The 2nd Amendment

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" .....

Let's start with some basic history of the 2nd Amendment.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and was adopted on December 15, 1791. Its intent was not debated to any significant degree until Robertson v. Baldwin, (1897). After that the issue was almost unheard of until United States v. Miller, (1939), then came to a head with District of Columbia v. Heller, (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago, (2010).

The most relevant of these cases is most certainly District of Columbia v. Heller (June 26, 2008) where a divided Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The core holding being that the Second Amendment is an individual right intimately tied to the natural right of self-defense. In this case the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Parker v. District of Columbia. The Court of Appeals had struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 as unconstitutional, determining that handguns are "arms" for the purposes of the Second Amendment, that the District of Columbia's regulations act was an unconstitutional banning, and struck down the portion of the regulations act that requires all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept "unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock...."

It is relevant to point out that the opinion of the court in DC v Heller was an ideologically divided 5 to 4 decision. The opinion was delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented and was joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. This division illustrates the legitimate intellectual differences of opinion that exist within this issue.

The reason for this constant, never-ending disagreement within the courts, the Justices and the people is simple; the amendment itself is poorly worded, therefore its intent is ambiguous. It mentions both a "militia" and an "individual" in the same sentence. What were the Founders referring to when they wrote the amendment? Did they mean that only a member of an organized militia (like the National Guard of today), could possess an "arm", presumably a firearm? Or did they mean that any private individual could own a firearm, with no restrictions on type and number of same?  Unless we can revive either James Madison or George Mason, primary authors of The Bill of Rights, we will never know for sure their intent when drafting the amendment. Further, any person who claims to be sure of the intent of the second amendment is being disingenuous. All opinions on its meaning are purely assumptive in nature.

With that said, I personally believe we have a logical, natural right to own a firearm to protect ourselves, home and family. This is based in English natural law (Cruikshank 1876). However, I also believe we should have common sense restrictions (favored by liberals and rejected by most conservatives, esp the NRA) on gun ownership. For example, do you need an automatic weapon to protect your home, shoot at the range or hunt? No, of course not. Do you need an AR-15 or AK with a 100 round magazine for these purposes? Again, no, of course not. But the NRA and other conservative organizations think you should have the right to own these weapons and they push very hard to attain this end. Let's face reality folks; the only reason you need these types of weapons is to kill as many people as quickly as possible. That is why these guns were invented. For war. And do you need to be able to buy a large number of weapons all at one time to protect your family? Again no, of course not. The only person who needs this right is a licensed gun dealer. The only private individual who would need to do this is a "straw buyer" who wants to sell the guns across state lines. This happens all the time between Tennessee and the City of Chicago. It is a very pervasive problem the police in Chicago deal with every day. Fortunately, many states have "one gun a month" buy laws to protect against this problem. Not surprisingly, the NRA and conservative states are usually against such safety related legislation.

Now before all my right wing friends start screaming "I have the right to own any firearm I want and if I want to buy 10 sawed off shotguns and AK47's today and carry them down Main St that is my 2nd amendment right!"... I have to ask you this;  do you realize how selfish and narrow-minded this position is? Please try to see the bigger picture outside the conservative "its all about me" bubble. You don't need an automatic weapon. You don't need to buy more than one gun a month. The government is not coming to get you and your guns. If you truly feel you must have unlimited access to high caliber weapons, grenades or whatever else, I suggest you either 1) join the Marines or 2) get over the baseless fear and paranoia that permeate your life and see a psychologist. Common sense gun laws protect both people and society. Get over it.

In summary, I feel we do have a natural right to own firearms specifically to protect our homes, target shoot and hunt. And we have this right regardless of what the second amendment may or may not say or imply. But we have this right with logical and reasonable restrictions attached.


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  • Your final paragraph reminds me of something Lawrence O'Donnell says in one of those MSNBC spots. Basically, "I blame the first [number] of deaths on the shooter. I blame the rest on the law."

    There would almost certainly have been deaths - this guy was intend on causing harm. But without that weapon, there wouldn't be 20 children's funerals in Newtown this week.

  • In reply to Ed Nickow:

    Ed, I agree. You cannot stop a deranged individuals intent on calamity. However, you can at least limit his ability to carry out his desire. If he had not had the Bushmaster there would have been fewer children killed that day. This is where common sense gun laws, eg, an strictly enforced assault weapons ban, would have helped.

  • Maybe you can enlighten me, having gone to public school I am not well prepared to traverse the world of critical thinking. You mentioned I don't need to buy more than one gun a month. Did I get that right? So I can belong to the gun of the month club, but not the gun every 21 days club? What is so magic about 1 a month? Once arbitrary standards are applied they can go anywhere. Once every other month. Once every other year. Once every other lifetime. It is a slippery slope.

    The whole gun conversation is focused on the wrong thing. We already have strict gun laws. Last year more people were killed in Chicago than soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet Illinois has very strict gun laws. Laws don't stop much ahead of time, they only allow for prosecution afterwards.

    Most of the people killed in Chicago were young people. If we follow your logic we would need to ban young people. If we didn't have young people, we would have a lot fewer mass killings. Look at the crazed killers in Colorado, Arizona, Sandyhook, and others. The shooters were all young! If we eliminate young people, we can eliminate all these killings without worrying about the gun laws already on the books. We have to pass a test to get a license to use a car or a gun. We do that to protect the person and the others that person might harm.

    Bad parenting skills harms kids. Maybe we need a license to have kids. Then the supply of young kids will go down and there will be fewer angry and unstable teens and early 20's people that will kill others.

    I am not suggesting this. I am only following the logic of the arguments and then applying them the same way with the same thought to the parenting license gambit.

    The real issue is that saws are largely ineffective.

    During prohibition Americans drank more than they did either prior or after. It is against the law to drink and drive yet look at how many people do. Often they hurt or kill someone. We don't go after liquor. We don't go after cars.

    The mass shootings are horrific. The loss of one young life on the south side of Chicago is tragic. We have to find a way to stop the killing. We will only fool ourselves if we think gun laws will solve the problem. They won't.

    We have to find a way to instill respect for life in children so they grow up to be healthier both mentally and emotionally. That is harder to do than passing gun laws. But that may solve the problem. But passing stricter gun laws gives us a false sense that we have done our part to address the problem.

    As a result we get to feel better about not solving the problem.

  • Jeff,
    I don't understand it. You are a very bright guy. How could you miss the real argument? The problem is not guns.

    All the gun limitation laws we have now do not prevent the bad guys from getting guns and using them. I am nervous about the government involvement with guns because when I think about how they handled "Operation Fast and Furious" I just cringe.

    Yes, I rambled. Yes I did have a cup of sarcasm for breakfast. But, that does not discount the last paragraph in my rant.

    It is about teaching people about respect for life, themselves, and others. There was a shooting in Evanston today where a kid fired randomly into a crowd.

    They caught the shooter and his mother said "they disrespected him." They disrespected him? What?
    He shot up the crowd and it was because they disrespected him? The mother supports that?

    Where are the values? Where is the understanding of the social contract? The gun didn't shoot anyone. The person firing the bullets did.

    If this child had been instilled with human values then perhaps he would not have taken aim at the crowd. He the child been instilled with a sense of wonder and compassion, would he have better respect for life? The person who fired the shots has not even a vague understanding of respect for himself, or others.

    This value set is so completely foreign to me that I cannot comprehend it. But I can comprehend that it is the real problem. It is not the guns. It is the people that use them.

    I don't care how you limit gun sales. That will not solve the problem. We have strict gun laws now and it does not work.
    How do we fix the problem? Concealed carry permits. The gang-bangers will think twice about some of their nonsense when they know that they might take 2 to the heart in 2 seconds from 50 ft. if they know the other guy might be carrying.

    We can't get rid of guns. This isn't post war Japan. This isn't England. I am not worried about gun owners who keep their guns in a safe, handle them properly, and obey the laws.

    I worry about the psychotics and the gang bangers. Neither of those groups have any connection with reality. Keeping guns out of their hands will solve the problem. Keeping guns out of my gun safe will not solve the problem.

    All gun owners should have to pass stringent tests. Not only about handling the guns but about the laws that go with them.

  • I went back and reread your original post again. Since laws don't prevent people from committing crimes, how about this for a solution?

    Straw-buyers? Mandatory 30 years in federal prison. Not a government country club like Illinois governors get.

    Commit a crime with a gun? No problem. Sentence for the crime and then add 30 years to sentence to be served without parole and served consecutively, not concurrently. So if a guy commits armed robbery he gets his 3 for the robbery and then when he has finished serving that he gets his 30 without parole.

    This way we punish those who commit the crimes. We could step it up for automatic weapons. Use an automatic weapon in a crime? Automatic death sentence. No appeal. No waiting. And you get to be killed by your own automatic weapon.

    Have an automatic weapon and get caught with it? OK! No problem. 30 years mandatory sentence. No parole. No country club.

    We already have strict gun laws. Judges can be too lenient in sentencing. "Oh, the perp grew up disadvantaged so he should get a break." Sorry. That theory cheapens all human dignity and says we are not capable of overcoming challenges.

    While we are busy arguing about how to solve the problem, if we start enforcing the existing laws with the existing sentencing guidelines and just go for the max each time, it could slow things down.

    Is that more doable?

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    Jeff Clauser

    Born in Charlotte NC, raised in Atlanta Ga and attended college at Auburn University in Alabama where I earned a bachelors degree in political science and public administration. I had planned to attend law school after graduation but after four years of undergrad work the thought of getting right back into a classroom held little interest for me. Instead I spent several years in a variety of positions in customer service, retail and the financial industry. Eventually I ended up in aviation, specifically as a pilot, earning the ratings of instructor, commercial and Airline Transport Pilot. With that came jobs flying single engine trainers, light multi-engine aircraft, turbo-props, regional jets and my current job at the helm of an MD-83. Besides the aforementioned cities I have also resided in Houston, Dallas, Boston, Miami/Ft Lauderdale, Orlando, Cincinnati and now the City of Chicago. I've traveled extensively, having been in every major American city at least a dozen times and also many international destinations. While I enjoy flying jet airplanes I've realized over the years that my true love is government. I read voraciously every day, various newspapers, periodicals and non-fiction publications. Some of my favorite authors are great thinkers like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Friedman, Deepak Chopra, Fareed Zakaria, Dr Sanjay Gupta, Christopher Hitchens, Steven Levitt and of course the geniuses Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. I have a great admiration for intelligence, educational achievement and a thorough knowledge of the world and its peoples. Finally, I must also admit spending a significant amount of time listening to talk radio and TV, both liberal and conservative. Unfortunately most of it is juvenile and misrepresents reality but listening to it keeps me informed of what the average Joe on the street is thinking. In summary, I love studying and debating politics. My education, both formal and informal, combined with extensive travel and exposure to various cultures and people, gives me significant knowledge and experience on which to base my opinions and arguments. My goal with this blog is to engage with other rationale and reasonable thinkers who love our country and wish to see it move forward via logical public policy initiatives.

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