Monday, August 24, 2009

Passing thought

This was prompted by the sneers emanating from the right wing over people being upset about some over-compensating nitwits carrying leaded guns to town hall meetings about health care, sneers that ran along the lines of "Ain't no law against it" and "Ah guhta right!"

True, they broke no law but such episodes always bring up the argument over the Second Amendment, specifically, over the meaning of the first half of the Amendment ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State") and how it affects or doesn't affect the second half ("the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed").

Something which I think is highly relevant but rarely considered is an excerpt from Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. That's the section that lays out the powers of Congress, among which are:
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
It seems to me clear that the framers of the Constitution did not envisage a standing army, that an army would be raised only as necessary and thereafter disbanded (thus the two-year limit on appropriations) and that the militia, regulated and trained in accordance with Congressional mandate, was to be the defense against "insurrections and invasions."

It also seems to me to be clear, then, that the interpretation of the Second Amendment that makes possession of weapons a group, rather than an individual, right, one reserved to the people as a whole rather than to particular individuals, a right that that is thus connected to participation in a militia, is the correct one.

So to all those crowing "I gotta right," no, you don't. You have a privilege. And if you continue to act like spoiled brats and schoolyard bullies, your toys should and properly could be taken away. Unless you prefer to join the state militia.

Not that such will happen, but being able to make the argument provides some comfort somehow.

Footnote: There would undoubtedly be those who would argue that it is wrong of me to interpret the Constitution in terms of the beliefs and expectations of over 200 years ago, that things have changed since then and we have to think about how things are now. Which would be a fair argument if it didn't always come from the same folks who argue that in the case of things like same-sex marriage that in the absence of specific language to the contrary we must lock ourselves into the prejudices of two centuries back.

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