Remedial Reading For NPR Listeners

I’ve said it before: being a Second Amendment supporter is a lot like the movie  Ground Hog Day.  You – or rather, your opponents, the gun-grabbers – just keep repeating the same memes, over and over again.

Over 25 years of being an activist, if I’ve heard…:

  • “The founding fathers couldn’t have foreseen weapons today!”
  • “You oppose gun control?  So felons should have guns, then?”
  • “Gun owners must be compensating for something…”
  • “Yes, I know you keep refuting the statistics, but the statistics I have prove that gun control lowers crime!”
…once, I’ve heard them a million times over the past quarter-century.

Oh, yeah – another one is “it’s impossible for a normal human to tell what the Second Amendment actually means”.

Such is the tack of Linton Weeks, writing in an op-ed space at National Public Radio.

How can something apparently so simple — a 27-word sentence — be so confusing? What is so hard to understand about “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”?

As it turns out, after more than 200 years of intense scrutiny by people more versed in The Law than you and I — and in the face of seemingly endless American gun violence — the meaning of the Second Amendment continues to baffle and elude. In this case, the country’s Founders have left us to founder.

Is it a sweeping constitutional guarantee that individuals have unfettered access to guns, or a practical agreement that allows for citizen armies in times of extraordinary national need?

According to Weeks, the the answer is as imponderable is “what is the nature of God”, or perhaps “how does NPR consider itself unbiased?”.  And like all imponderables, one turns to the humanities:

Maybe it would help everyone to think about this complicated dictum in a more slant way, hold it up to the light and look at it from different angles, the way poets approach other tough concepts — such as love, hate and injustice.

A Tone Poem

After all, says U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, poetry has the “ability to help us deal with difficult things.”

Follow the hilarity on your own time.

But Mr. Weeks’ piece is pretty clearly aimed at NPR’s core audience – liberals who consider themselves smarter than average, and are nonetheless low-information voters.

Because the Second Amendment has been analyzed for centuries – and especially for the past couple of decades – by two groups of people who make sense of words:  grammarians who work with words, and lawyers, who work with words that are written in the form of laws.

Grammar Got Run Over By Nena Totenberg

The Second 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”, is two clauses.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”, the first clause, makes no sense standing on its own.  It’s called a “dependent clause”.

“the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”?  That makes sense standing on its own.  It’s an “Independent Clause”.  The sentence really says “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged, because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state”.

Even a tone poet can follow that, right?

It’s Just Like Shakespeare Said

Of course, that leaves two words undefined:  ”Militia”, and “people”, as in “right of the people”.

Of course, in the First Amendment, there’s no question what a “right of the people” means; it means religion, press, assembly and speech refer only to churches, newspapers, legislatures and broadcasters.  Right?

Of course not.  ”Right of the people” refers to “the people, as individuals”.

But Let’s Cut The Crap

Mr. Weeks’ thesis – that the Second Amendment is an inscrutable bit of language – isn’t entirely without merit.  No less a legal luminary than Dr. Sanford Levinson wrote about this twenty years ago in “The Embarrassing Second Amendment“, noting that the Second is a singularly poorly-written bit of law.

Poorly.  Not indecipherably.

Levinson – a card-carrying gun-hating liberal – concludes that the Amendment means…

…exactly what we shooters have always said it means.  It’s a right of the people, not the National Guard.  And the fact that the Founders never envisioned the AR15 or the HK91 or the Glock is no more important than the fact that they never envisioned radio, TV or the Internet.

Levinson’s article led, indirectly and circuitously, to the Supreme Court saying…exactly that; that the Second Amendment is pretty clearly understood, in the Heller decision.

Which gives Mr. Weeks’ question a pretty cut and dried answer, albeit one that NPR would like to make sure doesn’t get much airplay.

16 thoughts on “Remedial Reading For NPR Listeners

  1. The militia referred to was not an arm of the central government. This is clear from the context of the time. When a community was threatened, it was assumed that the community would react. I had an ancestor who lived in southern Iowa during the Civil War. He was a member of a militia whose task was to deal with renegade confederates, deserters, and guerilla groups, that might wander over the border from Missourri. He was not commissioned, he was not in any kind of army. His qualifications for being a member of the militia were that he had a horse and a gun.

  2. Once again, you’re playing on the gun grabbers home turf, using their ball.

    How about “People with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. In fact, they are more likely to harm themselves”

    That, Mitch, is the argument we should be having. First, because it is the correct one to have if public safety is the goal, and second because emerging research provides facts which put leftists in their place.

    For instance, from the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, American Sociological Association:

    “For years a debate existed in the literature concerning whether or not mentally ill persons were more dangerous than others. Empirical work was hampered by conceptual and methodological shortcomings, and was therefore unable to settle the debate. Recently, methodologically sophisticated studies have produced evidence which indicates a modest association between active major mental disorders and violence. While some interpret this association to mean that mental illness or particular symptoms directly cause unwarranted physical aggression, this paper examines the case for the social context establishing socializing and environmental conditions which are causal in both violence and the development of mental disorder. It reviews the literature, indicating lacunae in our knowledge base, and posits a causal model which links social stratification with both mental illness and violence through the structured types of strains, events, situations and persons an individual experiences as an integral part of life.”

    “Among social scientists, a strong intellectual tradition developed which held that
    the stereotype was false and that mentally ill persons were no more dangerous than others. Recently some social scientists of this tradition have reversed their positions on the basis of new, more sophisticated studies (Manahan 1992; Hodgins 1993).

    These studies have found a modest association between major mental illness and violence which cannot be explained away as spurious with demographic and historical controls.”

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2137220?uid=3739896&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101553571421

    But of course, this is your blog, your rules…TEH CLIPZ ARE NOT TEH MAGAZINES!!!!! Ha! AVERY LIBERELLE is teh PW3NED again!

  3. Remedial reading for Shot in the dark readers wishing to win this debate:

    “Understanding the connection between mental illness and violence
    Virginia Aldige Hiday
    Professor, North Carolina State University

    “Recently, sophisticated epidemiological studies have faund an association
    between severe mental illness and violence that cannot be explained away
    by inadequate sampling or measurement, or with demographic and ecological
    controls (Link et al., 1992; Link & Stueve, 1994; Swanson et al., 1990;
    Swanson 1994).

    These studies reinforce findings from restricted samples of hospitalized
    and incarcerated persons showing that mental patients have relatively high
    rates of violence (Lagos et al., 1977 McNeil & Binder, 1986, 1994; Monahan
    , 1992) and prison inmates have high rates of mental illness (Collins and
    Schlenger, 1983; Cote & Hodgins, 1990, 1992; Jordan et al., 1996).”

  4. or practical agreement that allows for citizen armies in times of extraordinary national need?

    A perfect example of tortured LibeRAT logic – if in their ideal world citizenry does not posess arms, what will “citizen armies in times of extraordinary national need” use to subdue the threat? Poetry?

  5. Excellent point, Terry.

    When I lived in Houston back in the 1980s, a tornado tore through the neighborhood of one of my co-workers. He had a chunk of 120 year old live oak tree drop into his family room. Despite the fact that the twister hit about 10:20 p.m. no one was injured. They were in Fort Bend County, under the jurisdiction of the county Sheriff. The lookie loos arrived about the same time as the first responders. At the time FB County was growing so fast that the Sheriff’s office was under manned, so they suggested to the residents that they set up an overnight neighborhood watch to prevent looting. So, the 15 men on the block, including my co-worker, grabbed their shotguns, handguns and rifles, made sure everyone had a flashlight then set up the patrols. Between 1 and 3 a.m. they caught six looters in the act and held them for the Sheriff. No one got in trouble and the looters were prosecuted. Oh to live in a state that respects its citizens and their individual rights!

  6. Boss: responsible gun usage? I’ve never heard of such a thing and I’ve been listening to NPR for years. Only maniacs with no appreciation for civil discourse own guns. My gosh, Boss, I’ll have to take another Valium just to deal with your fiction.

  7. Big; Yea, the best part was that none of the looters were shot! They were held, albeit at the point of from 3 to 5 guns, until the proper authorities could come and haul them off. I know it’s a disappointment to the anti gun crowd when responsible citizens use their legally owned guns for something other than having gun fights in the streets. In TEXAS no less!

  8. I just love the “you have the right to a musket” argument.

    Never mind that individuals owned cannons at the time of the founding. The redcoats didn’t march on Lexington and Concord to confiscate muskets.

    Private ships were armed with cannon. And the Constitution also specifically provides for letters of Marque and Reprisal. which would necessitate private ownership of military grade weaponry.

    Besides the founders could not possibly have conceived of machine run offset printing presses, radio, television or the internet. No free speech for you!

  9. There are two reasons that the Left opposes private ownership of guns. I think most politically motivated gun control advocates would agree that I have the reasoning correct, though they would phrase it differently.

    One – When used in self defense or home defense, an individual is liable to make a bad choice that reflects his or her prejudices. Only the State and its judicial system can administer punishment fairly, and allowing people to use guns to defend themselves makes them judge, jury, and executioner.

    Two – The idea that a community (re the 2nd amendment) is able to self-organize to defend its interests is anathema. Only the centralized State is able to engage in collective defense. If communities do this on their own, they will take actions that the centralized states oppose. Communities have no legitimate self interest that are not identical to those of the centralized State.

    What they are afraid of is that white permit holders will kill the poor or minorities when they might not kill another white guy.

    What they are afraid of is that communities that can come together in common defense have gone a long way towards usurping the poser of the State. Also, see the racism point above.

  10. I remember having a – discussion – with a roommate back in the 80s about the right to self-defense should someone break into your home. At one point he asked, “Yes, but is your stereo worth someone’s life?”

    I responded that that was a very good question, and one that a potential burglar should be asking, not me. At which point he literally and figuratively threw up his hands and declared, “There’s no arguing with you!” (Translation: “I’m intellectually out of ammo.”)

  11. Would the “right to only a musket” crowd apply the same logic to American Indian treaties’ rights as related to the harvesting of game and wild rice?

    How the government proposes to address the “mental illness problem” should just as scary to everyone as their potential “gun problem” solutions are to those of us who are firearms enthusiasts.

  12. Night Writer-
    The question, of course, isn’t whether a stereo is worth a person’s life (it isn’t), but what kind of lunatic will break into a home knowing it is occupied or that he can expect the homeowner to return any moment?
    If you take a pass and let them walk away, whose home will they break into the next time they need a fix?

    I have a friend in Hilo who had his home broken into while the family was asleep. He woke up in the AM and found a bunch of valuables gone. They were able to retrace the burglar’s steps.
    The first thing the crook did was collect all the phones and stash them where they were hide to find. Then he went into the master bedroom and took the wife’s jewelry from a box on her nightstand. Then he went into the kids’ room and took some electronics.
    My friend was shaken by the experience. He kept wondering what would have happened if his wife had woken up or if one of the kids had gotten up in the middle of the night while the burglar was in the house.
    A homeowner in a hot burglary has every right to put one between the eyes of the burglar, and it ain’t because his stereo is worth more than a human life.
    They eventually caught the guy who burgled my friend’s house. He was a petty crook who liked breaking into peoples houses while they slept and playing the cat burglar. He got off on it.

  13. Heck, Big! Dewar’s is one of my favorite brands! Let me know where and I’ll join you! I’ll even serve as your DD, because of the Valium, of course! :-)

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