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AR-15s Are Not Okay
You may need to protect yourself from what you are about to read in the latest rankings of the amendments.
Happy Friday, friends. Well, I’m not sure how happy you might be after another preventable mass shooting occurred this week. Selfishly, I have been bothered all week, and this tragedy changed the trajectory of my Amendment Rankings.
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It’s an important reminder that the United States Constitution was drafted, argued, amended, reargued, and passed by one set of people: white, landing-owning males.
In 200 years, we have progressed to recognize that our self-rule must include all people, regardless of race, sex, status, or belief system. What makes our Constitution great is the setup that allows us to progress, so these white, landing-owning dudes at least got the most important concept correct - that we don’t need to be saddled with every idea they came up with during their lifetime.
They created a country, and it’s our duty as citizens to keep it going without killing each other.
That’s a difficult challenge, and how we arm ourselves to preserve the country we desire leads us to the most controversial amendment, the Second. Let’s jump into it.
24: Amendment II
Its purpose: 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.
Year proposed: 1789
Year Ratified: 1791
The Second Amendment didn’t just come out of nowhere; it’s rooted in the fundamental belief of military defense. Our concept of government came from our colonial overlords, the British, who, in the 17th century, established the idea of a natural right, which then led to a bill of rights. One of the tenants is the right to own guns to assist in preserving the kingdom, which in this case, at the time, meant Protestants protecting themselves from a Catholic King.
It is a noble idea to ensure the defense of liberties if the government decides that Marxism is the way to go and you happen to dislike Karl and his views. You should be free to align yourself with others who also dislike Karl and perhaps shoot and kill people who are pushing Marxism upon you.
The idea is revolutionary: someone cannot rule over you if they are dead.
Death is the theme of this amendment. The rest of the amendments deal with what happens to you while you are alive, while one spells out what happens after a specific death. You could argue one all but tried to kill us, but that’s why it is last.
But the Second Amendment permits us to own weapons whose only purpose is to kill. Sure, there are sportful uses for guns, but they weren’t invented just to shoot clay pigeons, which is a simulation of killing something anyway.
I have yet to see a gun that makes me pancakes in the morning. There hasn’t been a gun who has done my taxes. I doubt guns can bring a World Series Championship to Cleveland this season and end a 75-year drought.
The point is that guns are an instrument of destruction. Depending on the context, destruction would be a good thing, such as in the Civil War or World Wars I and II. Or on a lesser scale, like the tragedy on Monday, when two Nashville police officers rushed into The Covenant School and deconstructed a murder on a rampage.
But the Christian in me leads me to conclude that guns lead to death, which is bad. Thou shall not kill and stuff about peacemakers.
The other bad thing is that this amendment causes a great deal of confusion that can be blamed on commas. I love commas, and I use commas a lot, probably more than I should, to try and make a point. The Second Amendment takes commas and makes the entire thing unclear.
After reading the long sentence about its purpose, you can’t help but ask many questions.
Is it the right only limited to the militia? Is it only for the protection of the state? Who are the people?
When you take a step back, where these commas were placed is the difference between life and death when specific questions are asked. That’s how important critical reading, comprehending, arguing, and deciding how guns are incorporated into our lives is.
The National Rifle Association was established in 1871, coincidently the same year the District of Columbia was consolidated and established. I bring up DC because it is essential to interpreting the Second Amendment.
I wrote about my thoughts on the NRA when ranking Grant and Madison a few years ago. If you don’t want to click on the link, here is what I detail.
The NRA was created because Union soldiers couldn’t shoot a lick. Civil War vets started an organization that promoted marksmanship and competition, and for the first 100 years, it was a nonpartisan gun hobby enthusiast association.
Then a meeting in Ohio took place in 1970, and the NRA decided it needed to protect the Second Amendment like it was Christmas and under attack. A coordinated effort to recruit, elect, and support legislators who would preserve the right for people to “bear arms” and not be “infringed” was off and running.
This meant the expansion of individual gun rights. What motivated them? Probably dwindling membership, or perhaps some members also manufactured guns.
There are a few interesting stats that support this theory:
According to the Violence Policies Center, America’s roots in marksmanship and hunting have decreased. In 1977, 32% of households had at least one adult who identified as a hunter, and by 2014 that figure had dropped to 14%. According to a North Carolina State University study, only 4% of the population hunts.
And yet, gun sales have soared.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 2 million guns have been sold each month, according to the FBI and a gun control organization called Small Arms Survey. This is double the amount sold in 2019 and ten times the average gun ownership among countries with at least 1 million in population. The Washington Post reported this week that 31% of adults in the US own guns, and approximately 20% of those owners own AR-15-style weapons.
AR-15s are semiautomatic weapons capable of firing 30 to 100 rounds in mere seconds. Patented in 1959 and expired in 1977, almost every gun manufacturer makes one today. Since the Assault Weapons Ban was not renewed in 2004, sales of AR-15 have skyrocketed. In 2009, the National Shooting Sports Foundation coined the term modern sporting rifles, gun enthusiasts attached the AR-15 to this description, and it stuck. See guys, it can’t be that bad!
Today, the NRA calls the AR-15 America’s Rifle.
That appears to be true because, in the top ten mass shootings (where more than four people are killed), an AR-15 sporting rifle was used for hunting people in six of them. Mind you, the top ten mass shootings have all occurred in the past ten years.
The fundamental ugly part of the Second Amendment has been the NRA’s ability to instill fear among us. Self-Protection is listed as the top reason for purchasing any gun, and the general feeling of uncertainty from every mass shooting dating back from 1999 until last year, has shown that fear sells, and those sales continue to lead to more death.
Think about this trajectory.
2004 the Assault Rifle Ban expires.
2009 Modern Sporting Rifles term is accepted
2015-2022 five additional mass shootings take place.
Over 50 years, the NRA evolved from a hunting and hobby group to become one of the most partisan lobbying organizations in the country.
It went from this:
Instead of a harmless, my dad had me join the NRA to keep shooting a safe sport,
Has now turned into, let’s make sure my kids hold weapons of war for the family Christmas cards.
Who proposed it?
James Madison. He was initially against the idea of a Bill of Rights but was persuaded when his overlord, Thomas Jefferson, told him a Bill of Rights was needed for the people against every government on earth.
Madison, Jefferson, and many other Founders were against a standing army, and they pointed to the American Revolution as an example of citizen militias rising and defeating their overlords. Dating back to their Protestant roots, they were motivated by the fear that a government with a different belief system threatens your liberty.
Madison was an intelligent guy. He didn’t want everyone to have the right to own a gun, so he threw in the militia section to the Second Amendment because he knew only white dudes could join one.
One long-term effect of reading a comma in the Second Amendment one way was the creation of the police force, which grew from militia patrols, overlording enslaved people and even freedmen. Black men Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner are two examples that deserve further exploration about the rights to bear arms for black men that did not turn out well. I won’t share them now, but trust me; black people weren’t allowed to organize their militia.
Why did I rank it here?
I don’t care if this comes across as recency bias, and I fully admit I had slotted a different amendment at this number. Still, hours after sending off the Maundy Monday Newsletter, we again find ourselves in another completely unnecessary tragedy.
We have sacrificed our children, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, uncles, aunts, neighbors, and strangers for self-protection and freedom. We have the most guns in the world; as you can see, we also have the most gun-related deaths. In fact, the leading cause of death for our children and teens is by guns. There have been more mass shootings in 2023 than in days. How is this okay?
White landing-owning guys took an idea of self-protection and made it a right from the beginning. White landing-owning guys expanded that right through lobbying efforts and the courts, where white landing-owning dudes cemented the ultimate goal - power.
Don’t believe me?
The District of Columbia passed a strict gun law in 1976, a few years after achieving Home Rule from Congress. The law made owning a handgun illegal, along with semi-automatic weapons. Over the next decade, murders dropped, and according to a study by the New England Journal, the law saved about 50 lives per year.
During that same time, the NRA was settling into its pro-gun agenda. By 1986, the NRA had successfully lobbied for the passage of the Firearm Owners Protection Act, signed into law by President Reagan. It made it easier to transport long rifles and allowed the transportation of guns across areas with strict gun control laws, so long as those guns were stored correctly. It also eliminated federal record-keeping on ammunition, which sounded like a fantastic idea.
Remember, Reagan signed this bill five years after some guy tried to assassinate him. At the end of his term, Ronnie got behind the Brady Bill, which mandated minimum waiting periods before purchasing a handgun to check and make sure you were okay to do so.
The Supreme Court, for years, turned down cases that sought more of an individual’s right to own guns because they clearly understood the term “bear arms” had military connotations.
The 1934 Federal Firearms Act banned certain weapons like sawed-off shotguns and machine guns made famous by Organized Crime. A few years later, this law was challenged by a bank robber, Jack Miller, who, with another defendant, was arrested and charged with transporting an unregistered double-barrel shotgun. Jack was gunned down before the Supreme Court trial, but white, landing-owning dudes pushed the case anyway.
The court, led once again by this Okay guy, unanimously ruled that the Second Amendment didn’t protect individual gun rights and cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.
But that idea would change in 2008.
Robert Levy was a fellow at the Cato Institute, one of many places knowns as “Think Tanks” and this particular “Think Tank” is libertarian, which means people sit around thinking of how much the government interferes in our lives. I have yet to see a libertarian come up with an idea about who should pick up our trash, but that’s another story.
Levy, who doesn’t own a gun, wanted to challenge the DC law from 1976. For like fun, I guess. He connected with Dick Heller, a special officer who could keep a handgun on him in federal buildings but not in his home. Heller was concerned about his self-protection, so he sued with Levy’s white landing-owning money.
District of Columbia Vs. Heller became a landmark case reinforcing the opinion that individuals could own guns outside a militia.
In a 5-4 ruling, all the white guys, plus the one black guy, who might as well be a white guy, said that the District’s prohibition on handguns was unconstitutional and that the Miller ruling didn’t exclude the idea of gun ownership outside of a militia. They even addressed the thought from our colonial overlords that this right proceeded us becoming a country; it’s that important.
The debate will rage on, but for me, this amendment drops from where I initially thought I would rank it.
What do you think?
In my mind, the best course of action is to repeal the Second Amendment and start over. If people believe you have the right to own guns, then let’s take to a vote and remove some commas. It’s completely unrealistic in a nation dominated by colors to think such steps could ever be undertaken, let alone achieved. But I can dream.
In the meantime, someone is plotting their attack, and another person is purchasing their arsenal. It’s only a matter of time before we mourn the next set of children, regardless of their race, sex, status, or belief system, all in the name of self-protection.
Last weekend, Anonymous and I were at the mall, and I noticed quite a few armed security officers, and I had to remind myself how dangerous this type of public place can be. This is the country we choose to live in, bound by the ideas of white land-owning males to which we are hopelessly attached.
I’ll be back on Monday. Hug your loved ones.