I’m not sure if anyone’s ever made this argument before. If they did, I’m not sure how we got past it. If James Madison – the author of the Second Amendment – saw us arguing today about the sacred right of gun ownership in America, he’d want to shoot himself in the head. Hopefully, he’d stop himself in time (gun-owning people can be dangerous to themselves with guns – there’s data!) and grab us so he could point to the words he wrote in the Second Amendment (“keep” and “bear”), and to the one word he didn’t: “own”. I defy any gun rights advocate to point to the word “own” in the Second Amendment. They can’t, of course, because it isn’t there – and never has been and never was because it was never intended to be there! It is a stone cold fact: there is no right to gun ownership in the Second Amendment. None. Zilch. Zippo.
Let’s start there. It’s where our whole conversation about guns and the Second Amendment should have started from. It does not matter where SCOTUS reimagined the comma after “A well regulated militia”, the word “own” still does not appear afterwards. Madison used “keep” and “bear” instead – neither of which is “own”.
Now, let’s shoot down (pun intended) the natural right wing knee jerk – that, somehow, Madison intended “own” when he wrote “keep” and “bear”. That’s horse shit – to be polite about it. Consider how many of the rest of the documents Madison was involved in crafting and drafting were focused on making the United States of America a place where private property ruled. Ownership was front and center in Madison’s mind when he wrote the Second Amendment. Yet, when it came to the relationship a citizen should have with “arms”, he avoided “own”. He could have written “…the right to own arms shall not be infringed”, but he wrote “keep” and “bear” instead. Because ownership was not on the table!
One can “keep” and “bear” something that one does not own. When you rent something, you get to “keep” and “bear” it under a contract with the something’s actual owner. When they say “give it back”, you had better – because it doesn’t belong to you. That was the relationship Madison imagined for American citizens and weaponry. They could keep it so long as the well regulated militia – the arms’ actual owner – said they could.
Hey, that’s just how it’s written. I haven’t done a single bit of gymnastics here. It is ludicrous to insist that “well regulated” meant “gun free-for-all” to Madison. I bet if Federalist Madison had wanted to put that much literal firepower into peoples’ hands down at the individual citizen level, he’d have written it that way.
Sometimes an argument stares you right in the face, daring you to make it. I think this is one of them. What argument can any gun rights advocate make? Own isn’t there. The best they can do is twist and turn as they parse language rather than rely on it.
It’s ironic as hell that originalists haven’t made this argument. Or, maybe it’s telling. Originalism is horse shit on steroids. It’s the kind of mutton headed argument only white men could come up with to justify their unending grip on power. They hear it and think it’s genius. The rest of us can’t roll our eyes hard enough. Originalists are like pathetic, old men doddering out of a public bathroom with a mile of toilet paper stuck to their pee-spotted, old man shoe. What’s most ironic of all is how originalists like Sam Alito refuse to acknowledge unenumerated rights – like the right to have an abortion or marry whomever you like or be treated with dignity because you’re LGBTQ while one of the rights he insists he has simply IS NOT ENUMERATED.
But then, one could grow old waiting for a conservative to be consistent – or honest to begin with.
I mentioned above that we’d get to what gun rights people really want their guns for. Nothing epitomizes a gun rights advocate’s madness and dishonesty more than the image of one of them striding through a Walmart armed for battle. First question – who the hell are they afraid of at Walmart (or wherever)? Pretty much no one else there is packing. They pose zero threat to the gun-toting lunatic. The only person there posing a threat to anyone else is the gun-toter! And that’s the point: the people insisting they need their death machines – that’s what guns are – to protect their homes and family are talking out their arses. The data says so. In fact, the data says that having a gun in a house makes it far more likely that the gun will be used against someone in the house. BY someone in the house.
Back before the NRA represented the gun manufacturers, they really were a “gun safety” organization. Alas, there ain’t much money in that. But repping gun manufacturers? Imagine if you could get even just a little taste of gun sales money. Money corrupts like nothing else. Gun love makes that corruption hyper deadly.
And gun love corrupts logic even worse than money does. That’s probably all the racism behind gun love wanting to show its desiccated face. Racism corrupts logic even more than gun love does.