You always know what to expect when someone claiming to be an authority on one topic decides to delve into another topic that has zero to do with his alleged expertise, and then begins his screed with an insult to a large portion of the American population. This is what popped up on my news feed this morning when I pulled up my Facebook account – shared by a friend from high school, who made it a habit of late to share idiotic anti-gun opinions and warn those reading her timeline that dissent will not be tolerated and opposing opinions deleted.
Well, that’s OK. I muted her, so I wouldn’t have to watch the abuse and ignorance unfold.
But the spew popped up again on the page of one of my favorite writers, and I thought maybe it was time to deal with the historical ignorance therein.
The following diatribe was published by a financial writer named Brett Arends, who apparently won some award for his writing about markets, economics and personal finance. But lately, he’s been delving into such topics as homophobia, the NRA, the Brexit (Britain’s potential exit from the EU), and Donald Trump.
Well, you see where this is going. The tirade, titled “What America’s Gun Fanatics Won’t Tell You,” Arends pretends to know something about history and the English language, by pulling up a single essay by Publius (aka Alexander Hamilton) in Federalist 29 to support his spurious claim that there is no individual right to keep and bear arms, and insulting America’s gun owners, historians, and numerous constitutional scholars.
Let’s delve into it, shall we?
The Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to own a gun
Believe it or not, I agree with Arends here. The Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to keep and bear arms. It protects an already existing right. Analysis of the plain English of the Second Amendment by the late language expert Roy Copperud confirms this analysis.
The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.”
Now, I know Arends probably considers himself an expert because he won some kind of award for his financial writing, but I do think Copperud’s more than three decades of journalism experience, his 17-year career teaching journalism at USC, his professional essays in Editor and Publisher, and his membership on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary trump Arends’ biography about Mitt Romney, his book on personal finance, and a book on sports gambling. So, yes, Arends is unintentionally correct here. The Second Amendment grants nothing.
Can we please stop pretending that the Second Amendment contains an unfettered right for everyone to buy a gun? It doesn’t, and it never has. The claims made by the small number of extremists, before and after the Orlando, Fla., massacre, are based on a deliberate lie.
Who’s pretending, Cupcake? Given the plain language contained in said amendment, I would submit the delusional extremist is the one claiming the 27 words don’t say what they plainly say.
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t just say Congress shall not infringe the right to “keep and bear arms.” It specifically says that right exists in order to maintain “a well-regulated militia.” Even the late conservative Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia admitted those words weren’t in there by accident. Oh, and the Constitution doesn’t just say a “militia.” It says a “well-regulated” militia.
Actually, no. As the late Roy Copperud said, the right to keep and bear arms shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.” It doesn’t say the right exists to ensure the militia, but that it is not to be infringed because a well armed and trained militia is necessary.
Shall we see if Arends actually understands the meaning of the phrase “well-regulated”? Believe it or not, he does, but then he dives head first into a bucket of stupid.
What did the Founding Fathers mean by that? We don’t have to guess because they told us. In Federalist No. 29 of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton explained at great length precisely what a “well-regulated militia” was, why the Founding Fathers thought we needed one, and why they wanted to protect it from being disarmed by the federal government.
Hamilton is a single Founding Father. Who is this “they” that told us some nonsense that Arends spews? Yes, Hamilton specifically says that a well-regulated militia means one that is properly trained in military maneuvers. Didn’t Arends think that those who want to protect the right to keep and bear arms read?
A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss.
The American Heritage Dictionary gives four definitions of “regulate.”
1. To control or direct according to rule, principle, or law.
2. To adjust to a particular specification or requirement: regulate temperature.
3. To adjust (a mechanism) for accurate and proper functioning.
4. To put or maintain in order: regulate one’s eating habits.
Given Hamilton’s specific words above, it’s clear what definition is most applicable here.
And there’s a reason absolutely no gun extremist will ever direct you to that 1788 essay because it blows their baloney into a million pieces.
Except at Gun Cite, where legal scholar David Hardy quotes Publius’ words, and in this essay by Tea Party, whom frothing nuts like Arends hate with the passion of a thousand burning suns, and quoted here at the Rense Report, and cited here by conservative/libertarian economist and columnist Walter Williams. But maybe Arends didn’t mean these extremists? Maybe there are some other extremists running around who are afraid of Federalist 29? Nope. Maybe it’s because those of us who want to protect the right to keep and bear arms have actually read it and other Federalist Papers, as well as citations from other Founding Fathers supporting the Second Amendment’s definitive language that protects the individual right to keep and bear arms.
A “well-regulated militia” didn’t mean guys who read Soldier of Fortune magazine running around in the woods with AK-47s and warpaint on their faces. It basically meant what today we call the National Guard.
Oh! So without a shred of evidence or even an interpretation of Hamilton’s words, Arends expects us to believe that Hamilton meant only the National Guard ought to be armed, even though the first unit didn’t call itself the “National Guard” in Lafayette’s honor until 1824, and the actual National Guard didn’t come into existence until the 20th century! Sure. Got it.
But it gets better.
It should be a properly constituted, ordered and drilled (“well-regulated”) military force, organized state by state, explained Hamilton. Each state militia should be a “select corps,” “well-trained” and able to perform all the “operations of an army.” The militia needed “uniformity in … organization and discipline,” wrote Hamilton, so that it could operate like a proper army “in camp and field,” and so that it could gain the “essential … degree of proficiency in military functions.” And although it was organized state by state, it needed to be under the explicit control of the national government. The “well-regulated militia” was under the command of the president. It was “the military arm” of the government.
Almost… almost… well-regulated… good… and BAM! Arends veers into dumbass land! If you notice, not once in his essay does Hamilton ever mention the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment, or the right to keep and bear arms. Why? Because that’s not what he was addressing in the essay. The Bill of Rights didn’t exist yet. The debate was whether or not to adopt the Constitution. He was addressing whether the federal government should have authority over the militia.
Hamilton does not argue in this essay that the militia isn’t the whole of the people. He does not argue that they should not be armed. He does not argue that the people are not the last line of defense against tyranny. As a matter of fact, in Federalist 28, he specifically says they are. “In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.”
And Arends knows this. He understands this. He said as much in his next several paragraphs.
But all this has nothing to do with the right to keep and bear arms, nor has it anything to do with the Bill of Rights, which wasn’t even ratified until 1791. Hamilton’s letter was an attempt to calm the unease about the provisions of federal control of the militia. The Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment were written afterward to further allay concerns about government overreach – a Bill of Rights that Hamilton, by the way, opposed, but which was ratified despite his opposition a few years later anyway.
Again, all this has nothing to do with the right to keep and bear arms. Hamilton tried to ease concerns about the federal government’s authority over the militia, but also acknowledged that the majority of militiamen would muster about once a year, because requirements greater than that would put an undue burden on the employment and the economy of the country. Oh, and by the way, those Bubbas that were to be the barely trained militia would be supplied with arms and equipment by the federal government.
Where the hell is my M-4, feds?
The Second Amendment is an instrument of government. It’s not about hunting or gun collecting or carrying your pistol into the saloon. The Founding Fathers left it up to us to pass sensible laws about all these things. The Constitution is about government.
Um. What? How did we go from “Hey, don’t worry about federal government authority over the militias” to “The Second Amendment (which didn’t exist yet) is an instrument of the government?” Did we find this in Federalist 29? Nope. Obviously, it’s pulled out of Arends’ fourth point of contact – that’s ASS for those who aren’t familiar with military terminology. Yeah, the Constitution is about government – defining what powers the government specifically holds. The Bill of Rights are amendments to said Constitution, and it lists definitive limits on said government.
Today we have a professional army, anyway. Military matters have become so complex that no part-time soldiers could do it all.
Except the Reserves and the National Guard, who drill one weekend per month and two weeks for year for Annual Training, or AT. Those National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, most of whom deploy and fight in foreign and dangerous lands that would make Arends shit himself in fear. I can’t wait to tell my son he’s not a professional Soldier, according to a financial columnist!
So you could argue that makes the Second Amendment null and void, like the parts in the Constitution about slaves and Indians being counted as “three-fifths” of a person in the Census.
Except that those parts of the Constitution were rendered obsolete by the 13th amendment, not by ignorant, frothing fiat of an uninformed, irrational financial columnist with a transparent agenda, whose claim to fame is a biography of a failed presidential candidate and former governor.
But even if you still want to defend the Second Amendment, it should apply only to those who volunteer to join the “select corps” of their National Guard, undergo rigorous training to attain “proficiency in military functions” and perform the “operations of an army,” serve as ordered under the ultimate command of the president and be subject to military discipline.
What part of the Second Amendment says that, pray tell? Is this the one that refers to the right of the people, and not the right of the militia to bear arms?
So if you’re running around waving your AK-47 under the Second Amendment, and you haven’t shown up yet at your local National Guard headquarters, you’re not a “patriot.” You’re a deserter.
Hey, douche bat! The National Guard doesn’t issue AK-47s. And in case you have forgotten, there’s something called the “unorganized militia” in this country, per US code.
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
In other words, Arends took one Federalist Paper letter by one of the Founders that has nothing to do with the Bill of Rights, and was written prior to the creation and ratification of said set of amendments, and decided that somehow it proves there is no individual right to keep and bear arms as plainly stated in the amendment that didn’t exist at the time said Founder was writing the essay.
Perhaps some reading – particularly of Federalist 46 by James Madison – will help young Arends’ confusion vis-a-vis the right to keep and bear arms. Maybe then he will be more intellectually honest, or at least more informed.