The Supreme Court’s Heller decision should have ended the debate over the Second Amendment’s militia clause (“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State”). Heller clearly and unequivocally ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. A decision that failed to surprise anyone who noticed that all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are individual rights. And anyone with glancing familiarity with the Federalist Papers. My favorite quote . . .
The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188
The people “at large.” As in not organized into a militia. And dontcha just love that an armed American was the dashing Mr. Hamilton’s best hope? Not an educated electorate. An armed populace. So, anyway . . .
While liberals would like us to believe that abortions and same sex marriage are Constitutional rights and “settled law” they singularly refuse to accept the individual gun rights set forth in Heller. And McDonald. Case in point, Heather Digby Parton’s diatribe for salon.com, The right’s deeply misleading new gun-control meme: America should be more like… Switzerland?
Switzerland’s high rate of gun ownership is tied to the fact that it does not have a standing army so virtually every male citizen is conscripted into the militia where they receive comprehensive weapons training. Since they are a militia, they keep their government issued weapons (without ammunition) at home. Therefore, many of the guns in Swiss homes were issued to them by the government and most Swiss gun owners are highly trained in gun safety. This is in contrast to many untrained American yahoos who hang around Starbucks with loaded AR-15s leaning dangerously against the table top while they sip their mocha frappucino.
Take a well-worn meme – the 2A’s a militia thing so the Swiss aren’t like you and me when it comes to guns – add ad hominem and there you have it: proof that no American should own an “assault rifle” unless he or she is part of an organized mob. I mean, government-run militia.
So, the first part of the meme’s implicit argument, that large scale gun ownership prevents gun violence is disproven by the good old USA. Switzerland may have have high gun ownership per capita but so do we. And our crime rate is the highest in the developed world — by a mile. Clearly having a bunch of guns is not the key to a low crime rate.
Because crime rates are all that counts, right? Not freedom. Crime. And developed countries don’t include, say, Mexico or anywhere else across our porous southern border. And we can’t hark back to the mass murder of World War II throughout Europe in the 1940’s (or in Russia during the 1950’s) to see if our gun rights are worth preserving because that’s old news. And it’s not crime!
The second part of the argument, that large scale gun ownership doesn’t cause a high crime rate is more complicated. Certainly nobody is saying that guns fire bullets all by themselves. What most people who seek restrictions on gun ownership believe is that having easy access to firearms makes it too easy for flawed humans to make lethal choices in situations that do not have to be lethal. To the gun control advocate, the “freedom” to own guns for fun and profit doesn’t outweigh the freedom to not be shot. To the gun proliferation advocate, the more guns the more freedom. That argument will not be resolved by anything Switzerland does or doesn’t do.
Hello? The freedom not to be shot is EXACTLY why we have the Second Amendment. The freedom not to be shot by one’s own government. Not to belabor a point, but that seems to be a problem both in Europe’s past and the rest of the world’s present. Sure, Switzerland’s got sweet FA to do with our 2A, but the point the pro-gun peeps are making remains: lots of guns doesn’t necessarily equal lots of crime.
Quick! Back the safety of the mischaracterized militia clause!
Why would the founders put that militia stuff in there like that if they were simply creating a fundamental right to bear arms? Switzerland’s militia is a good illustration of why they did that. The gun owners in Switzerland aren’t armed in order to repel a home invasion by criminals. They are armed to repel a foreign invasion. Granted, that is now something of a symbolic gesture considering modern armaments, but it’s fundamental to the way the Swiss think about their guns. And it is very different than the way we think about this.
I think Ms. Parton missed the key word in the clause in which she seeks rhetorical shelter: a well-organized militia being necessary to the security of a free state. A state where citizens do not have the right to keep and bear arms is not a free state. Upon the bedrock of gun ownership our liberty sits. How hard is that to grasp?