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To Defenders of the Second Amendment

It is interesting that so many are so passionate about 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.

 

I wish they were equally passionate about the abridgement of so many of our other rights.  The 1st Amendment right to free speech has become under Citizens United a mechanism for corporate speech, not individual expression.  He who has the most bucks has the most speech.  The 1st Amendment's right to peaceful assembly has been trashed.  Any assembly that looks like it might seriously challenge our current political leadership, Democrat or Republican, is subjected to kettling, pepper spray, and police raids. 

 

The 4th Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures,  as well as its demands for probable cause and warrants, went up in smoke on 9/11.  And they aren't coming back as long as we have the War on Terror and our national surveillance state.  Indeed while the War on Terror creates more terrorists than it kills, it provides a wonderful pretext for endless, ridiculously expensive imperial wars and a justification for the elimination of our basic rights. 

 

The 5th Amendment and 14th Amendments requirement for due process, the 5th Amendment's promise that none shall be held to answer for an infamous crime unless under indictment by a grand jury, and the 14th Amendment's equal protection of the laws have been blown apart by both the War on Terror and the failure to prosecute a war against the real terrorists, our nation's bankers.  The neutering of the 5th and 14th Amendments was crucial to the construction of the two tier justice system we now have.  For the rich and corporations, there are trillion dollar bailouts and immunity from all laws minus a few occasional cost of doing business fines.  For the rest of us, it is a merciless, implacable system with draconian punishments straight out of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo. 

 

The 6th Amendment's right to a speedy trial, to confront one's accusers, and to being given the resources to mount an adequate defense?  All gone in our system where if you have the money to afford an adequate defense, you won't need one because our rich and elites seldom charge their own.  The law is only there for those of us who can not afford it.

 

The 7th Amendment's right to trial by jury like the 5th and 14th is gone in national security cases and has been largely superseded by plea bargains in criminal cases. 

 

The 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment died the first time our government tortured anyone in its regular wars or the War on Terror.

 

The 9th Amendment is what I call the forgotten amendment:

 

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

 

Just because a right to privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, for example, does not mean there is no Constitutional guarantee of privacy.  The Framers put the 9th Amendment in the Constitution, but having done so, they and all their successors among the powers that be turned their backs on it, and have ignored it for more than 200 years.

 

Habeas corpus, one of the few legal rights so fundamental that the Federalists included it in the body of the Constitution, is gone in national security cases.  Boumediene affirmed habeas only because Justice Kennedy saw it as a turf issue.  In practice, habeas petitions in national security cases go through the DC Circuit, they are routinely denied at the Appellate level regardless of the merits and the Supreme Court on which Justice Kennedy sits just as routinely denies them cert.  So habeas corpus is preserved in form but not in substance.  A right which is respected in theory but not in practice is no right at all. 

 

All these rights, the very essence of who we are, what made us rightfully proud to be Americans, gone, done away with, without a fight, without a whimper.  Yet the least of these, the 2nd Amendment, bent and twisted out of its original context, this is the one you embrace and hold on to?  Guns do not make you safe.  The law and the decency of your neighbors do.  Guns are no protection against the state.  What did your guns avail you when the government erased all your most basic human rights, the crown jewels of the Constitution?  You. did. nothing.  You are hollow men.  Hold on to your metal sticks if you want.  They can not protect you from your own moral vacuousness. 

 

[This started out as a comment at Naked Capitalism on a thread dedicated to the Newtown massacre.  The thread was filled with 2nd Amendment defenders recycling the standard arguments and I thought they really missed the point. The threading in the post had broken down and I wanted to keep what I had to say from being lost.  I thought corrente would be a good place to post it, and it also allows me to try out lambert's site improvements.]

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mtngun's picture
Submitted by mtngun on

Hugh said "What did your guns avail you when the government erased all your most basic human rights, the crown jewels of the Constitution?  You. did. nothing."

I totally agree.   If the NRA were truly concerned with defending liberty, it would have organized a "million gun march" against the Patriot Act.   Instead, it gave money to pols who were pro-Patriot act.

Similarly, the ACLU does not lift a finger to protect the 2nd amendment.    

That doesn't change the fact that the NRA is right about the 2nd, and the ACLU is right about the few liberties it does advocate.

 

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I tried to write something like this yesterday, but you managed much better, I think.

It's sad that the rest of the Bill of Rights doesn't have as many defenders as the Second Amendment does. We're seeing just how useless that right is when it's on its own.

wuming's picture
Submitted by wuming on

I respect you as a writer, and find myself often agreeing with you on NC and here on Corrette.  In the spirit of dialogue, I am going to comment on your post, and I hope that we can find a way to have some common ground. 

I have always been an advocate for the entire bill of rights. I am as dismayed as anyone by torture, the prison system, warrantless wiretapping and so forth. 

I get that you don't like guns.  I get it.  I get that you think people can't fight the government with firearms, since that hasn't happened yet in the US.   Or maybe they have-- it's the right wing militia , which has successfully terrorized people into closing abortion clinics in most of the United States.  It's the right wing which has heavily armed itself, speaks of insurrection, and has had some outbursts of same-- those guys at a military base earlier this year, and a spate of shootings, like the guy and his son in the minivan last year.  We should all be happy that they've been unsuccessful.  It is also the theocratic right wing that has been infiltrating the academies, officer cadre and enlisted ranks of the military and security services. 

I raised this question in a previous thread (pre site upgrade) and no one answered.  How do your politics deal with the rise of a movement like Golden Dawn in Greece?  They are a fascist (self proclaimed) movement that attacks immigrants and gays, and anyone it views as insufficiently pious or Greek.  They appear to have the backing of significant elements of the security services.  Organizations like Golden Dawn will always have firearms because even if illegal/restricted, supporters in the security services will pass weapons to them. 

My question is, how do you propose that left wing activists in those settings defend themselves? 

Submitted by Hugh on

I understand that you are concerned and not feeling protected.  But I think you are conflating a lot of things.  There was a lot of anti-immigrant feeling in Greece before the appearance of Golden Dawn.  While some police are supportive of Golden Dawn, this is hardly surprising.  Many police tend to be right wing.  But that is very different from saying they are all fascist. 

And the US is not Greece.   If we descend to a level of chaos where the right and left are engaged in armed conflict, then we will have much more serious problems, like the disintegration of the state. 

The problem as I see it in both the US and Greece is that the left/progressives aren't organizing and they aren't putting out a better message. 

Although a reactionary majority on the Supreme Court in Heller declared an absolute right to arms, the actual text of the amendment I gave above indicates it was about maintaining a well regulated militia (the country had little or no standing army and indeed a standing army would have been seen as a threat to the people, hence a militia).  To arrive at his opinion, Scalia an avid hunter had to turn his usual argument of original intent on its head.  Even so, as soon as he promulgated his absolute right to gun ownership, he backtracked on it, saying that reasonable restrictions could apply although he failed to lay out what those were. 

I can't help thinking that the Second Amendment is just a bright shiny object meant to distract.  A sort of "Here we will take all of your other rights, but we will leave you with this one because it is of no importance to us."  To paraphrase Emma Goldman, if guns changed anything, they wouldn't be legal.  Sure, there is some huge number of guns in the country, but they don't represent a danger to the state, just to the rest of us in domestic disputes, crime, and random acts of violence. 

The Second Amendment is a lie built on lies, especially about what it means and that in any sense it protects us or can be used to protect us.