Random Thoughts on the 2nd Amendment

Obama Administration

I have long thought that someday gun violence could create a backlash to 2nd Amendment absolutism and touch off a movement to amend the amendment. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re going in that direction.

There is an understandable reluctance to mess with the Bill of Rights. Recent polls show somewhat more support for gun control than for gun rights, however. And as I wrote recently, the percentage of U.S. citizens who keep guns in their homes has been drifting downward for decades. If current trends continue, at some point a big enough majority will conclude that gun rights absolutism is a public menace that can no longer be tolerated.

Of course, current trends will not necessarily continue. If the gun rights absolutists had the sense God gave refrigerator mold they would get behind regulations that, say, limit magazine capacity and close the gun show loophole. That might appease enough of the public to at least postpone a day of reckoning, possibly indefinitely.

However, going by Wayne LaPierre’s bizarre performance yesterday, they don’t have that much sense.

What may be needed eventually is a constitutional amendment clarifying the 2nd. The current SCOTUS to the contrary, if one simply looks at the real history of guns in America, one sees that the notion that the 2nd prohibits government regulation of firearms is a relatively recent conceit, even for the NRA. See, for example, “The Secret History of Guns” by Adam Winkler. For more on how far the gun rights crowd has drifted from any original intention of the Constitution, see “So You Think You Know the Second Amendment?” by Jeffrey Toobin.

Sometimes clarification is needed. The 16th Amendment, for example, did not so much amend the Constitution as it did clarify that a tax on income in an indirect, not a direct, tax, and arguably it always was an indirect tax except that in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. (1895) a majority of justices said it wasn’t. And I’m saying the 2nd doesn’t have to be repealed, but it does need to be clarified so that the power of state and federal governments to regulate firearms is restored to what it used to be. A clarifying amendment couldn’t get ratified by enough states now, but I could see it happening in another generation or two.

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  1. Joseph  •  Dec 22, 2012 @2:50 pm

    Would also highly recommend “To Keep and Bear Arms” by Garry Wills in NYRB:

  2. Chief  •  Dec 22, 2012 @2:52 pm


    To you and yours and all the readers, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or wharever is appropriate for you.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 22, 2012 @3:34 pm

    A clarifying statement would be nice. But, is it really necessary?
    Here’s the 2nd 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.”

    All of the attention has shifted away from the first part of that Amendment, to the last part. If we paid any attention to the first part, we might not be in the mess we’re in today.

    Outside of White Supremacist “Militia’s,” and/or “End Times’ ones, how many WELL REGULATED State Militia’s do you think our pistol packin’ n’ loving “Yosemite Sam’s,” “Ping-ping-PING! Ricochet Rabbit’s,” and their “Droop-a-Long” sidekicks, belong to?
    My guess would be, none. Zip! Zero! Zilch! Notta!!!

    The 2nd Amendment was written at a time when this nation had no standing Army. Those WELL REGULATED State Militia’s were critical to our nations defense. They were the first line of defense in case of a foreign attack. They were to “hold the fort”, until a standing Army could be formed. And the “original intent,” as I remember it, was not to have a standing Army, only calling one together if/when one was needed.
    Those State Militia’s were also critical in handling Native American uprisings. You know, like when the natives got a tad touchy and restless as the white men kept encroaching on, and seizing their land.

    And what WELL REGULATED State Militia would want, as part of its force, a bunch of overly-anxious, under-peckered pistol packin’ yahoo’s and doofuses?
    Any group composed of gun-toting imbeciles like Ted Nugent and Phil Gramm, is less likely to suffer losses from any action, as they are from one of the Good Ol’ Boys getting upset that another one is bogarting that bourbon whiskey bottle too damn long, and replacing damn good hootch with their backwash, and atomizing the back of the guy’s head by emptying their clip – and that’s if they hit the right guy.

    Also too – if the Amendment included the word ‘regulated” as being a pre-condition for keeping and bearing arms as part of a well regulated Militia, then why can’t States regulate what kind of guns can be purchased, how many of them, and the types of ammo and magazines needed to make them more lethal, than if they were just being used as clubs to whack another person over the head with?

    And finally, also three – “keep and bear arms” doesn’t mean buy and sell arms.

    Why not make gun purchases available only through licensed agents, who will have strict rules to follow before selling a gun to someone?
    And any and all resales, must be handled by those same agents. Even any inherited firearms should have to be relicensed by a government-approved agent. Fees will be charged for every transaction, proficiency and knowledge of gun safety rules must be displayed, and a person can only hold that license for a fixed period of time, like a drivers license, before it has to be renewed.

    Them’s the $0.02 worth from this non-gun owning city boy.

  4. maha  •  Dec 22, 2012 @3:56 pm

    But, is it really necessary?

    It seems to me that it is, although it shouldn’t be.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 22, 2012 @4:30 pm

    Sad, but true…

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 22, 2012 @5:15 pm

    What really still surprises me, is that the hard-core, racist NRA members (no, certainly not all of them), don’t want gun control in selective areas – you know, the places where the “Blah” people live.

    One might think they’d want gun control in those areas, so that the “Blah’s” can’t hot-wire Caddie’s or Lexus’s, or get on trains or buses, and go all “In Cold Blood” on some poor white rural family?

    Is it because they want the “Blah’s,” the “game,” armed, to if they come, it’s a fair fight?
    I just don’t understand why the racist element in the NRA wouldn’t say, ‘OK, NY, Chicago, DC, LA, St. Louis, Houston, go ahead, pass your gun control laws. We want the Niggra’s unarmed, too.”

    Can anyone help me understand this?

  7. justme277  •  Dec 22, 2012 @6:54 pm

    Bizarre press conference indeed. Did anyone notice the irony of wayne tell us he called on congress to find the funds to put armed guards in place in every school when their own press confrence was interrupted by people protesting. Hey there wayne, how about you worry about security at the NRA and let us worry about our kids.

    And about “calling on congress to find the funds to add armed security to every school” let me translate that for you, please! “We made a big fat mess with guns in this country so YOU dig into YOUR pockets and pay higher taxes to clean it up when one of the loonies falls off the path”. Wayne does not want to keep guns out of the hands of people like the Newtown shooter because it creates a need for “more guns ” to protect yourself from the “bad guys”. Look wayne, we already paid. With the lives of loved ones, with our freedom to go anywhere.We already paid with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because as long as we are caught in the cross fire between the” good guys and the bad guys” ALL of those things are restricted from us.

    And a word about the good guys, bad guys horseshit: Are you really naive enough to believe one of the “good guys” could be just one event away from turning into a “bad guy”? One unexpected trip home to find the little lady banging the pool boy and the gardner and our “Good guy” goes bad .Your good guy might be ok forever, or he could snap tomorrow YOU DON’T KNOW. Mental health is a fine line. There are any number of factors that can make a person snap( waynes press confrence annoying a middle aged woman with PMS for example).

    I don’t want children around guns EVER. I don’t care who has them. And I want our teachers to TEACH. Not training to be expert marksmen/ sharp shooters. And can you please tell me how are children are safer in the middle of a shoot out between the “Good guys and the bad guys”

    In the past few years restrictions on concealed carry permits were eased in Iowa so now most anyone can get one.Every guy with a short penis and something to prove walks around packing guns on their sides with barrels as long as their upper leg.When it first started I was in the market. Standing in a long check out line I saw a man with a gun on his side, next a woman with 2 small kids, both under 6, then another guy with a gun, then me. The kids didn’t notice the guns at first I guess and they weaved in and out of the railing that divides check stands. One of them popped up from under the railing right under man 1 with a gun. The kid freaked out when he looked up. He looked at me and I thought he might cry, but he ran to his moms side and CLUNG to her leg, looking up at the man with terror in his eyes. His mom brushed her hands thru his hair in a comfofrting way and told him” You have been so good today, do you want to go pick out a piece of candy for a special reward?” He clung tighter. It tugged at my heart strings. She said” go on now, take your sister and pick her out one too”. He looked up at man 1, who was collecting his bags and leaving. So he took his little sisters hand and lead her back to where I stood and I scooted over so they could select their candy. The little boy smiled at me and said “Thank you maam” and the little girl looked up and smiled. As they picked up their candy they looked up at the man 2. As soon as the boy saw the mans gun he put his arm around his sister, looked up at man with a gun and lead his sister away. He went straight back to his mom and clung to her leg again, she tried to get him to get off of her so she could pay and collect her items but he again clung tighter. She asked him”Whats the matter” and he said “Mommy that man has a gun and I am afraid”. She shot the man a glance that I am shocked didn’t make him piss his pants , even with a gun. ” Yes” , she said loud enough so we could all hear ” And I guess he doesn’t read either because he ignored the “no guns” sign on the door” so no candy for him he was bad” Well that made the boy feel better. He held his candy in one hand and his sisters hand with his other and he kept looking at the man. I couldn’t help but feel we let those kids down. It would be un thinkable to let a guy walk thru the store with a flame thrower, but probably safer

    If that press confrence was not a slap in the face to the 20 families ONE WEEK after their kids were gunned down than I don’t know what is. How dare they? It should have made them so angry they demand change.

    As long as ANYONE has guns we won’t be safe. Thats what I got from waynes strange display.The “good guys” sounding insane does NOT help their case.

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 22, 2012 @7:55 pm

    I wish someone had started a movement to send wrapped Christmas gifts to the NRA, with the name of a dead child from Newtown on it, and a card on it that says to them, “Please find a good home for this gift, and give it to some needy child. The dear, much beloved, child that this gift was intended for is dead – shot dead by a gunman with an NRA-approved semi-automatic weapon. I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas. The family and friends of this murdered child will never have another one. That child’s body is buried, but the memory of them, and their moment of death, and the sound of the dirt hitting their little coffin, will linger on to their own deaths. Thank you.”

  9. Swami  •  Dec 22, 2012 @11:29 pm

    Wayne didn’t impress me as being to mentally stable. Something in his body language and demeanor told me watch out..low flash point,frustrates easily, highly volatile, and probably packin’. He might have been very uncomfortable in front of a critical audience having to read a statement that he knew was pure bullshit..That might account for some of his demeanor, but even with that as a consideration he still came off as a total whack job.

    What’s with the bad guy’s thing?.. No more evil doers?

  10. Fred  •  Dec 23, 2012 @12:41 am

    There are more than 100,000,000 gun owners. Do you really think they are all collectively guilty for Newton?

  11. biggerbox  •  Dec 23, 2012 @1:05 am

    I think the general response to LaPierre’s presser was various levels of revulsion. I’ve very glad about that.

    It was oddly dissociated from reality – is the NRA really calling for a multi-billion dollar program to fund school guards? Of course not. Does Wayne LaPierre not know that there was an armed guard at Columbine? Of course he does. Does he not realize that Virgina Tech had its own armed campus police force? It’s beyond belief.

    So we were left with the vision of a man cynically and dishonestly promoting the horrific image of gunman patrolling the halls of our elementary schools, simply because his career is all about promoting guns. Therefore his answer to gun violence is to suggest that more guns will make things better, not because that’s true, but because that’s what he’s paid for, and what makes the gun manufacturers who pay much of his million-dollar salary happy.

    It was disgusting, and not just to liberals.

  12. Doug  •  Dec 23, 2012 @1:37 am

    “Why not make gun purchases available only through licensed agents, who will have strict rules to follow before selling a gun to someone?
    And any and all resales, must be handled by those same agents. Even any inherited firearms should have to be relicensed by a government-approved agent. Fees will be charged for every transaction, proficiency and knowledge of gun safety rules must be displayed, and a person can only hold that license for a fixed period of time, like a drivers license, before it has to be renewed.”

    Amen, C U N D Gulag. IMO, this is the crux of true gun control. A proficient shooter can change clips in about a second – for real. So a 10-shot clip restriction won’t make you safer. Effective regulation makes ACCESS to guns more difficult for people who should not posses. We aren’t prepared to identify who should not posses – much less impede their ability to buy. It’s a bunch more difficult to do than banning rifles with grips and big-ass clips. But one approach will have a real effect – the other is smoke and mirrors for the rubes.

    The NRA says it will always be possible to get a gun – which is true. 300 million guns in circulation means accessibility can’t be shut off overnight. By comparison, there is still moonshine available – but it’s not easy to come by. I expect for a generation after prohibition was repealed, moonshine was still pretty common. That would happen with bootleg arms over time. Which points up a corollary fact – there are no instant fixes. Anyone who tells you there are is a fraud or a fool.

    I agree with Barbara about a constitutional amendment. I believe in the right to keep a weapon for self-defense, or hunting, or target shooting. The last interpretation of the USSC that I recall struck down a blanket gun ban and upheld the individual right. BUT the USSC has not indicated all restrictions are unconstitutional – but a blanket ban is.

    The 2nd amendment is ambiguous – there should be a ‘deal’ struck which upholds the individual right, and the power of the federal government to set standards – manufacture, sale, transfer, caliber, capacity – and the constitution should identify how much the state and local governments can exceed the federal rules.

    When some one can show me there is a pattern of abuse with conceal carry, I will argue for the repeal. My opinion is that it’s too easy to get a CC permit – there should be a VERY high level of skill and an understanding of what is and is not legal in using a weapon.

    Last thought – when the administration moves on gun regulation – that may push some individuals and groups over the edge. I was just about ready to admit (with relief) that my predictions of a violent reaction to the last election was paranoid. I don’t know, but I don’t think gun control was high on Obama’s to-do list – until the events of last week. Whack-jobs with arsenals have been waiting for the proof that the gub’mint wants to take their guns. So I’m going to say the jury is still out on a violent reaction from the radical fringe.

  13. Swami  •  Dec 23, 2012 @1:38 am

    Do you really think they are all collectively guilty for Newton?

    I’ve never had that thought, nor made that assertion. My mind, as infirmed as it is, has never descended to that level of abstract reasoning. Well, except maybe for trying to comprehend the passage in Genesis about being my brother’s keeper.

  14. justme277  •  Dec 23, 2012 @7:56 am

    I think we are ALL guilty. I am only sorry everyone does not take as much responsibility. Especially since we are trading the second for lives and liberty.We have known this was a problem for a long time and we did nothing to stop it. How do you not feel guilty for that? Can you not see grown ups failed those kids – all of us? How do you not feel guilt for that?

  15. paradoctor  •  Dec 23, 2012 @3:56 pm

    justme277; I beg to differ. When all are guilty, none are guilty. The National Rampagers Association has far more to do with this than you or I. And you and I did not do “nothing” to stop it; plenty have done plenty; it’s just that the NRA did more to keep it going.

    Do not, repeat, do not feel guilt that you do not merit and that others do.

  16. Bill B.  •  Dec 23, 2012 @7:42 pm

    I once read that writing letteres to the editor was one of the signs of mental illness. It is worth noting that the vast majority of letters to the editor around here are from right-wingers who are so self-righteously convinced of their rightness that the very idea of bothering to contradict them is preposterous. I don’t think they are convincing many people, but they sure are affirming themselves.

  17. Swami  •  Dec 23, 2012 @9:26 pm

    It might not be mental illness in it’s purist form, but there’s some unidentifiable aspect that tells me something ain’t right in their head. Where does this fit in?


  18. justme277  •  Dec 24, 2012 @6:28 am

    Speaking of the mentally Ill…Did anyone hear about tagg romneys recent comment that his father “wanted to be President less than anyone Ive met” Holy friggin crap! Boy did we ever dodge that bullet. Thank Heavens the man didn’t win! Those people(yep i said it those people) are nutty as the holiday fruitcake that gets passed around. Wrong, just wrong on so many levels. Thanks mittwitt for wasting America’s time.

  19. erinyes  •  Dec 24, 2012 @7:51 am


    I don’t know where this gun discussion will go, but I’m NOT optimistic.
    I mentioned once on this blog that I work with a guy who told me he is a Christian, and he carries his Bible and Glock with him where ever he goes.

    I think much of the problem is fear driven.I don’t own a gun, and I don’t (at this time) see the need to own one, much less carry one on my person.

    As for LaPierre’s idea about fortification of our schools,I’ll take the conservatives favorite line; “who’s gonna pay for that?”

    It certainly seems logical (to me) to ban high capacity magazines and “assault-style weapons”.

    It is curious that the mass shootings are not carried out in poor inner city environments by minorities. The problem seems to be with young middle class and upper middle class young men with low self esteem and a sense of extreme frustration. High capacity killing machines enable the killers, and act as props in the unfolding acting out on their frustration and anger.

    If there was a rash of shark attacks along the Pacific coast, most would think it silly and wasteful to install shark mesh at ALL the beaches. I think everyone would think it crazy to throw chum in the water near swimmers, but that’s kinda what’s going on.

  20. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 24, 2012 @7:52 am

    When I turn on my TV, I have it set to come on to MSNBC. And this morning, instead of Cup O’ Schmoe’s usual misogynistic GOB gab-fest, what do I see, but that sycophant, Disco Dancin’ Dave Gregory, interviewing that sociopath, Wayne LaPierre.

    The head of the NRA is nuttier than a Planter’s canning facility.

    And who would ever suspect that any of us would be missing the journalistic chops of “Not-So-Tiny” Timmeh?

    Just call all guns that aren’t simple handguns and hunting rifles, WMD, because that’s what semi, and automatic’s, are – WMD’s!
    We went to Iraq to find one form of them, only to find that our home WMD’s would kill far, far more people, than any imagined weapons Saddam Hussein ever had.

    I hope that those 30 pieces of silver you get every second, Mr. LaPierre, salve whatever passes for your soul.
    If you can continue to market Kindergarten’s as “Killing Fields,” and sell the country on having armed guards as every entrance, protecting our head-to-toe Kevlar-clad kids, you will go down in history as the greatest marketer of all time. Also, “Monster.”
    And, speaking of “going down,” I wish I was a religious man, so that I might feel that at some point, you’d get your just desserts – you and Dick Cheney finding out from Satan, what torture and brutal murderous mayhem are really like – every second, for all of eternity.
    But I believe that, if there is any God, He/She/It, will show you the error of your ways, and forgive you. That God is much, much more foregiving and magnanimous, than I ever would be.

    But on this Earth, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, my feeling is that, not enough bad things can happen to you, Mr. Waye LaPierre.
    And, sadly, not enough will…

    All I can say, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, is that I hope you pray every day that no one near and dear to you ends up being shredded to pieces by military hardware, like those poor, dead, children in Newtown last week – and my town, and your town, every day. Every damn day…

  21. Swami  •  Dec 24, 2012 @10:28 am

    I saw that interview with Wayne.. He came off as being a little more tightly wrapped than his first appearance, but he’s still a nut job…I liked that he’s a strong advocate of the Eddie Eagle assualt weapon safety program.


  22. Swami  •  Dec 24, 2012 @10:55 am

    justme277… I think that Romney’s having a hard time excepting rejection is more of an emotional immaturity than a mental illness. There’s nothing like a good kick in the teeth to all his donors and supporters though.

  23. Bill B.  •  Dec 24, 2012 @12:02 pm

    This will just enable those same supporters to go on in search of their “true conservatie” messiah, similar to Krugman’s recent NYT post on failed prophecies that just make the true believers more committed. Sorta like the Vegas losers who double down with their last dollar because they can’t face the reality of what they have done and what it has done to them. Not that I am too good to laugh at the consternation that must tinge their deepening efforts on that hole they’re in.

  24. erinyes  •  Dec 24, 2012 @3:23 pm

    Quite a link, Swami. Apparently guns DO kill people.Especially full auto weapons.

  25. Swami  •  Dec 24, 2012 @5:59 pm

    As for LaPierre’s idea about fortification of our schools,I’ll take the conservatives favorite line; “who’s gonna pay for that?”

    And another consideration is that some young school girls tend to find an infatuation with gun toting authority figures.,and some gun toting authority figures tend to lose their discretion and exceed to bounds of propriety when faced with that infatuation.
    Here in my county we’ve had instances of School Resource Officers( SRO’s) who have decided to partake of the forbidden fruit— Fallen Officers? Even Largo Police Department had to abandon its Explorer program because some officers put too much emphasis on the “explorer” aspect of the program.

    Guns and testosterone don’t mix, but guns,impressionable young girls, and testosterone is a recipe for trouble. Satan can appear as an angel of light.

  26. Philo Vaihinger  •  Dec 25, 2012 @5:14 am

    IMHO, Heller was right about the 2nd but wrong to incorporate it.

    Either way, it needs to be repealed.

    Not amended.

    PS. I own three handguns and do not carry.

    When some clown leers at a liberal urging gun control and says the 2nd protects us from tyranny he needs to be told to his face that’s just stupid.

    And anybody who really wants his very own assault rifle is prima facie too nuts to have even a facsimile.