Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Same Polluted Source

Once again, the debate over gun violence is roiling in the United States. The latest example has consumed the state legislature in Tennessee. Gary Wills writes:

We are the disgrace of nations because we can’t stop killing our children—along, of course, with their teachers, relatives, and innocent bystanders. We don’t even seem to want to stop doing it, not effectively, at any rate. We say we should, but we don’t. We just can’t. We are worse than the drunk who says he should stop drinking but doesn’t. At least drinking is (or was) pleasant in its early stages. But how can killing be pleasant at first?

Our children can’t fight back as they watch their classmates and teachers being mowed down. Why do we let it go on, case after case? Are we just more evil than all the other countries that do not have our murder rate—not only in schools but in churches, synagogues, and mosques? Are we just killers by breeding or tradition?

Some say we kill innocent people in large numbers because we have so many guns. Well, we do have them, more than any other country. But guns do not force themselves into our hands and fire themselves. We have to use them for them to work. Why do we want to keep doing that?

The answer to that question is stark -- because the courts have greenlighted unregulated gun ownership:

No other nation has a Supreme Court that claims its Founding Fathers wanted to make it possible for any individual to get military-grade weapons and kill like a combat soldier, spewing bullets from high-capacity magazines at split-second rapidity, racking up the tiny corpses before the police can possibly arrive. These murder machines cannot be controlled as we control other dangerous things, from cars to planes to drugs, because these are guns, and guns are sacrosanct. What makes them so? The Second Amendment. Because of it, guns and their use are beyond criticism or control. That makes it possible for a presidential candidate to suggest with impunity that a rival should be murdered if he just calls her killers “Second Amendment people.”

The Second Amendment is invoked like a blessing over each of our recurrent Columbines. But there is nothing about that constitutional text that absolves these classroom slaughters. Their perpetrators are not “well regulated.” They are not “bearing arms,” a military term (one does not bear arms against a rabbit), nor are they “keeping arms” if they have a gun at home (they are called armories, not gunneries). It was only our modern Court that thought you could decide “original intent” by reading the wrong dictionaries. Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century defined “arms” as “war,” citing Dryden—“Arms and the man I sing”—and he defined “armed men” as “army.”

Previous Courts read history, not simply the dictionary, and knew that Madison added the Bill of Rights not because there was any threat to individual ownership of guns, which had always existed unchallenged and would continue to do so before, under, and after the draft Constitution. If personal weapons of self-defense or attack were the issue Madison was dealing with, the Second Amendment could have been written about a right to “bear knives” or “bear swords” or “bear clubs.”

In the end, it's all about that old excuse for so many American ills -- states' rights:

No, Madison added the Second Amendment to placate “states’ rights” advocates like Patrick Henry, who argued state militias had to be guaranteed for three reasons:

1. Short of war, states could not be shielded by a Federal standing army, which the Founders opposed. (How has that gone, Joint Chiefs?)

2. Residents of the states wanted to be able to respond to clashes on their borders with Native Americans or local opposition before a Federal authority could respond.

3. Slaveholders like Henry (and this was the main reason) feared slave uprisings in the South, anticipating rebellions like Nat Turner’s in 1831. They wanted to “keep arms” in guarded armories where the “well regulated” militias could get them out quickly and irregular slave mobs could not.       

Gun violence, Slavery, Jim Crow. They all stem from the same polluted source.

Image: The Philidelphia Inquirer


Cap said...

There is already a state-based "regulated militia," it's called the National Guard. The National Guard keeps arms in armories and has strictly-enforced gun regulations. The problem is that the Supreme Court completely ignores the Second Amendment's "well- regulated militia" clause. Until that changes, America will get nowhere with gun regulation. And that won't happen while Roberts and the Furious Five have a majority on the court.

zoombats said...

The United States is in a real shit show at the moment. The right to bare..., Constitutional carry, stand your ground, etc, added to an angry divided nation is a recipe for disaster. These people are just plain nuts and there are a lot of them around. The murderous asshole being pardoned by Governor Gregg Abbott was heard to say that "I shot him before he could aim at me" after he had driven his car into peaceful protesters seems to border on insane. The victim was pushing his wife's wheel chair while carrying an AK47 and the reason was "Stand your ground". In day to day life in this country you can have a simple disagreement with an individual who could be "carrying" and could shoot you at the mere sign of approaching them with a verbal retaliation. Trust me as a Canadian living among them you must keep your thoughts to yourself when there are many angry and sick people wandering among the population.

Owen Gray said...

And it looks like those six characters will be there for a long time, Cap.

Owen Gray said...

I do not envy anyone who lives there, zoombats.

zoombats said...

True Owen. I am in the process of selling my house and relocating to Drummondville. Until then I will"Keep my head down and my powder dry, as the saying goes.

Owen Gray said...

We used to live just down the road from Drummondville, zoombats -- a really nice part of the country.

e.a.f. said...

The stand your ground escape clause is convient if you're white and some one is not upsets you, you can shoot and kill them and not have to worry.
About a decade ago a woman, whose skin was black, was threatened in a Walmart by her husband who had been very abusive. He was threatening her in the store, so being afraid, she fired a gun imto the air. The courts sentenced her for several years.

As time has past the laws regarding guns have deteriorated in the U.S.A. When I think back about it, it seems that as Civil Rights became something people of colour started acquiring, there were more and more guns and the laws permitted. Of course the gun manufacturers say a great opportunity to make a lot more money than they had in the past.

It is doubtful the American Supreme Court or the Republicans would restrict guns, even if a dozen or more children were shot to death per day. --

The open carry laws are just ridiculous. AKs they're for fighting wars. If you need to use one for hunting, you might want to improve your shooting/hunting skills.

Owen Gray said...

AR 15s are not used to hunt deer, e.a.f.

Anonymous said...

All I really have to say about this appalling murder spree is that we wait day in day out for the "breaking news" of the next mass shooting and the outpouring of tweets of republican politicians and their wives sending their thoughts and prayers to the next innocent victims of a totally preventable massacre. Makes me want to stay far away from the border. BC Waterboy

Owen Gray said...

I feel exactly as you do, waterboy.