This is very much an “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation. America watches a naked king ride by every day while pretending that this bloated, pink-skinned, pimply-and-pock-marked monarch is clothed. As we sit here today, we have it in our heads that the Second Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to own all the guns they want. I know why we think it says that (the gun lobby and the NRA), but the stone cold truth is IT DOESN’T. The Second Amendment as actually written doesn’t give any individual the right to own any gun. It simply doesn’t. Want proof? Find the word “own” in the 2A.
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.
It isn’t there – and that’s not an accident. The2A was NEVER meant to be a “gun freeforall”. Nowhere does the Constitution give any American the right to individually own a gun. The fact that we now think it does is evidence: we’re having the wrong debate about the Second Amendment. And about guns!
More Bad News…
Yesterday contained yet another story of gun violence in America. This one went someplace new alas:
A six year old used a gun to solve an emotional issue with a teacher. Whatever conversation we’ve all been having to get HERE? It’s bullshit. Point to another country on the map where this happens?
You’ll have the same luck pointing to the word “own” in the Second Amendment. It just isn’t there.
Neither Keep Nor Bear Equals Own
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. Madison was involved in crafting and drafting a document – the Constitution – that specifically made 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. When he framed the relationship Americans should have with “arms”, he avoided the word “own” – a perfectly good word back then as now.
Madison could have written “…the right to own arms shall not be infringed”, but he wrote “keep” and “bear” instead. Why? Because ownership was not on the table!
Ever Rent A Car?
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. Like I said – we’ve got us a naked emperor and he needs us to call him out.
Calling All “Originalists”!
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 (and their fly open). 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 intellectually honest.
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. No one around the gun-toting lunatic poses a threat to the 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.
Gun Love And Racism
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.
Heller Can Go To Hell
One last proof that what I’m saying is absolutely right.
Antonin Scalia and his Heller Decision.
In Heller, the SCOTUS threw out the requirement that gun owners be part of a militia in order to “keep and bear arms”. Okay – fair enough. But the ownership problem remains unresolved because even in Heller? There’s a missing word: “OWN”!
Go ahead – read the whole District of Columbia v. Heller decision for yourself! Be sure to mark down how many times Scalia uses the word “own”. Spoiler alert: the answer’s ZERO.
Scalia doesn’t use the word “own” in Heller because he can’t. In his closing argument, Scalia bring one other word into the mix – but only this one time in the whole decision – “possess”. Hmmmmm… turns out if you look up the word “possess”, ONE of its many possible definitions is “own”. So, one way of defining “possess” is “own”. If I possess something I own it therefore.
That’s not so! Even Scalia knew he couldn’t make that shit wagon fly.
Let’s ask ourselves: WHY did Scalia avoid the word “own”? Well, because first, Tony would have had to explain why James Madison didn’t write “own” to begin with. And Tony knew: that can of worms was toxic to his argument.
Antonin Scalia knew the 2A granted no right to individual gun ownership. The closest he could come was “possess”. That leaves the ownership up in the air. Per the 2A the well regulated militia arbitrates who gets to “keep” and “bear” arms. If the 2A is the law of the land then the law says what it says – and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.
It does NOT say that any individual has the right to own a gun. Anyone saying it does is full of shit. They need to re-prioritize their love of weapons and killing people.