these pretexts to get excused.

Mr. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, President of the Continental Congress: said that the provision in the clause or something like it appeared to be necessary. What dependence can be placed in men who are conscientious in this respect? Or what justice can there be in compelling them to bear arms, when, if they are honest men, they would rather die than use them. He then adverted to several instances of oppression in the case which occurred during the [revolutionary] war. In forming a militia we ought to calculate for an effectual defence, and not compel characters of this description to bear arms. I wish that in establishing this government we may be careful to let every person know that we will not interfere with any person’s particular religious profession. If we strike out this clause, we shall lead such persons to conclude that we mean to compel them to bear arms.

Boudinot follows Scott, and ends by again defining the purpose of the amendment: to compel the people to bear arms for the purpose of an effectual defense of the state.

Once again, this is not to claim that no individual right to keep and bear arms exists; as I have stated previously, I believe the amendments to the Constitution cover that right, but not in the form of the Second Amendment, rather in the form of the Ninth Amendment, which states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This is reinforced and extended to state governments in the Fourteenth Amendment. The individual right to keep and bear arms, like it or not, is a traditionally held right and has never been repealed, and so it stands. But not by fiat of the Second Amendment, as so many people like to assume.

I can only presume that this belief on the part of most people is generally due to either simple presumption and a failure to sufficiently research the record, or perhaps a desire to avoid paying too much attention to the 9th and 14th amendments, which, in right-wing circles, have somewhat of a bad reputation. The Ninth Amendment, for example, if followed scrupulously, also provides a right to privacy, among other rights–and privacy includes medical privacy, which makes outlawing abortion problematic. Not to mention that the Ninth Amendment is in itself a bane to strict constructionists, whose entire claim is based upon denying the idea that rights not enumerated in the Constitution exist at all. The Fourteenth amendment is currently disliked on the right, primarily for that bit in the highly relevant Section 1 which says that all persons born in the United States are automatically citizens.

I find it fascinating that the right wing tries to eviscerate Obama, Kagan, and even Thurgood Marshall for stating that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were imperfect as constructed, and yet so clearly disdain and wish struck such integral parts of the document themselves. Of course, as you will certainly know from reading this blog, I have never held that consistency is a conservative vice.

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  1. July 6th, 2010 at 16:00 | #1

    Unsurprisingly, I find this unconvincing :)

    I see no contradiction between the notion that the 2nd was created to protect the existence or at least potential for a militia, and the guarantee of an individual right. Nor does the inclusion of conscientious objectors bother me. There is no requirement that an amendment address only one thing, nor is that the pattern.

    Also, although the notion that the national guard is the militia being spoken of here is rhetorically attractive, it is not accurate : http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/311.html

    Now, that the right is pick-and-choose about which amendments to pay attention to I will not argue, but it is amusing how you seem to think they are noticeably worse than the left. I would think that just having finished a fight over whether or not the 2nd was incorporated or not, based on nothing more than dislike of the implications, kinda rams that one home, doesn’t it?

  2. Luis
    July 6th, 2010 at 23:11 | #2

    I see no contradiction between the notion that the 2nd was created to protect the existence or at least potential for a militia, and the guarantee of an individual right.

    Just because there is no contradiction does not mean that the individual right was the purpose or the result of the amendment. As I said, the right was most likely assumed, and does exist by fiat of other amendments. The framers designed the Second Amendment to protect the ability of militias to form and act, and their discussion clearly shows that this was the limit of the intent for the amendment. Assuming an individual right is created by the amendment means that you must both ignore the wording of the law (whatever you may think, the first clause IS limiting) as well as the clear intent of the writers of the law.

    As for the classification of organized and unorganized militias, that’s old news. It’s laughable to suggest that a “well regulated militia” refers to the “unorganized militia,” and the organized militia became the NG via the Dick Act.

    Your last paragraph is not clearly phrased, and is confusing. Is it a reference limited to my writing? If so, it is poorly worded–I am writing, not fighting, I make no mention of the implications, rather simply where an existing right emanates from, and am not picking and choosing what to “pay attention to”–I am identifying with clear evidence to support the claim, and am ignoring nothing.

    What remains is what I write: the Second Amendment was about the right to keep armed militias and was not an individual right. I provided detailed evidence to support this; all I see in terms of substantive response is the claim that since an individual right is not expressly ruled out, it must therefore be guaranteed by fiat of the amendment.

    Question: why can’t you be comfortable with the idea that the right to keep and bear arms is well-protected by an amendment other than the second?

  3. Troy
    July 7th, 2010 at 02:14 | #3

    “Assuming an individual right is created by the amendment”

    wrong verb there IMO. ‘protected’ would be better.

    As for the 2nd amendment, I think what the Framers had in mind was a Swiss-style home militia with the common man retaining familiarity and competence with firearms.

    As you state, there is nothing about home defense or personal safety in the 2nd Amendment. IMO, its intent could be honored by restricting military-grade weapons to gun clubs, as the intended ‘keeping’ and ‘bearing’ would not be infringed.

    I do believe there is a common law right to have a handgun in one’s house, but subject to the usual public safety limitations and regulations.

  4. Luis
    July 7th, 2010 at 09:32 | #4


    Agreed on the wordage; the right is long-standing coming from well before the Constitution.

    There are other issues here as well. The Second Amendment was less about individual rights than it was about, ironically, individual obligations to maintain freedom. (This is already clear even without the conscientious objection debate for the Second Amendment.) When people talk about militias to justify gun ownership, as well as the Second Amendment itself, they usually ignore the implicit obligations of gun ownership–traditionally, that being militia service. That is strictly implied–if you never have any obligations, then what is a militia for? Even the “unorganized” militia had restrictions, including age, gender, and ability. Claiming a right via militia membership is a bit strange to me when the 9th and the 14th do so without such implied obligations.

    The part of gun ownership I balk at, however, is the assumption that, of all rights, gun ownership is the one that has no restrictions of any sort. All other rights are restricted for one common purpose: public safety. You have freedom of speech, but cannot endanger or harm others with it; you have the right to be secure in your person and effects, unless public safety requires you to surrender that–and so on. But somehow, when it comes to firearm possession, that one is a sacred right that cannot be limited in the name of public safety. When I tried to suggest a set of gun control laws that clearly would not limit legal, private gun ownership, commenters fell all over it, complaining that I wanted to “ban guns.”

    There is a bit of a reflexive reaction when it comes to gun ownership that I still don’t quite get 100% yet. It leads people who claim that their freedom and liberty are tantamount, who would explode in righteous anger if their gun rights were limited in any way–but have no problem whatsoever with most of the rest of the Bill of Rights being scrapped. The same people who are paranoid about jack-booted government thugs coming in black helicopters in the dead of night to confiscate their hunting rifles were for the most part completely fine with that same government listening in on their phone calls–so long as it was Bush and he was nominally doing it to protect us from terrorism.

    Is there something about holding and firing a gun that makes one’s brain chemistry go wacky? Just asking.

  5. Troy
    July 7th, 2010 at 11:23 | #5


    Is there something about holding and firing a gun that makes one’s brain chemistry go wacky? Just asking.

    Yes, it’s fun and it’s an ancient prerogative of the bubbas among us.

    When it comes to law-abiding gun owners, not one of them wants to have their freedoms limited just because some OTHER people abuse guns, especially in far-away places like Oakland, South Chicago and the District of Columbia.

    The “this is why we can’t have nice things” result and I am sympathetic to it. I thought Howard Dean in 2004 had a better sense about this, gun control is a local and state issue, not a Federal issue.

    Unfortunately, of course, the conservative majority are doing some heavy lifting in elevating the 2nd Amendment to override local public safety ordinances.

    But, fortunately, this is an extension of liberty, and I generally don’t have a problem with the Fed actions adding to personal liberty. If this experiment in liberty doesn’t work we’ll have the data soon enough.

    We could solve this by enacting an amendment to change the text of the 2nd Amendment to match Pennsylvania’s 1776 Declaration of Rights: “the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state”, but unfortunately we the people no longer have the political maturity to amend our Consitution. The last amendment was 40 years ago.

  6. July 7th, 2010 at 13:00 | #6

    Umm Luis, usually you are well versed in your subject matter, and you are most certainly a better writer than me. But this “The part of gun ownership I balk at, however, is the assumption that, of all rights, gun ownership is the one that has no restrictions of any sort.”

    That is beyond ridiculous. Either you have absolutely no idea what the laws regarding guns are, or you are just pretending they do not exist. Seriously… I expect better from you.

    Regarding your question – Why the 2nd and not the 9th? Understand that I flatly reject the entire concept of “collective rights”. All else flows from that. If rights are by definition individual, then the 2nd must refer to an individual right. This is a difference so fundamental that I am unsure it can be crossed.

    Also, the gun rights crowd is heavily slanted towards the libertarian side of the right. They most certainly DO have a problem with the patriot act. This is a case where the binary left/right paradigm fails.

    As to reasonable restrictions? That is a whole big nasty subject on it’s own. I will just say that England started with ‘reasonable restrictions’. They ended by making it functionally illegal to defend yourself in any way at all. Those who do not learn from history etc…

  7. Troy
    July 7th, 2010 at 13:44 | #7

    Jon, slippery slope is fallacious thinking. As is tu qoque argumentation.

    >the 2nd must refer to an individual right

    Me, Luis, and the US SCOTUS prior to the Heller decision read the 2nd as pertaining to a well-regulated militia.

    We all can agree that collective rights that do not extend to the individual are moot and cruel abuses of the term.

    Combining these two viewpoints, one reaches the position that there is a clear protected right to keep and bear arms relevant to the citizen militia of a free citizenry.

    I have zero problem with people keeping fully-auto M-16s at the local gun club for practice, even in California. The Framers would demand no less.

    But there is a public safety element and state interest in limiting access to guns and how they are kept about.

    Libertarians are out to lunch on this, like so much else. The conservative majority on the court is engaging in results-driven adjudication and it is quite shocking.

    At least it’s an error toward liberty.

  8. July 7th, 2010 at 14:27 | #8

    The slippery slope argument is generally fallacious when applied in a reductio ad absurdum fashion. Not so much when it applies to historical precedent. It is impossible to understand the gun rights battle in the US without looking at the history of the UK, because that is the basis both sides are working from.

    “At least it’s an error toward liberty.” You sound like a libertarian :)

    Libertarianism is only a crazy fringe idea if you apply it as a dogma. As a philosophy it is quite practical. But I ask you : how many philosophies are not stupid when applied as dogma?

  9. Troy
    July 7th, 2010 at 15:36 | #9

    I’m a left-libertarian, on the model of the geolibertarians. If everyone had an IQ over 100 I’d like to think that geolibertarianism would be all the government required.

    >Not so much when it applies to historical precedent

    You can argue that there should be protections on self-defense. Finding them in the second amendment is, shall we say, irritating, as the two dissents in Heller detailed.

    As for the UK, having lived in Tokyo for 8 years I’d like to see us somehow becoming more civilized like them, where only the cops & a few bad guys have guns and everyone else has toy guns.

    Should insurrection become necessary, the rebels would be able to get all the hardware they required from their buddies in the military, and if you can’t find buddies in the military, then you’re not going to have much of an insurrection, private guns or no.

  10. Luis
    July 7th, 2010 at 19:36 | #10

    When it comes to law-abiding gun owners, not one of them wants to have their freedoms limited just because some OTHER people abuse guns, especially in far-away places like Oakland, South Chicago and the District of Columbia.

    I am not sympathetic to that view: it applies to virtually everything in life, and is something we all have to live with. I would be a fully responsible driver on the roads without constant DMV nonsense, so why should I have to deal with that hassle just because some others are not. Why do I have to get a passport and deal with visas just because some criminals like to smuggle or commit other crimes? Sorry, to me that’s not a very adult attitude.

    Even more so because most gun control won’t limit their freedoms beyond mild inconvenience. Training and licensing maybe, but if they don’t get training they shouldn’t own or use guns anyway. Background checks and waiting periods? So they can’t get their gun immediately. Try getting an iPhone and then complain to me. I may not like having to wait a week for the iPhone 4, but I would never claim that my freedoms to communicate with others were being limited.

    There may be bad gun control laws, but done right, gun control laws would not prevent such people from owning weapons, and would be as transparent as possible. If they fear prohibitive laws, they should fight them tooth and nail; but in my experience, gun owners tend to fight all gun control laws on the slippery-slope argument that if any laws are passed, there will be gun bans shortly behind them. That is irresponsible, and largely a part of why criminal have such easy access to guns.

    I thought Howard Dean in 2004 had a better sense about this, gun control is a local and state issue, not a Federal issue.

    I might agree in principle, if that is how it works out in terms of constitutional law and state rights, but I disagree in practice. The very reason why gun control laws are broken now is because the NRA and the GOP have so successfully stopped almost every attempt at the federal level, and most at the state level. That leaves county and local bodies to create their own laws, which is why there are thousands across the country–and why they don’t work. It’s the hole-filled patchwork quilt effect, where all you have to do to evade gun control laws is cross over a county line. It enables criminals and empowers no law-abiding citizen.

  11. Luis
    July 7th, 2010 at 19:55 | #11

    But this “The part of gun ownership I balk at, however, is the assumption that, of all rights, gun ownership is the one that has no restrictions of any sort.”

    That is beyond ridiculous. Either you have absolutely no idea what the laws regarding guns are, or you are just pretending they do not exist. Seriously… I expect better from you.

    Jon, we’re talking past each other here–I am not saying that there *are* no gun control laws (of course, there are thousands), I am stating that gun advocates often–if not usually–hold to the assumption that their gun rights, under the Constitution, are inviolate and should have no restrictions at all. I have seen this attitude time and time and time again, that no gun control laws at all should be allowed, that gun ownership was meant to be unrestricted, period, end of sentence. Am I still living up to your expectations? 😀

    Regarding your question – Why the 2nd and not the 9th? Understand that I flatly reject the entire concept of “collective rights”. All else flows from that. If rights are by definition individual, then the 2nd must refer to an individual right. This is a difference so fundamental that I am unsure it can be crossed.

    How is it a collective right if it emanates from the Ninth Amendment? Why not accept that the Second Amendment was, at least, a throwback to colonial times–exactly like the Third Amendment was–and accept the more iron-clad and far less unchallenged right to keep and bear arms from the 9th? Certainly the Second Amendment has not fared well for many of the reasons we debate over right here.

    As for me, I cannot see how the debate on the Second Amendment can be viewed and the idea that it is an individual right still remain. The founders were clearly, without any doubt whatsoever, speaking of the amendment being for the purpose of the people to maintain a militia, as a bulwark against a standing army. How can it be an individual right to be compelled to serve in militias so as to defend the state against an oppressive federal presence? (Remember, they did not like the conscientious objection clause because it would allow some to avoid militia service! How is that an expression of an individual right?) The individual benefits, granted, but it is not a right any one individual exercises, like freedom of speech or freedom of religion. I don’t know how any one person could, alone, exercise the right to have a militia exist so as to protect against the evil of a standing army. And yet that is exactly what the Constitutional Congress stated, in no uncertain terms, the Second Amendment was for.

    It was the right of a large group of people to be allowed to have protection from a larger body. If that *was* an individual right, then it was so only in the context of your having that gun for civil defense, the only way it could be exercised individually.

    As I have stated before, that is how it emanates from the Second Amendment. From the 9th, it allows you to have guns for home protection and hunting as well.

    But there is a public safety element and state interest in limiting access to guns and how they are kept about.

    Indeed. Public safety is the *primary* limitation of personal rights and liberties. Almost all limitations (speech limited by reckless endangerment, etc.) stem from public safety–your right to swing your arm ends where my face begins.

  12. Geoff Kransdorf
    July 7th, 2010 at 19:58 | #12

    “…Sorry, to me that’s not a very adult attitude.”

    Well, as another libertarian, I guess I’m not much of an adult. What you’re saying is “Some people are criminals, so everyone needs to be treated like a criminal–that should be the base assumption.” Maybe at night in Central Park that’s a good assumption, but in everyday life, it’s unwarranted and a pain. Not to mention an infringement of basic liberties. Maybe if unnecessary taxes, regulations and restrictions on your personal freedom bothered you more, you wouldn’t be a liberal Democrat.

  13. Luis
    July 7th, 2010 at 21:04 | #13


    True, I’m not a Libertarian–I’m just a pragmatist. Troy said that if everyone had an IQ over 100 then geolibertarianism would be all the government that is needed; I disagree. I don’t think IQ is the primary issue, it is attitude. Too many people are too selfish and overstep their bounds; rules exist to keep this in check. Sad, but it’s the way things are. Same reason why socialism wouldn’t work–it requires a better breed of human than we currently are. If one lives in a world without regulation, one finds oneself swamped by the bad applies. It’s a grand idea to think that such rules are not necessary in everyday life, but the reason it’s easy to nurture that idea is because we generally don’t live in that world.

    You claim that my stand is “Some people are criminals, so everyone needs to be treated like a criminal–that should be the base assumption.” That’s a presumptuous overstatement. “Treated like a criminal” and “follow rules necessary to make society work” are not synonymous, to most people at least.

    Do you have a driver’s license? If so, do you feel like your are being treated like a criminal because you must have one to drive? Most people don’t–they see it as a necessary part of making a system work. Are you being treated like a criminal because you have to stop at red lights in traffic? Do you feel like a criminal because a neighbor locks their doors when they leave home? Are you being treated like a criminal when you have to type a password to enter your account on a computer? All of these exist because there are people who would abuse what we have without such protections, rules and precautions.

  14. Geoff Kransdorf
    July 7th, 2010 at 21:52 | #14

    To be honest–even as a libertarian–I’m not dogmatic about gun control. I think that making sure that people know about gun safety and are not ex-felons before letting them buy guns are not unreasonable restrictions. I also think that responsible (or at least fairly responsible) honest people with guns can sometimes be better than limiting gun ownership to criminals. Admittedly, in Japan, where *nobody* has guns, things are arguably safest of all. But there is a tradition of gun ownership in the US, and the constitutional basis for gun ownership is a lot more solid than the constitutional basis for abortion or national health insurance.

    Finally, I’m not sure that driver’s license laws and stop lights in the middle of the night *are* productive. You’re either a safe driver or you’re not, and license and traffic laws rarely change that. A lot of speed limits certainly are unreasonable–meant to criminalize ordinary driving. I think that fairly law-abiding and reasonable people *do* get treated like criminals all the time in society. And I don’t much care for it.

  15. Luis
    July 7th, 2010 at 23:44 | #15


    I agree that all the rules and so forth are a pain, I’d much rather have the society you envision, But too many a-holes would ruin it for everybody. Ergo all the rules. That they are disliked is not in question; it’s a matter of necessity. I still do not get Libertarians who don’t want regulations applied to businesses–that simply comes across as insane to me. It’d be BP every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The worst business abuses come from politicians bought & paid for relaxing the regs and easing the policing. That’s when we get market crashes and oil disasters and so forth.

    But the rules are needed. Imagine trying to get on a major thoroughfare with heavy traffic without traffic lights, especially crossing it to the far side–Cripes. But lights are just one of tons of rules in order to make traffic go. Which side of the road do you drive on? Who gets right-of-way when you arrive at an intersection? These are protocols, rules everybody agrees on so that it all runs smoothly. Without them, trust me, in heavy traffic areas, it would be a nightmare.

    The sad fact is that human nature is still too dark. Corporations live to suck money from anywhere they can find it, using their power to abuse and rob everyone in sight. I’d much rather have honest businessmen be annoyed than let the dishonest ones get away with a hundred times more crap than they already do. Same for everyday rules. I understand the Libertarian desire, I just see it as ultimately lacking pragmatism. Police states are very safe places, but are far too lacking in freedom; Libertarian utopias come across as simply being on the far side of the spectrum, but still too far to be livable. What we have generally balances in the middle, wobbling this way and that, but usually finding a middle ground that doesn’t go too far in either direction.

    Question: has there ever been a truly Libertarian state? And if not, why not? And if there has been one, where is it and how’s it doing? Or perhaps, which country in the world is closest to the Libertarian ideal?

  16. Troy
    July 8th, 2010 at 04:57 | #16

    Sorry, to me that’s not a very adult attitude.

    But it’s a politically WINNING attitude, part of the “God, Guns, Gays” kulturkampf.

    Gun owners have banded together and said ‘shove your gun laws!’

    The Republicans pander to this uncompromising absolutism and profit thereby.

    This is politics, not reality.

  17. July 8th, 2010 at 09:26 | #17

    Gun owners have banded together to say “Shove the obnoxious and excessive gun laws”. We’re actually big fans of ones that are actually useful. It’s just good sense. Every time we pass something like shall-issue concealed carry and crime drops or at least doesn’t rise, and the ‘blood baths in the streets’ and ‘wild west shootouts’ and ‘drunken bar shootouts’ don’t happen, we win a little bit more.

    To oppose a law because it could theoretically be abused is a bit paranoid. To oppose a law because it is routinely abused is just paying attention. I’m pretty sure I can give a real life American example of exactly how any ‘reasonable’ law you want to add HAS BEEN abused. Often in the only case it was implemented.

    As to tour assertion that a significant portion of 2A advocates want to ban all gun control laws. I do not know how to test that assertion. Certainly it is not true in the circles I frequent, but if it was, I would go elsewhere. So that doesn’t prove much.

    The most radical large gun right group is the GOA. They are loud, kinda obnoxious and think the NRA are a bunch of pansies. But as far as I can tell they are focused purely on preventing new gun control laws, not repealing existing ones.

    So I would say that these “no rules” types must be louder than their numbers, if they cannot put together any organization. But like I said, I cannot think of an easy way to really test this notion.

  18. Troy
    July 8th, 2010 at 10:09 | #18

    But like I said, I cannot think of an easy way to really test this notion.

    You can test it by watching all the challenges to existing gun control laws come out thanks to these latest two rulings from the conservative majority on the SCOTUS.

    I’m pretty sure I can give a real life American example of exactly how any ‘reasonable’ law you want to add HAS BEEN abused

    But you didn’t.

  19. July 8th, 2010 at 11:21 | #19

    Troy, looking at what challenges occur does not tell us anything about the number of people who support it, although I suppose to some extent looking at the supporting briefs and whatnot might.

    And no, I have not the patience to list every case where the law has been twisted to look reasonable but still be abused. Have not the time nor the patience, and I dislike long rants.

  20. Luis
    July 8th, 2010 at 12:35 | #20

    True, the most vehement opposition to gun control tends to be the vocal part and gets the most air time. And yet, the responsible gun owning crowd who approve of reasonable gun control seems to assert itself very seldom. Certainly the NRA does not represent these people, nor do they assert themselves in the NRA leadership. The NRA, of course, is essentially the ACLU for one specific right–extremist to protect even the smallest incursion on total arms freedom.

    The problem is, if the responsible crowd is nearly silent and rarely asserts itself, then it’s not really good for much, is it?

    To oppose a law because it is routinely abused is just paying attention. I’m pretty sure I can give a real life American example of exactly how any ‘reasonable’ law you want to add HAS BEEN abused. Often in the only case it was implemented.

    Ok, a few things here. First, you say that such laws are “routinely” abused, and then say you you are “pretty sure” you can give just one example of a real-life example of where such abuse happens. Aside from the vague semi-confidence, any one example is not evidence of “routine” abuse; to prove what you say would require proof of common or widespread abuse, in a number of cases. One is apocryphal. Many is a pattern. A whole lot over a long period of time is “routine.” (Also, it should be kept in mind that “abuse” connotes intentional misuse, not incidental harm, ergo any example must show at least a probable intent to misuse such laws to deprive people of their freedoms.)

    Second, finding a single example of abuse is nothing; EVERYTHING is abused at least once. Even a few examples of abuse is no reason to do away with something. Routine abuse, yes–but that requires more than just one or two examples.

    And third, Troy has a point: if you’re not willing to actually provide such examples, then the claim doesn’t really mean much. To say that you can’t be bothered because you don’t like “long rants” is not relevant to this point: providing evidence is the opposite of a rant, and the fact that you have posted rather frequently on this issue here in the past day or two belies the idea that you can’t be bothered to type a few lines. All of the above suggests, instead, that what you claim is a guess, a feeling of what should be right, instead of actual knowledge based on fact.

    But let me assume I am wrong. Take, for example, computerized background checks. Only four years after they were instituted in 1989 in California, Florida, Virginia and Maryland, they stopped more than 47,000 illegal purchases of firearms. Background checks are often attacked by gun advocates as being unnecessary, ineffective, or too much trouble. Can you state any cases of abuse of computerized background checks, or even point me in a specific direction to find them? I’ll even make it easy and throw in three-day waiting periods. I still have yet to see any statistics that show a pattern of people being killed waiting for their gun purchase to go through, much less any case of abuse where the waiting period was used to specifically deny someone necessary protection.

    Or, if you are looking for a suggested law instead of one that commonly exists today, how about ammunition tagging and registration–like explosives, use tagging technology in all bullets made so their production and purchase can be tracked to a specific purchase.

  21. July 8th, 2010 at 13:40 | #21

    Instant background checks stopped 47000 purchases, sure. Were they illegal? Do you believe they never make a mistake on those lists? But of course, they include an appeals process so people wrongly on the list can get off… eventually. Still, this is what you mean by ‘reasonable’ and I think you are not too far off, although the list of disqualifications (for life!) keeps growing and is getting a bit iffy.

    Until a few years later congress ‘defunds’ the appeal process. By law you can appeal, but there is no one to take it. In a brief search I was not able to find whatever omnibus bill (probably a budget) they hid that in. But the cost of getting NRA support for the new law after Virginia Tech was re-funding it. (H.R. 2640)

    Nice trick huh? Put the ‘reasonable’ protections in, and then just not do it. That was just a couple years ago. Note the similarity to the DC ban. They never made handguns illegal, they just required a permit. Then they stopped issuing permits a few years later.

    As far as the ammo marking thing, that doesn’t need to be twisted. Let’s see, it bans hand loading, drives the cost of ammo through the roof, cuts down on ammo sellers who don’t want to deal with the hassle. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get the same serial number on a bullet and a casing. Most are not even made by the same company! All so the bullet can splatter when it hits. This is pure poll tax stuff, all it does it whittle away at the number of gun owners by making it expensive and inconvenient to shoot. For ideas on effectiveness, look at how ‘ballistic fingerprinting’ has performed in Canada and Massachusetts(?).

  22. July 8th, 2010 at 13:55 | #22

    PS. Found it… The ‘relief’ process was defunded in 1992 in the ATF appropriations bill. Re-activated in 2008. 16 years, not a bad run.

  23. Troy
    July 8th, 2010 at 15:58 | #23

    Jon does have a point. It wouldn’t surprise me if the NICS denial list worked like the no-fly list, since Bureaucrat Man has every reason to be “conservative” in maintaining that list — ie. easy to get on, hard to get off. But that is a temporary problem that can be addressed through politics — I note the Democratic Congress passed the reform in 2008.

    The problem with guns as I see it isn’t the occasional nut shooting up a college campus, but the day-in day-out drumbeat of gunshot cases in urban ERs, and that is more a symptom of more fundamental problems than gun-created crime perhaps.

    Just because I think it’s constitutional to strictly regulate gun ownership, doesn’t mean we have to. Laws are often post-facto half-assed CYA attempts.

    Funny thing, like Gays, Gun-owners are something of an oppressed minority subject to the whims and abuses of the majority.

    Unlink Gays, gun owners have the advantage of disproportionate representation in the House and Senate. By the Wyoming rule, the House should have another 150 members, and we won’t even talk about the Senate.

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