Friday, September 22, 2006

Gun Control Means Steady Aim

The Waco Kid: *holds out right hand* "You see this hand?"
Bart: "Steady as a rock."
The Waco Kid: *holds up a violently trembling left hand* "Yeah, but I shoot with this one."
(From Blazing Saddles. As Mel Brooks movies go, it's no Spaceballs, but it's pretty darn funny even so.)

This will be the first (and shorter, most likely) of two posts I've mentioned a couple times on my Xanga blog. Both have been rattling around in my head for a few weeks. With a great deal of luck and a very cooperative son, I hope to get them both out today. If not, so be it.

It occurred to me some time ago that in the general orientation of the political spectrum, the issue of gun control finds, it seems, the bulk of its supporters on the leftish side. Frankly, this perplexes me. Given all the talk one hears from that end of the spectrum regarding the preservation of civil liberties, it seems somewhat self-contradictory that the same group should support legal and political measures that limit "the right of the people to keep and bear arms," as explicitly stated in the Constitution (whereas the words "privacy," "choice," and "abortion" are not even implied in the document). I find this fascinating. Now, I'm not opposed to all forms of gun-control - there are some people who shouldn't be allowed to own firearms, and nobody really needs a bazooka (except maybe me...). But it seems incongruous to me that from a political camp whence come frequent references to Constitutional rights and Big Brother, we should also hear calls for extreme restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms - up to and including calls for a completely disarmed populace.

Now, as to the second amendment, you may point out that although it does say "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," it qualifies that right, limiting it to the context of "a well regulated militia," as "essential to the security of the state," (I'm quoting from memory here, so I may not be getting it verbatim, but that's the general sense). Some read this qualification and say that we have the National Guard. That's our militia. The amendment only guarantees the right of the militia/National Guard to be armed, not the general populace as a whole. My response is that we must look at the historical context in which this amendment was written. First, we must understand what the Framers would have understood by the term "militia." The militia would have been drawn from among the general populace - ideally every able-bodied adult male - and the militiamen would have kept their arms in their homes. Second, we must look at what had just happened: the American Revolution. This was a situation in which the (armed) populace had risen up and thrown off an oppressive government. The aim of the second amendment (no pun intended) is, it seems, to ensure that such a thing could happen again if it becomes necessary. A disarmed populace has no means of defending itself against an oppressive government. Finally, I note that, qualification aside, the amendment still says that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Again, the intent is to ensure the ability of the populace to defend itself against an oppressive government. Saying "the National Guard counts, hand over your guns," simply doesn't work with a proper, historically conditioned understanding of the second amendment.

Thus ends my first blogging foray into politics. I generally prefer to avoid politics in favor of theology and Biblical scholarship, in which arenas I'm considerably more comfortable, but this occurred to me some time ago, and I thought I would put it out there for perusal.

No comments: