I am re-reading The Federalist for what seems like the twentieth time because I keep on coming across absolutely idiotic arguments about the Second Amendment online. Responding on Facebook seems like a completely pointless endeavour because as far as I can tell, the most passionate of people who want to defend this life, liberty and happiness destroying appendix of a thing, are impervious to both fact and reason.
You may as well try using logic on a brick for all the good it does. At least a brick isn't going to flood you with nonsense.
Forums on the internet aren't a whole lot better either. I especially find it galling when people say that you should "go and read the Federalist Papers" after I've just quoted a particular Federalist Paper. Believe me, I have read through the US Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Declaration of Independence. I have also read through the Constitution for the Continental Congress Constitution which was so ineffective at being the rule set for government, that it wasn't almost entirely binned in writing the Constitution proper. Basically all it really did was create an entity which could go to war.
But before I launch into my objection to most defences of the Second Amendment, I think that a little bit of background as to how it came to be is in order.
Firstly, the US Constitution was not handed down by God; nor was it inspired by him. It was not carved into two stone tablets and then sealed by covenant. If anything is the uninspired bickering of people trapped in a room for several months, who were all individually looking for edges and advantages of their own. You can read through a kind of proxy for the arguments in the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers, and it's all kind of one giant omnishamble multi-level spew fest.
In fact if you bother to read through the Federalist Papers in their entirety, then John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and
James Madison appear to be the most eloquent group of stroppy teenagers you will ever hear from.
John Jay was never heard from again. Alexander Hamilton was so much of a stroppy agitator that Aaron Burr who had spent decades being thwarted by him, met him with duelling pistols one morning and shot the "bastard immigrant, son of a whore". James Madison was obviously so much of a madman that he thought he'd tell the British where to go, and that resulted in the British marching on Washington and burning the White House in the imaginatively named War Of 1812. (Canadians obviously had nothing better to do, as Hockey Night In Canada on CBC wouldn't be invented until late into the next century)
More importantly, the US Constitution is not a quasi religious document and it is of such poor quality that it has had to be amended 27 times. Something that needs even so much as a single do over, is hardly the stuff of religious perfection. There was even an argument about including the bill of rights because in all honesty, they don't really define the rules by which a legislature should operate. As it was, they weren't even ratified until 1791, which was a full two years into the opening term of George Washington's administration as President instead of General. When you ask most people about the minutiae of the Constitution proper, they generally have only a vague idea what it says but they'll know about those ten things at the end.
And yet that's exactly how I see Constitution thing being defended. It isn't being treated as the thing that it is, which is a not very well written rule book which doesn't really tell you how to operate a government, executive and judiciary but it is treated as though it was the word of God. The insanity of the matter is that it is seen as more important than life itself. Don't believe me? The Second Amendment by operation destroys people's actual lives. Real flesh and blood is pulped in the name of the precious Second Amendment.
These then are the four common defences put forth for why the Second Amendment should be a thing. Really, I've only ever seen variants on these four things and not much else.
1. "The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution."
I like the use of the word "enshrined" which you'll see quite often because it does afford that quasi-religious overtone to the thing. Moreover it kind of opens the door to suggesting that the person putting forward the argument has turned it into a strange religion.
Legal eagle Thomas Jefferson thought that the Constitution should be reviewed every nineteen years or so. That would indicate that he probably saw it as an evolving document and that the tyranny of the past and the tyranny of the dead shouldn't rule over the lives of the living. The fact that there's another seventeen amendments to the Constitution after the Bill Of Rights, including one which repealed an amendment, is cause to suggest that bad things in the document should be culled.
The main body of the document has also had amendments made to it; especially after the Civil War which happened precisely because the document was awful in the first place.
2. "We're not in the militia, so the 'well regulated' clause doesn't apply to us"
Alexander Hamilton spent several of the Federalist Papers arguing that the Federal Government shouldn't have a standing army because they might use it to put down various factions of the populace. Curiously he thought that there should absolutely be a Federal Navy though. In consequence, the idea that the whole populace should be trained in firearm usage and that firearms should be well regulated, so that at a moment's notice a militia can be raised, is the whole reason why this is in there. Jefferson was even at pains to make sure that it was abundantly clear.
The objection that "We're not in the militia, so the 'well regulated' clause doesn't apply to us" is completely 100% accurate and true. Thanks to the Supreme Court and the case of Heller vs D.C. (2008) that whole opening section and clause has been struck off and the right to bear arms is taken to be an individual right because of it. The Second Amendment by action of the Supreme Court is actually materially nothing more than:
"the right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED" and you may as well add "2A 2A 2A USA USA USA" at the end. Think of the most basic destructive impulses that people have and then put a gun in front of them because that's the real world operation of the Second Amendment.
In one breath you can't extol the wisdom of your holy prophets who you call the 'Founding Fathers' and then immediately call into question their sanity; especially when the current reading of the amendment has only existed for ten years. If the 'well regulated' clause doesn't apply to you then by that same logic, neither does the right which you so vigorously defend and which is contained in the exact same sentence. The Second Amendment doesn't need to spell out specifically who the 'well regulated' clause because like the rest of the whole Constitution, it is supposed to be universally applied. To claim that one bit applies and another doesn't, is deeply dishonest. I of course realise that I've just dissented with the United States Supreme Court but 1A, so there.
3. "We can't ban guns because the criminals will still have them."
As opposed to now? One of the biggest reasons why criminals are able to have them at all is because they can get them so very easily.
At the moment, it is possible for an eighteen year old to walk into a big supermarket in some parts of America and buy guns but not be able to buy cigarettes or alcohol. How does that make any sense? Presumably cigarettes and alcohol are banned until the age of 21 is that they cause harm. The problem with this logic is that even if the intended use of cigarettes and alcohol is self destructive, the intended use for firearms is the primarily the destruction of other people. I would wager that the number of people who buy a gun with the sole purpose of committing suicide is probably less than 1% of 1%.
The thing about the operation of law and the direction of society is that they're symbiotic in nature. They both shape each other and are in turn shaped by each other. The only reason why the criminals have such easy access to guns is that everybody's rush to claim a right to self defence through more guns, means that there are more guns which people need to defend themselves from. Take away the right and start taking away the guns and there's less of a need to defend yourself against them.
Of course instantly if you suggest this, Godwin's Law will be invoked and the discussion will always turn towards the disarming of Jews by the Nazis as though that justifies everyone being armed to the eyeballs. Even just a customary glance at that set of circumstances will tell you that the Jews in Germany would have never have stood up against the entire German people; nor would they have stood against a mechanised German army. The idea is quite frankly idiotic and the reaction of an unthinking moron.
In concert with this is the suggestion that this was somehow inherited from the principle at English Common Law of the so called "Castle Doctrine"; and the theory that a man's home is his castle (it's never a woman because that would also assume a degree of agency which most people who argue down this line nominally don't think exists because idiocy and misogyny are often very close relatives).
In all the reading that I have done over the years on this subject, I can not find an example where it's suggested in English Common Law that the Castle Doctrine actually have exists. If it were to exist then there should be case law which proves it (because that by definition is the origin of Common Law), but it doesn't; so there isn't; so the doctrine must be a big black fib.
Never mind the fact that the Sixth and Eighth Amendments talk about the right to a speedy trial and a statutory hold against cruel and unusual punishments. If someone has entered your premises, then if you've shot them, then that would violate both the Sixth and Eighth Amendments if a government agent were to carry it out but apparently the Castle Doctrine as it is applied also gives the holder of a weapon, the right to play as judge, jury and executioner, all at once.
4. "Jesus told his disciples to go and get swords."
The idea with taking a specific command to a specific person and then applying it as a general principle, is fraught with danger. It also ignores the fact that in context, Peter was openly rebuked for cutting someone's ear off.
Jesus was a remarkably consistent chap who said all sorts of things that give you a broad picture of what he thought. In his grand sermon on the mountain side, he speaks about turning the other cheek if someone has slapped you, walking two miles if they unreasonably force you to walk one, to pray for your enemies and not to resist an evil person but overcome evil with good. I don't honestly see how someone who exhorts people to be peacemakers would be happy if people arm themselves with the instruments of war.
Again, the US Constitution is not a holy document and should not be held up as such. If you want to co-opt the words of Jesus in a very specific time and place in scripture which is backed up nowhere else in scripture as a general command, then you seriously need to reread scripture, or perhaps read it properly for the first time. There is no model of any of Jesus' disciples mounting an armed insurrection against either the Romans or their fellow citizens. I find it personally maddening that the church has been turned into a vending machine for votes and used as a megaphone for idiocy.
Of course I realise that with this post I'm just pouring one cup of water into an ocean from the other side of the world and it won't really make a lick of difference; but at least I've identified the four basic arguments which constantly get packaged and repackaged again and again.
It would be so much easier and cheaper in terms of lives lost and the economic costs of firearms in the United States if the Second Amendment was repealed and there was a serious gun buyback and amnesty but until that happens, the acceptable price of freedom will continue be eleven thousand plus people a year dead; America went to war in Iraq and invented the excuse for doing so based on a cost of less than half of that.