Wednesday, January 23, 2013

understanding the history of the 2nd amendment

Discussions of guns, gun control, and gun violence are everywhere (as they should be) in these weeks following the massacre at Newtown. The NRA has tried to derail the conversation by suggesting that posting armed security officers in every school is the best way to address these school shootings and if you watch the talking heads on TV what you hear is a lot of discussion about regulating the access of the mentally ill to different kinds of firearms, as if the mentally ill are the only ones doing the killing and are thus the ones who most need their gun rights to be regulated. (Neither of the shooters in Newtown or the Colorado movie theater would have been prevented from purchasing the guns since their illness, in the one case, only emerged after the shooting and in the other the shooter used his mother's weapons.)  What these discussions forget or avoid--conveniently through misdirection as seems to be the NRA's strategy--is a thorough examination of the historical context of the right to "keep and bear arms" that the Second Amendment enumerates. 

If you want to learn what the role of insurrection, the controlling of potential slave rebellions, and what "keeping arms" meant to the authors of the Bill of Rights and how they shaped the writing of the Second Amendment, you should take a look at the multipart discussion of this history--and how it is abused in current debates--that the Thoughtful Bastard has posted over on his blog. 

Here's the link to part 1: and from it you can follow on to the links to the second, third, and fourth parts. I highly recommend taking a look at it. The history detailed there is interesting, surprising, and informative. I think it casts new perspectives on the debate for most of us.