BY JOSH MERLO
The doctrine of the right to bear arms can be found in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads: “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.” Also contained within this amendment are decades worth of colonial resentment, fear of Indian rebellion, and Enlightenment dispositions toward liberty. How many more names must be added to the tally of those murdered by firearms for these outdated, anachronistic beliefs to be recognized as such and abandoned?
Sept. 16, 2013: the Navy Yard incident was yet another horrific tragedy for the American people. It was a case of yet another mentally unstable gunman ending lives. Unfortunately, it was yet another day of innocent bloodshed, closed to indifference by those unaffected, an apathy that is based in arguments nearly two-hundred years out-of-date.
“After all,” some will say, “guns need to be fired by someone. Let’s take action against those who misuse our right to have the guns.” Others will remark that these deaths, while regrettable, are not catalyst enough to remove one of the most sacred rights of citizens of the U.S. – as if life is less important than having a shotgun at home. Some will demonize the conscientious, but few, who call for control of guns, claiming in fiery rhetoric that any move toward gun control is a step toward a dystopian world where the state rules every man’s life. Encapsulated in these arguments are the now-debunk sentiments of Madison and his colleagues regarding the sanctified right to bear arms.
When was the last time the United States entrusted its defense to a militia? When was the last time militias were considered normal parts of society – as opposed to dangerous fringe groups of closet revolutionaries? When was the last time Americans overthrew their government because of outrageous breaches of liberty?
No answer will include dates beyond the mid 19th century. The ideal contained within the Second Amendment is self-defense, yes, but collective self-defense as outlined by Jean Jacque Rousseau. He also laid the framework for Jefferson’s Declaration that allows for insurrection against oppressive kings. J. J. Rousseau’s philosophy, for all of its early American appeal, was gradually removed from the governing principles of the U.S.
It began in the beginning: Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion — groups of disenfranchised men who decided to revolt, in the spirit of the American Revolution, against a ruling party they saw as unjust. Both were put down by federally raised militias. Rebellion is no longer recourse against a legitimate governing body; with the advent of the national army, militias themselves were made obsolete.
If the modern state has superseded the definitive influence of the Second Amendment why is it so sacrosanct? In a culture where prostitution has been legalized, powerful corporations have victimized low-income families, and security agencies can spy on the average man in dubiously legal ways, why is limiting the ability to possess a gun the greatest social sin?
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Today the pagan altar of gun rights is refreshed with the blood of children, blue-collar workers and the average American to assuage the rapacious lusts of the great military-industrial complex. Please – even if you deny that the Founders’ arguments are incompatible with modern realities – reconcile the Jeffersonian view of liberty with the modern acceptance of massacre to protect special interests.