I came across a rather remarkable column the other day. It much needs to be addressed. I’ll take it in two parts.
But first, treat yourself to a stiff dose of your preferred adult beverage. You’re going to need it, because the column is by Adam Winkler and Edwin S. Grosvenor. Winkler, I was familiar with. Grosvenor, not so much; this introduction was unpleasant.
The Reasonable Right to Bear Arms
While the Founders sought to protect the citizenry from being disarmed entirely, they did not wish to prevent government from adopting reasonable regulations of guns and gun owners either.
I found that an odd assertion (or it would be, from someone other than Winkler). Really? Then why does the Second Amendment end at “shall not be infringed.“ and not “infringed, except…”? Where’s the clause that supports that absurd claim? I asked Winkler and Grosvenor. Winkler answered.
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”
Thanks for playing!
Winkler thinks “well regulated militia” is the authorizing clause for the infringements the rest of the sentence forbids. Liberal logic.
The Second, as rewritten by this pair of “experts.”
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the reasonable right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed, except as necessary to regulate guns and gun owners.”
We are to believe that people who had recently fought and won a war that began when the British attempted to “regulate” and confiscate arms would write the authorization for the same into their Constitution?
We are to believe that the opening 2A clause was to ensure control of people and arms by government, written by people said
“The power of the sword, say the minority…, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for the powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress has no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every terrible implement of the soldier are the birthright of Americans.”
– Tench Coxe
“Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”
– Tench Coxe
“The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. If they did, the people would certainly shake off the yoke of tyranny, as America did.”
– James Madison, The Federalist Papers #46, specifically written to explain the proposed constitution
Was the introductory clause inserted to ensure the people were answerable to the government?
From the Virginia Declaration of Rights, we can clearly see otherwise.
“That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.”
“[W]hen any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.
George Mason had other things to say on the topic of the militia.
“I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few public officials.”
The militia exclude government officials; it is the people. The clause isn’t there to ensure the government can disarm the people. It’s there to make damned sure they don’t, so that the militia can keep a potentially tyrannical government in check.
Moving on, that first shot of booze I recommended was just to get you started. Take two or three more, because we’re about to see what “reasonable” laws “allowed” by the Second Amendment look like. W&G were kind enough to give some examples of suitable laws.
The Founders had broad bans on gun possession by people deemed untrustworthy, including slaves and loyalists. They required many gun owners to register their weapons, and even conditioned the right on a person’s political leanings.”
The closest law I could find to weapons registration is the Militia Act of 1792, which called for individuals to register with their local militia company. There is no mention of registering weapons, just that they appear with their designated privately owned, militarily-suitable arms and ammunition, and field gear.
But I did find other laws of the sort Messrs W&G approve.
Were Firearms Regulated In British North America?
It should be made clear that colonial orders respecting weapons, and specifically firearms, referred principally to the places and times in which persons who could possess firearms were either required to do so or permitted to do so. Statutes pertaining to prohibited possession by certain persons, or prohibited transfers to certain persons were usually related to the person’s race, ethnicity, religion, or indentured status.
So gun control restrictions based on race and religion are fine?
Not all persons could possess firearms in British North America. There were no apparent prohibitions for free white men with respect to ownership of arms. However, in Massachusetts for example, firearms ownership and use was prohibited for “Negroes” and “Indians”. They could not possess arms or train with the militia.
Below is an example of a statute forbidding the use of arms by “Negroes” and “Indians”
In 1656, the Colony of Massachussetts Bay “General Court” ordered:
“…henceforth no negroes or Indians, although servants to
the English, shall be armed or pmitted to trayne…”
So… white people can have militarily suitable firearms, but Blacks and Native Americans cannot have anything, Winkler? Which religions would Winkler and Grosvenor decide are not entitled to the Second Amendment? In the colonial period they adore, Roman Catholicism was discouraged, and outright illegal in some colonies. Or maybe they dislike Jews, or Muslims. Women?
I think we already know what “political leanings” they want disarmed.
It does seem to me that little things like the First, Thirteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth — all intended to end the discriminatory practices Winkler and Grosvenor drool over — might stand in the way of their victim-disarmament utopia. But I’m sure they can redefine some other clause to show slavery and discrimination are just peachy.
Which is exactly why we do have a Second Amendment protecting the right of an armed populace to prevent it.
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