Dec. 9th, 2026 @ 08:07 pm
Silberman and Judge Thomas B. Griffith seemed to wrestle, however, with the meaning of the amendment's language about militias. If a well-regulated militia is no longer needed, they asked, is the right to bear arms still necessary?
I don't believe that the first Americans put the 2nd amendment in for hunting rights, or because they were afraid of the natives. They wanted to ensure that the people would always serve as a check on the government. They wanted guns even back in the days where politicians publicly debated their ideas with the people, instead of leaving them as uninformed as possible. (Its humbling to read the Federalist (and anti-Federalist) papers. The first thing you notice is that the language and arguments are both advanced, and citizens (who are these days down-graded to "voters") were expected to respond to these arguments.)
Saying that the right to bear arms is no longer needed seems tantamount to saying that everyone agrees the government is perfect just the way it is, even though we know nothing about it.
Today any rising-up against the government would be asymmetric violence at its most ill-conceived. People would only be jailed at best, killed and/or labeled terrorists at worst. Weapons only make that worse. So perhaps, as they "wrestled" with, it's time to acknowledge that every original
purpose of the 2nd Amendment is no longer valid or tenable.
Also, when talking about historical civic involvement, it's important to keep in mind that during those days and until the industrial revolution, this country was an aristocracy. The "citizens" you speak of were wealthy white men. Voting in those days involved going to the polling place, openly calling out your vote in front of everyone, and then attending some big to-do at the candidate's house (if you're interested in the history of voting practices, read Michael Schudson's work, either his book or his paper "Politics as Cultural Practice," Political Communication 18 (2001): 421-431). Comparing civic involvement and responsibility in those days to that of today is really comparing apples and oranges, as is comparing the contemporary reasons for the right to bear arms with today's reasons.
|Date:||December 10th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)|| |
Today any rising-up against the government would be asymmetric violence at its most ill-conceived. People would only be jailed at best, killed and/or labeled terrorists at worst. Weapons only make that worse. So perhaps, as they "wrestled" with, it's time to acknowledge that every original purpose of the 2nd Amendment is no longer valid or tenable.
Actually, I disagree. Say you have two militias: one armed and the other not. The first one is easily put down, because the government's soldiers can basically walk up to people and take them away without hurting anyone. The second is more likely to be taken seriously, because to stop them the government may need to use lethal force, and its going to attract attention if a government is killing its own citizens.
Also, when talking about historical civic involvement, it's important to keep in mind that during those days and until the industrial revolution, this country was an aristocracy. The "citizens" you speak of were wealthy white men.
And now, when the entire country is effectively "rich white men", it makes sense for the level of civic involvement to decrease? While there is certainly an issue of scale and access to leadership, most people today get 12 years of schooling and ready access to public libraries. This gives them the educational equivalent (in theory) of these colonial rich white men. If you're talking, instead, about having the means to spend time on civics, I should point out that the average wealth in the country is much much higher now than it was then. So, I remain unconvinced that modern Americans, especially people who think the right to bear arms is outdated, are not just too complacent to think about their government.
I disagree. Peaceful protests get taken more seriously, especially when the government unfairly carts the protesters off to prison (think civil rights movements). When people engage in armed revolution against the government, people are afraid of them and label them terrorists (think Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber).
The level of civic involvement has not really decreased; its nature has changed. You should read the Schudson article.
We have protests all the time in this country, against the Iraq War, against Bush, against stem cell research, for stem cell reasearch, etc., and our response is typically to yawn and change the channel. Votes and dollars change policy, sure, but protest movements are typically a blip on the radar. Has there been anything since the civil rights movement that created anything near that kind of change (i.e. not just a change in small , local affairs)?
More to the point, I don't think what you're describing is what Avani had in mind. We expect
that even under the most ideal of circumstances that there will be protests, along with a few wackos setting off bombs once in a while. What we don't expect is that there will be a serious armed uprising in this country, because things aren't nearly bad enough to warrant them. So when people argue that the 2nd amendment is irrelevent because not many people would be willing to pick up guns, start a militia, and get shot by police and soldiers, well... that's kind of the whole point. I view the 1st and 2nd amendments are sort of insurances against tyranny. Basically, it's the government saying, "OK, we'll give you the tools to cause major trouble for us, because things will never be so bad that you'll need to do it."
My take, anyway.
I think you answered your own question with regards to effective protests--things aren't bad enough to warrant them, or at least people don't currently believe so. A lot of it also depends on media coverage; in order for people to "yawn and change the channel," it has to be on TV in the first place.
With regards to allowing people to have the tools for uprising, I think that goes back to my argument about today's government being far too powerful for guns to make the difference. In colonial America, citizen militia had the same potential power with regards to weaponry, transportation, etc, as any governmental military body. The government can overpower any of today's armed militia, so is it really worthwhile to be allowed to have a few guns when the government has exponentially more powerful weapons and tactics at its disposal? Consider the Branch Davidian
and Ruby Ridge
incidents during the Clinton administration--how many people remember these events as the government suppressing Constitutional rights, and how many think of the Branch Davidians or the Weaver family as "wackos"? I know I seem like I'm conflating two arguments here (that we no longer need to be allowed to form militias and that people tend to assume that militias or people who engaged in any sort of armed resistance are wackos), but my argument really boils down to the fact that armed revolution or resistance is no longer tenable, and, therefore, the right to arm yourself against the government and your fellow citizen today does too much harm to justify any potential good, because the potential good is obsolete.
|Date:||January 29th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)|| |
|(Link)|[M]y argument really boils down to the fact that armed revolution or resistance is no longer tenable, and, therefore, the right to arm yourself against the government and your fellow citizen today does too much harm to justify any potential good, because the potential good is obsolete.
I disagree. Modern weapons like tanks, missiles, and air power are very impressive in field battles, but (as the US is learning in Iraq), not the end-all, be-all of warfare. Fighting an insurgency is a different matter altogether, and small arms play a key role for the insurgents: they make it dangerous
for the occupiers. To suppress an armed rebellion, you need overwhelming amounts of force in the form of actual soldiers. That's how the Second Amendment is still important.