Jump to content
Political Discussion Forums
JamesHackerMP

the actual purpose of the 2nd amendment

Recommended Posts

Most people, whether Americans or not, get the 2nd Amendment wrong. Within the United States, both sides of the spectrum also get it wrong. This is because we have allowed the NRA to set the debate, so all positions both for and against the second amendment tend to follow their preferred language. (The opponents in this country and abroad simply add "what a horrible idea" to it, but they're still following the wrong reasoning.)

The NRA argument is thus: the founding fathers wrote the 2nd amendment so that, if the U.S. government were to become tyrannical, the people--using their privately-owned firearms--could overthrow the government and establish a new one that would re-assert their rights and liberties. If we take away all privately-owned firearms, or even some of them, they say, it will gradually turn the U.S. government into a dictatorship.

What the members of the first Congress REALLY intended was this.

They believed putting a large, standing army into the hands of the federal government was a bad idea. It was antithetical to liberty, they reasoned, to have a centralized army like that. Instead, maintain and arm the state militias. Should there be an emergency that requires the army to assemble, the bulk of its manpower will come from the state militias. Congress at any time can call the units of the state militias (today called the national guard) into the service of the United States.

The only way to have state militias was to allow the people to stay armed, so when it was called up, they'd have their own arms. (Other arms like field artillery would of course be government-funded, I'll go out on a limb and assume that few Americans at the time owned their own cannon.) The federal and state governments at the time were more minimalist; taxation was much lower (there was no payroll "income tax" at all) so they didn't want to have to pay for everyone's musket or rifle. It made sense to have armed private citizens if you were going to place the bulk of America's manpower in the hands of the states.

The founding fathers did not, however, assume that "just in case the government becomes tyrannical, we'll need to overthrow it so let the people have arms." That's complete b.s. No government has ever planted within its founding document the seeds of its own eventual destruction. That's a ridiculous idea. Rather than the NRA's assumed  "just in case", the founders came up with a way to make sure that didn't happen to begin with: keep the manpower out of the hands of the feds, period. That way, it can't GET tyrannical in the first place!

Up to the second world war, this model of placing most of the manpower in the states was used. It was the necessities of the second world war and the cold war which followed, that required a standing armed forces in a way that would have startled the founders.

The second amendment was a great idea. It's just a pity that most peoples' interpretation of the second amendment is so incredibly off the target.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's all well and good but regardless of what the founders intended, today, the federal government has a large and well armed military force (the US Army, Navy, and Air Force). The National Guard is not the primary source of manpower for the military. 

Regarding the potential for the federal government to get tyrannical, it seems unlikely that it would do so by blatantly employing the military against its own citizens (an order that the military may not follow, in any case). Rather, it would use various paramilitary organizations (specific local police forces, mercenaries, security companies, hired protesters, etc) to beat up and intimidate opponents, intelligence/surveillance (through agreements with private companies like Google/Facebook/etc as well as through the intelligence agencies), taxes/regulation/bureaucracy to destroy the businesses of whoever it deemed as undesirable, the justice system / show trials / false evidence to imprison opponents, etc. This has been the standard method for most dictatorships out there... rarely is the military used directly, its only a last resort, usually leading to a failed state (i.e. Syria) rather than a continuation of the power of the dictator.

And it is against tactics like this that a well-armed population could indeed present a credible deterrent. Whether the founders intended it or not, today the US government could be capable of tyranny, and private firearm ownership could indeed provide a deterrent to such tyranny in some cases. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just in case somebody does get it wrong, most states have their own constitutional protections for owning firearms, with language that leaves no doubt about intent.

 

Quote

44 US states include the right to bear arms in the state constitutions, some for self-defense and the defense of the state. The oldest of the provisions date to 1776 in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (though all three have since been revised, the right remains in place). Nebraska was the last state to add a right to bear arms to its constitution in 1988 when the government edited an existing article.

 

state-constitutional-right-to-bear-arms.

 

https://gun-control.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=006199

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, Bonam said:

That's all well and good but regardless of what the founders intended, today, the federal government has a large and well armed military force (the US Army, Navy, and Air Force). The National Guard is not the primary source of manpower for the military. 

Regarding the potential for the federal government to get tyrannical, it seems unlikely that it would do so by blatantly employing the military against its own citizens (an order that the military may not follow, in any case). Rather, it would use various paramilitary organizations (specific local police forces, mercenaries, security companies, hired protesters, etc) to beat up and intimidate opponents, intelligence/surveillance (through agreements with private companies like Google/Facebook/etc as well as through the intelligence agencies), taxes/regulation/bureaucracy to destroy the businesses of whoever it deemed as undesirable, the justice system / show trials / false evidence to imprison opponents, etc. This has been the standard method for most dictatorships out there... rarely is the military used directly, its only a last resort, usually leading to a failed state (i.e. Syria) rather than a continuation of the power of the dictator.

And it is against tactics like this that a well-armed population could indeed present a credible deterrent. Whether the founders intended it or not, today the US government could be capable of tyranny, and private firearm ownership could indeed provide a deterrent to such tyranny in some cases. 

Its pretty clear that 2nd Amendment folks of the type the NRA represents would have little issue with the sort of dictatorship you just described. People have a startlingly low threshold for accepting a tyrant and as for providing a defence against one, just about every household under Saddam Hussein had guns.  

Edited by eyeball

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right. Dictatorships typically happen gradually. Hitler didn't dismantle the Weimar Republic instantly; it was a long time in coming, plus things like that don't happen overnight. I read that there were a lot of arms in Iraq, is that true? Could be because of the Iran-Iraq War? (don't want to get off topic though) And they didn't manage to overthrow the Ba'athist regime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a proliferation of privately owned weapons could just as easily help establish a dictatorship as prevent one. A lot of dictatorships are the result of populism. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right. That's another good point, Wilber.

Again, the FF's did not have some fatalistic "just in case" mentality about overthrowing their own product. It was meant to prevent it from happening in the first place, and they didn't say anything about letting people have whatever arms they wanted even if it was antithetical to public safety.

The state militias (today called the National Guard) are a minority of the military manpower, which is just what the FF's were afraid of. And I don't see the proliferation of private arms as helping that situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JamesHackerMP said:

Again, the FF's did not have some fatalistic "just in case" mentality about overthrowing their own product. It was meant to prevent it from happening in the first place, and they didn't say anything about letting people have whatever arms they wanted even if it was antithetical to public safety.

 

Accordingly, there are restrictions on the types of arms that citizens may own.   But there is no doubt what the founders intended by enumerating the right to own and bear arms based on attitudes at the time, affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

https://thefederalistpapers.org/second-amendment-2/famous-quotes-from-the-founding-fathers-on-our-right-to-bear-arms

 

Edited by bush_cheney2004

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, but it still doesn't contradict my view that it's to preserve freedom by maintaining the state militias to prevent a centralized standing army.

The bill of rights was written by the First Congress (1789-91). Are these quotes from members of that Congress, the one that wrote the 2nd amendment? Tenche Coxe's quote seems to back me up, as do Elbridge Gerry's.

Edited by JamesHackerMP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, JamesHackerMP said:

OK, but it still doesn't contradict my view that it's to preserve freedom by maintaining the state militias to prevent a centralized standing army.

 

That is only one aspect of gun ownership, which is ultimately about a citizen's right (and power) to hunt, defend, and dispatch many kind of threats with firearms.

Firearms were expensive back in the day, and would not be purchased just to arm a state militia...there were other practical, everyday applications for firearms.

It does not follow that the existence of state national guard units extinguishes the need/right for average citizens to own and bear arms.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, they were expensive. Which is why the government didn't want to have to pay for them. Better to let the guys who show up to join the militia already have one.

Never said it extinguishes their right to own them, however, I don't believe in unlimited gun ownership (i.e., no gun control). But I don't believe in banning them either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, JamesHackerMP said:

Yes, they were expensive. Which is why the government didn't want to have to pay for them. Better to let the guys who show up to join the militia already have one.

Never said it extinguishes their right to own them, however, I don't believe in unlimited gun ownership (i.e., no gun control). But I don't believe in banning them either.

 

Fair enough, but I am always leery of others who would use "state militia" as their foundation to erode gun rights in modern America.

Americans have the right to own and bear arms, with reasonable limitations.   This is an enumerated right.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, JamesHackerMP said:

OK, but it still doesn't contradict my view that it's to preserve freedom by maintaining the state militias to prevent a centralized standing army.

The bill of rights was written by the First Congress (1789-91). Are these quotes from members of that Congress, the one that wrote the 2nd amendment? Tenche Coxe's quote seems to back me up, as do Elbridge Gerry's.

 

As far as preventing the US from having a centralized standing army goes, that worked out well didn't it.

Militias are different,  lots of countries use them (Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland etc) all have compulsory service, are considered reserves afterward and their access to weapons and ammunition is controlled. 

Edited by Wilber

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/20/2018 at 12:58 PM, Wilber said:

 

As far as preventing the US from having a centralized standing army goes, that worked out well didn't it.

Militias are different,  lots of countries use them (Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland etc) all have compulsory service, are considered reserves afterward and their access to weapons and ammunition is controlled. 

Today it's called the National Guard. The CINC of the state's national guard is the governor of that state, until a unit is put into service of the United States by order of Congress. (Then, the president is its CINC.) There are national guard armories everywhere in the U.S. The national guard usually gets called up by the governor to prevent rioting or maintain order after a natural disaster, for example, to help provide aid after one (like a hurricane or tornado). There is also an air division of the national guard called the Air National Guard.

There are national guard units in Afghanistan, for example, and in Iraq. The members train for "one weekend a month, two weeks a year". They have the same regulation as the active duty forces, as the constitution mandates Congress will prescribe its discipline and regulation, as with the regular armed forces.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

I get the point about the National guards and that's what a militias should look like. My point was that those countries mentioned don't consider Bubba with a basement full of semi automatics to be a militia.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...