26 April 2007

Neo-Conned on gun control

Would it surprise you that one of the proposals for the Second Amendment was:

That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated Militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free State. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the Community will admit; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the Civil power.

Not that I am making this up Elbridge Gerry said during the ratification debates:

This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the maladministration 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 with respect to a militia, as to make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments 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.

Usually, when people discuss this they neglect things like this from Joseph Story's Commentaries on the US Constitution:

. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people.

Patrick Henry's response to the Constitution Article I, Section 8 was "A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny." Which then led to this great quote which has been taken out of context ""The great object is that every man [of the militia] be armed.--But can the people to afford to pay for double sets of arms &c.? Every one who is able may have a gun. But have we not learned by experience, that necessary as it is to have arms, and though our assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavored to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case. When this power is given up to Congress without limitation or bounds, how will your militia be armed? You trust to chance....""

Now, I know it's a popular belief that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep a gun, but why has this stuff about Standing Armies and congress's power over the militia been left out of the debate?

Even more salient, why has all this individual's right nonsense come up in the last 50 years? I mean up until the 1980s, the Second Amendment was pretty much a dead issue as far as scholarship goes. Then, there came all this "new scholarship" in the 1990s.

Actually, the confusion probably began back in the 50s and 60s when the term "citizen soldiers" came to mean draftees.

Excuse me. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Book V, Ch. 1, contains an extended account of the Militia. It is there said: "Men of republican principles have been jealous of a standing army as dangerous to liberty." "In a militia, the character of the labourer, artificer, or tradesman, predominates over that of the soldier: in a standing army, that of the soldier predominates over every other character; and in this distinction seems to consist the essential difference between those two different species of military force."

That is the standing army v. the militia, the professional soldiers v. the amateurs. The militias are the citizen soldiers, as distinguished from those trained to arms as a profession, and who constitute elements of a standing army. Since both the States and Congress shared concurrent authorities over the militia, it was essential to protect the people who made up the militias from any pretense of Congress in disarming them for the establishment of a standing army.

Now, with Iraq, which is a perfect example of what the founders were afraid of in the debates, an out of control leader with a standing army running amuck, and Virginia Tech, which isn't what the founders had in mind, doesn't this seem particularly germane?

I mean who stands to gain from all this if the Second Amendment is not an individual right to bear anything, but a security of the people to keep and bear arms for purposes of maintaining public militias as a guard against a standing army?

I mean everybody comes off looking like dickheads if what all this means is that Iraq shouldn't have happened, because we should have been demanding a Swiss style military instead of screaming about how having more guns in the streets makes us "safe".

So, while we are scared shitless of the Columbines and Virginia Techs, the Military Industrial Complex is laughing their asses off and seeing the tyranny that the founders anticipated happening with the establishment of a professional, standing army!

Think about it!