I promise, this will be as short as a snub-nosed resolver — maybe even shorter.
The Second Amendment reads, “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.”
Now, I’ve never cared much about gun rights or gun control, one way or the other. I’ve never owned a gun (unless the B.B. gun I bought to scare rabbits out of the vegetable garden counts). While I have no problem with my friends who hunt larger game, I cried the last time I shot a rabbit myself. (He was just a little bunny, and I shot him in the eye by mistake, and he… Well, you get the picture.) So my support for gun rights has had nothing to do with deer hunting season, or even of defending my home against a burglar. Rather, I’m a constitutional geek, a strict constructionist, and I’m intent on honoring the wisdom of the founding fathers. And back when I was studying constitutional law, I thought a lot about the importance of militias. Ever since, my support for the Second Amendment has always been based on the idea that having a militia is pretty doggone important to protect us (the people) against a standing army controlled by a tyrannical government.
I was surprised recently to hear a liberal friend of mine agree. With our current President obviously in mind, she opined that having a militia is a very important safeguard against tyrannical government. (You never know. Maybe, if my belief in the importance of the militia catches on, the Trump presidency will convince more liberals that having an effective milita is important .)
Anyway, in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court held (5-4) that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms regardless of the individual’s connection to any organized militia. Ouch. That decision was a blow to my strict constructionist roots, since the Court acknowledged that the ability to field a militia was a major part of the purpose of the Second Amendment. As a strict constructionist, that, for me, is what the Amendment has always been about.
So here’s my question: to the extent that anyone, left or right, thinks militias are important to protect us from the possibility of a tyrannical government in Washington, what impact has two hundred years of military spending had on the issue?
I mean, back in the 1780’s when the founding fathers were cooking all this stuff up, the average homeowner owned a musket and a fishing knife – essentially the same weapons used by General Washington’s federal army. True, Washington’s army also had a few small cannon here and there, but clearly, if the federal army had fallen under the spell of a hated tyrant, a crowd of angry citizens, armed with muskets and fishing knives, could have taken on that army. And they would have stood a pretty decent chance of preserving their rights. For me, the Second Amendment is all about achieving that same ability today.
But today, our standing federal army has more than rifles and fishing knives. Now, it has not only automatic weapons, but tanks, aircraft carriers, stealth bombers, ICBM’s and of course nuclear bombs. So the current debate about gun control has me thinking again about what it will take to have an effective militia. (Always a dangerous undertaking, especially now that I’ve grown tired of being wrong all the time.) It occurs to me that what’s important, from a constitutional perspective, hasn’t changed since the 1780’s. I mean, it doesn’t matter whether we have advanced weapons or old-fashioned ones, as long as the people themselves have firepower roughly similar to that of the standing army. To achieve that, it seems to me, one option would be to give school crossing guards RPG’s. Every qualified Neighborhood Watch Association could be assigned a tank. Local yacht clubs could share entitlement to battleships or aircraft carriers, and local flying clubs could be equipped with fully armed B-52’s. Of course, they’d all be well trained. I should think that would give the people a fighting chance against a tyrannical government.
You may think I’m kidding, but seriously, I think I may finally be right about something. Having an effective militia is important, and to have one, we the people need to have as much firepower as the Pentagon. So: either we can equip our selves like the Pentagon does, OR, we could get the Feds to limit their own armaments to what homeowners are allowed to have. Maybe everybody could be limited to a handgun — teachers, students, homeowners, and the Joint Chiefs themselves — handguns, flintlocks, fishing knives, whatever — as long as the standing army is no better equipped than the average homeowner. To have an effective Second Amendment, the standing army could be required to get rid of all those M1 Abrams tanks, guided missiles, and other unfair advantages that would put down a popular insurrection in the bat of an eye. From a constitutional perspective, I’m convinced that rough parity is all that’s essential.
So. Am I the only one left who champions the Second Amendment on the basis of the need for an effective militia? I mean, I know there are some who claim to , but those I’ve met also support a stronger federal military. Given that such a huge imbalance between the parties already exists, I don’t see how such people can really claim to support the Second Amendment and an increase in federal military spending at the same time — not if having an effective militia is really important to them.
Anyway, thinking about this effective militia idea, and pondering the fact that it’s really about keeping parity between the citizens and their army, I started to wonder how much money could be saved if we restored parity with everyone having smaller weapons, rather than bigger ones. I mean, it would probably be expensive if I had to have my own launch pad in the attic; and an Abrams tank would probably do serious damage to my front yard. So I was pleased to discover that the always sensible Swiss may have the answer. They’ve come up with a real handgun that’s only two inches long.
They’re available for only a little over $6,000 each — far less than the cost of an M1 Abrams, for example — and if we made sure that everybody had one, the demand would probably drive the price down to the truly affordable. See http://www.zdnet.com/article/worlds-smallest-gun-is-highly-concealable-triggers-fears/
Seriously, I’m still not sure where I stand on gun control and the right to bear arms, but as a strict constructionist, I think I’ve finally found a principled basis for addressing the issue. We clearly need to choose between one of the solutions I’ve mentioned if weapons parity and an effective militia are to be maintained. Otherwise, I’m thinking that having an effective militia is a battle we’ve already lost, and we’re soon to be chum for the tyrants.
Thoughts? Help from any quarter would be appreciated.