Over at the New Yorker, Jill Lepore [above] seems to think that struggle for gun rights began in the 1960s. “The debate over the Second Amendment has been fierce and terrible, with bad arguments on both sides, and bad will all around. It began in the nineteen-sixties, when there was a great deal of violence, and much concern about it. It took another turn on Friday when, at the N.R.A.’s annual meeting, in St. Louis, Newt Gingrich said, “The Second Amendment is an amendment for all mankind.” I’m not sure how big a “turn” it took when Newt pointed out that self-defense is a human right . . .

In fact this was no big surprise for any of us hard-line civil rights nuts who believe that the Bill of Rights does not grant rights to people, it merely protects their pre-existing, God given, natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional rights

But Jill continues with another dubious claim:

As I write in this week’s New Yorker, no amendment received less attention in the courts in the two centuries following the adoption of the Bill of Rights than the Second, except the Third (which dealt with billeting soldiers in private homes). It used to be known as the “lost amendment,” because hardly anyone ever wrote about it.

Given their current sad state, I’m guessing that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments got pretty short shrift too, but we’ll pass lightly over that to get to the meat of her paragraph:

The assertion that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, rather than the people’s right to form militias for the common defense, first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies.

So it is Jill’s contention that prior to the middle of the 20th century no one thought that the right of the people to keep and bear arms meant just what it said? The whole concept of people having a right to carry a weapon for self-defense was somehow a foreign idea?

Perhaps Jill could explain then why that very idea showed up in Pennsylvania’s state constitution in 1776?

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state;

Or Vermont in 1777:

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State

Or back to Pennsylvania in 1790:

The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

Kentucky 1792:

That the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

Kentucky 1799:

That the rights of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

Ohio 1802:

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves …

Indiana 1816 :

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves …

Mississippi 1817:

Every citizen has a right to bear arms, in defence of himself and the State.

Connecticut 1818:

Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state.

Alabama 1819:

That every citizen has a right to bear arms in defence of himself and the state.

Missouri 1820:

… that their right to bear arms in defence of themselves … cannot be questioned.

Okay, perhaps we have beaten that dead horse enough. But Jill continues making serious errors in her “timeline”:

[In his 1989 essay] Levinson also discussed what is called an insurrectionist interpretation, in which the Second Amendment is thought to allow for a militia of armed citizens standing “ready to defend republican liberty against the depredations” of a government become tyrannical . . .

The tragedies at Waco in 1993 and in Oklahoma City in 1995, both of which involved a modern militia movement, brought the insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment to the public’s attention and prompted vigorous critiques.

Jill is not the only one who maintains that the insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment is a modern invention; the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence [sic] has an Insurrectionism Timeline which begins in 2008. Ignoring the insurrectionist rhetoric which was flying around the colonies in the late 1700s we need only go to Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural speech to hear the classic:

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

Fast Forward 100 years and we have another example as quoted in Guns Magazine:

CERTAINLY ONE of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.

And just what reactionary politician said this? None other than Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN).

I could continue to dissect Jill’s polemic, but it is all too apparent that she is just another reality-rejecting anti, spouting off her ilk’s talking points with no concern for accuracy or, apparently, truth. I leave you with what Jill had to say on that subject to Tufts Magazine back in ’06:

I teach my students the importance of evidence. [emphasis theirs] The past isn’t a random set of conversations among scholars about what they think. It’s about what we can learn from the evidence at hand.

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51 Responses to Finding the Second Amendment That The New Yorker Lost

  1. As an Ivy League professor of history, I must conclude that she was more interested in advancing the progressive anti-gun narrative than in, you know, being historically accurate. But she is sort of cute.

  2. On April 19th, 1775, the Battle of Concord and Lexington took place. This was the 1st day of what we call The American Revolutionary War. The British were making an attempt to seize American arms and munitions, and the Americans countered their attempt that day. This is the initial “American” fight for our rights, including, and especially, the second ammendment.

    And we still are fighting for our rights today.

    Some people just have little clue about any of this. To many people are willing give all their rights away. For what?

    • To your point above, I was listening to the Emily Rooney show at lunchtime last week on WGBH Boston. They started discussing just exactly what Patriot Day was. Not a one of them had a real clue. This is what we’re up against from the well educated, ruling elite. Here’s the email I sent her;

      Dear Emily,

      I was listening to your show last week, I think it was Friday, when you and your panelists discussed Patriot’s Day and what it was about. Neither you nor your guests appeared to know that it was to commemorate April 19, 1775, the day the American Revolution “officially” began, in the Battles of Concord and Lexington, with “the shot heard round the world”. The patter and tone of the conversation, to my ears, was that of trivialization and condescension. I thought to myself, how utterly pathetic that these four seemingly educated, sophisticated, worldly individuals, long time residents, if not natives of Massachusetts, didn’t have so much as a clue as to what they were talking about. How deeply embarrassing.

      Below you’ll find something that I hope will jog your memory. Happy Patriot’s Day.

      Sincerely,

      placed real name and address here
      followed by R. W. Emerson’s Concord Hymm

  3. Y’all really need to Google this person and her essays, books, etc. It’s incredibly scary, and she is teaching the next generation of elite Americans.

    • People like her and the lemmings she teaches are pretty much the reason why the 2A is so vital, and will always be vital in this country.

  4. “In fact this was no big surprise for any of us hard-line civil rights nuts who believe that the Bill of Rights does not grant rights to people, it merely protects their pre-existing, God given, natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional rights”

    […] from government encroachment.

    Just as many are annoyed when others voice the idea that The Bill of Rights “gives” us rights, I (and, I hope, others) get annoyed when those who note that it protects established, human rights but fail to mention from what they are being protected.

  5. http://www.constitution.org/mil/rkba1982.htm

    Required reading. Clear backing in 1982 the senate investigated the claims that the right to keep and bear arms was meant for formal militias. After a thorough review of history they determined that the Second Amendment was meant to protect the rights of all Americans. The link goes to their report.

  6. There goes another dogmatic extremist, living in a bi-polar world, with an agenda re-writing history to fit her political agenda. BTW, isn’t she old enough to know how to choose lipstick that fits her looks?

  7. Bruce you’re the king spinner and baffler. Combined with your prolixity, you’re a tough act to beat.

    One of your main attack points is that she fails to acknowledge that the individual self-defense idea is not a new one.

    What she actually said about it, you yourself quoted, “and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies.”

    “Gained prominence,” get it? She didn’t say it was never mentioned, like you’re trying to infer.

    You know, Robert’s pretty good at this game, but you, Bruce, you are the most subtle and slickest there is.

    I highlighted a few points from this story myself this morning, if you’re interested.

    http://mikeb302000.blogspot.it/2012/04/evolution-of-2nd-amendment.html

    • You’re pretty slick yourself Mr. Mike. Once agan you’re playing with words. “Gained prominence” meaning what, in your mind? How much more prominent can a law be that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? And plenty of our laws are prominent without being under attack or debate.

      • What I’m doing is not playing with words it’s trying to understand the words that were used in the quote.

        “Gained prominence” is clear to anyone, except those who want to overlook it to make a lengthy argument like Bruce did.

        • “Gained prominence” IS clear enough. And it is also false.

          From the article:

          “The assertion that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, rather than the people’s right to form militias for the common defense, first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies.”

          http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/04/the-second-amendment.html#ixzz1sfrLYVWk

          Ms. Lepore is clearly using weasel words to imply that the issue rarely if ever came up prior to the 1960s. Of course, after the pro-slavery insurrection was defeated in 1865, and Southern bigots attempted to keep the freed slaves disarmed, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in part to prevent this from happening. See, e.g., MEMORANDUM OPINION FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: WHETHER THE SECOND AMENDMENT SECURES AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT (Aug. 24, 2004), at http://www.justice.gov/olc/secondamendment2.pdf
          (pages 99-101).

          To therefore argue that this issue was somehow not ‘prominent’ prior to the 1960s is untrue. Granted, the issue appears to have ended with Reconstruction and the resumption of power of the bigots and segregationists allied with the Democratic Party in the South (to which the majority of the GOP and northern/western politicians acquiesced at the time.)

        • jkp, weasel words and truth twisting is what they do best. To their minds, the ends ALWAYS justify the means. You shall know them by the company they keep, and the symbols they revere. I bet they all have Che tee shirts.

        • Gee.. with States putting the concept of… the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves… in their Constitutions, ya think the subject might have been broached at least a few times?

        • Pure weasel words–the lazy author’s attempt to be clever and cover herself.

          Using the phrase “gained prominence” allows the possibility that the concept of the 2d amendment protecting an individual right to keep and bear arms may have existed previously, but wasn’t given much attention. But in her article, Ms. Lepore treats the subject as though that concept NEVER came up prior to the 1960s. If we delete “gained prominence” from the article, is there any discussion of events before the 1960s? No. Her entire thesis is that, politically, this issue only came up since then and then she (or her editor,) slapped some weasel words in there just to cover themselves….

          By trying to defend this lazy author, Mikeb302000 is doing exactly what he accused Mr. Krafft of being: a “spinner and baffler.”

        • And I’m probably being too generous here, since the sentence at issue says that the issue “first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968…” implying that the starting point was 1968.

        • Well, I guess you could look at it that way, but I see it differently. “Gained prominence” doesn’t mean the same as “only came up then.”

          Although those statements were in the State constitutions, isn’t it true that nobody gave a shit about it until you guys and your immediate predecessors came along?

        • mikeb30200,

          First of all, you cannot weasel out of a losing argument just by saying “I see it differently.” All opinions are not created equal. The world is suffering because people are unwilling to question some deeply-held faiths, many of which are simply wrong.

          The issue we are discussing is not state constitutions, but rather the U.S. Constitution, amendment II.

          It is not true that “nobody gave a shit about it” before “[we] guys” (I assume you mean: post-1968 political advocates for the right to keep and bear arms,) “came along.” I refer you to the citation I provided in my previous comment.

        • Now you’re jerkin’ my chain, but since you’re the boss around here and I want you to post that last article I sent you, I’ll play along.

          To me, gained prominence in this context means that before the 1960s no one gave a damn about the individual right for self-protection. It began to “gain prominence” about then. After that some of the pit-bulls of the early gun-rights movement got ahold of it and went wild. That’s what you guy inherited, and you’ve taken it to new and dizzying heights of importance. In fact I don’t think you can go much higher than, god-given, and basic human. You’ve reached the summit of an effort that began, just like Jill Lapore said in the modern age.

        • Mikey, come on, seriously? You said, “To me, gained prominence in this context means that before the 1960s no one gave a damn about the individual right for self-protection.” That statement is complete and utter nonsense.

          “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ” Of course, that was a couple of hundred years ago and written and endorsed by a bunch of knuckle-dragging, ignorant, religious-zealot, gun nut, dead, white guy slave owners. So I guess you must be right. Sorry I brought it up.

          Mikey, what planet are you from again?

        • You’re not too far off about the knuckle-draggers. When they wrote that nonsense about ALL MEN, you know it didn’t mean all men, right. But, now you somehow overlook that when you quote the sacred founders.

          So, the laugh’s on you when you try to distort the history in order to harken back to those golden days of our founding. It does not lend credibility to your manipulated interpretation.

          The individual right aspect of the 2A gained prominence in modern times. You and Bruce made a foolish mistake to say otherwise.

        • No Mikey, they (many of the founders) really did mean all men…and women and slaves and Indians, eventually, when time and political/social circumstance allowed. Do you really think that the founders were so naive as to think that the whole enchilada could be had with a few strokes of the pen and at that particular point in the Enlightenment? Those guys took the long view and I think that they knew in their heart of hearts that the society that they were creating would evolve to encompass those ideals that they distilled into the Declaration and the Constitution.

          Unlike today’s Left, they knew that one couldn’t just form a drum circle with a few friends and acquaintances, sprinkle a little pixie dust here and there, pass a few joints around as they pat each other on the back and admire their magnificent work and Voila!, UTOPIA. They understood the human condition as well as anyone.

          Of course, the Founders expected that ALL MEN, real men that is, would put their shoulder to the wheel, do what’s right and get the job done to try to make everyone’s lot better. They had little patience or pity for the shiftless.

          Regarding your assertion of the 2A’s coming to prominence only since the dawn of the so-called Progressive era is just plain rubbish. Until the prohibitionists (of all stripes, KKK, Tammany Hall, J. Edgar, etc.) came along, most people, I’m quite sure, never even considered the possibility that the 2A was anything but an individual right. The right of the People, all people, everywhere, all the time.

          You’re the funny one Mikey.

          BTW, here’s wishing you and yours a happy, if belated, Patriot’s Day.

  8. In her article, Lepore states that “the United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, twice that of the country with the second highest rate, which is Yemen.” I cringe when I see statements like, because the possibility that someone could have complied ACCURATE statistics on that topic is virtually impossible.

  9. Her kind is scary.
    If they want to change the 2nd amendment than amend it directly, don’t use states and local government to circumvent the law, and infringe on our rights. Don’t treat me differently because I live in California. How can you allow me to carry in Arizona, but not in California?
    Get it?
    This isn’t even a guns issue, it is an equality issue! I am law abiding, consider myself stable, and sane, but good luck on allowing me to carry in California.

    2A is pretty cut and dry. SCOTUS has even supported the theory but hasn’t done enough. They need to wipe the slates clean, and return 2A to the federal realm. If they want to put regulations in place do it at the federal level.
    Abolish all state a local gun laws now!

    Whew ok I feel better! 🙂

  10. As usual Bruce, excellent work in fisking Ms. Lepore’s New Yorker piece. But, to be fair, you’ve got to cut Ms. Lepore a little slack. She has spent her entire adult life safely ensconced within the loving and caring confines of Ivy League and second tier schools, so show a little pity on the poor dear. How much of a real education could she have truly gotten?

  11. As you say, fundamental understanding of the Bill of Rights needs to recognize that it protects the most important rights that the founders believed to be inherent human rights. Indeed, some founders were uneasy at its inclusion, because they felt that it might overly restrict the rights reserved to the people, since it couldn’t be complete.

    It’s also important to understand timing given that it secures a right by limiting government. The Second Amendment is about stating that a right that “shall not be infringed.” Until government encroaches on that right, the amendment can sit idle, unneeded. It did not need to gain prominence until the era she discusses, because nobody was violating the amendment.

    It’s incredibly disingenuous to argue that the government respecting a right for 177 years gives them license to disregard the amendment protecting that same right because the right is supported by “new” theories.

  12. This discussion is all well and good. But, it’s exactly that. Talk. Where do you/we draw the line in the sand? It obviously wasn’t at automatic weapons, suppressors, SBR’s, different types of projectiles, capacity limits, looks of a rifle, etc. When do we stop relying on the courts because it is obvious our legislators won’t touch this with a 10ft pole?

  13. Phyeaux, “…she is sorta cute…”? Have you been raised in Eastern Europe, with a family named Dracula? Yeah she’s sorta cute if you need a sheep herding dog. I wonder what size shoe she wears? I am betting it has a higher I.Q. rating than her brain. But then most anti-gunners have low self asteem, as well as a closed mind, that is responsive only to the commie idiology.

    She should be on every poster for a (Your brain on…) fill in the blanks for your self. Where have these morons obtained the right to bash us? Yet if we respond, the hue and cry goes up, that we are the radicals. For all those that served in the military honorably, at what point were you relieved of the oath you took to defend this nation? No one ever told me the oath no longer applied. As veterans, we are the militia.

  14. How about a quote from Solzhenitsyn on resisting tyranny? From “The Gulag Archipelago”:
    “During an arrest, you think since you are not guilty, how can they arrest you? Why should you run away? And how can you resist right then? After all, you’ll only make your situation worse; you will make it more difficult for them to sort out the mistake.

    And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family?

    Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?

    The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! We did not love freedom enough. Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.”

    • Alas, Pete, there are far too many among us who are either damned to repeat history or actively seek a replay some of the darkest moments our so called civilization had created, either through ignorance or with the high and splendid knowledge that they possess the true answer to all of our collective ills.

  15. Forgot to provide the source of the Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago) quote on resisting tyranny: Thanks to “Target: Freedom” blog, at http://targetfreedom.com/.

    And if it did not get through on my previous post, here it is again:

    An excerpt from “The Gulag Archipelago” … on how to resist fascism & tyranny. The lesson that is just as important today as it was half a century ago.

    “During an arrest, you think since you are not guilty, how can they arrest you? Why should you run away? And how can you resist right then? After all, you’ll only make your situation worse; you will make it more difficult for them to sort out the mistake.

    And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family?

    Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?

    The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! We did not love freedom enough. Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.”

  16. This is the lamest Lib attempt to marginalize the opposition I’ve seen in a long time. Typical Lib tactic but she’s so bad at it that it becomes extremely transparent. Give her another 5 -10 years, she’ll figure out how to lie and manipulate the facts to the point that she will confuse some folks enough to agree with her. It really concerns me that she’s a freaking teacher but these freaks are running the universities these day’s.

    Thank you Bruce…

    P.S. I’ll bet $20 that she’s a carpet muncher…

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