by Alan Brooks
George Polk Award-winning journalist Robert Parry wants to set the record straight on the meaning of the Second Amendment – because apparently the Supreme Court did a real hatchet job interpreting it when they ruled in the Heller and McDonald decisions. Mr. Parry did us the service of taking to his blog on Friday to educate the public on the “true” history of the Second Amendment in light of the D.C. Navy Yard tragedy, which he describes as, “just one more bloody patch in the grim tapestry that stretches from Virginia Tech to Aurora to Newtown to hundreds of other locations where thousands upon thousands of innocent lives have been taken by gun violence in America.” . . .
Of course, if we’re talking strictly about spree shootings that number is about 550 dead since 1982. Not an insignificant number, but certainly not “thousands upon thousands.” If we’re talking about firearms homicides in general then yes, the U.S. has seen 310,811 people killed by firearms since 1982 (235,861 by handguns and 74,950 by other guns), although the innocence of the majority of those lives is debatable. Still, firearms homicides are a non-trivial issue. So to what does Mr. Parry attribute this problem? It’s all due to a ruse, a “false history” that’s been spread by “right-wingers and other gun-rights advocates.” Of course.
So what – in the world according to Parry, is the “real” story behind the Second Amendment?
When the First Congress passed the Second Amendment in 1789, the goal was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order in a time of political violence, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers.
The amendment was never intended as a blank check for some unstable person to massacre fellow Americans. Indeed, it defined its purpose as achieving “security” against disruptions to the country’s new republican form of government. The Second Amendment read:
“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.” In other words, if read in context, you would see that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed disorder.
In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of “bearing” arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn’t mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.
So, as we’ve heard before, the Second Amendment only applies to State-sponsored militias armed with 18th Century weaponry. The Supreme Court was wrong then when they ruled that the Amendment applies to individuals for the purpose of self defense (among other things) both within and outside their homes. It has nothing to do with protecting the citizens of these United States from potential power-grabs by the Government and people who use quotes from the Founding Fathers to support that narrative have been duped. To wit, Parry cites the quote by Thomas Jefferson who said that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s (sic) natural manure.”
This is of course total bunk because,
Jefferson was never willing to risk his own blood as that “natural manure.” During the Revolutionary War when traitor Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia’s governor, declined to rally the state militia in defense of the capital but rather fled for his life. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.
Despite his personal cowardice, Jefferson had a lust when it came to others shedding blood. He also was eager for Virginia to have a state militia of armed whites to crush possible black slave rebellions, another prospect that terrified him.
As a slaveholder and a pseudo-scientific racist, Jefferson surely did not envision blacks as having any individual right to own guns themselves or to fight for their own liberty. Reflecting on blacks who fought bravely in the Revolution, Jefferson concluded that their courage was an illusion resulting from their intellectual inability to recognize danger.
Not that the first gun-control laws were racist or anything, but the founding fathers were racist cowards so they couldn’t possibly have meant that people should have guns in order to allow them to overthrow a tyrannical government (you know, like they did to the British). Even if the original wording of the Second Amendment that Jefferson proposed was:
That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
Apparently this interpretation means that the Founders must have been advocating school shootings and killing cops and anyone who holds the view that the Second Amendment could possibly protect people from tyranny must hate the president because he is black. Or they at least hate democracy and prefer a might-makes-right system of anarchy:
This bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano
After last December’s massacre of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”
The clear message from the Right has been that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama – the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) – especially if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions.
But hey, what”s a little race-baiting among friends right? After all, this is part of the “National Discussion” about “common-sense gun control” and the idea that people might use firearms to revolt against a dictator like they have in every revolution since 1775 is preposterous. Never mind the fact that people in the U.S. use firearms to protect themselves and others from criminals far more often than they use them to murder each other. While there have been 300,000 some-odd firearms homicides since 1982, there have been roughly 42,000,000 (that’s 42 million) defensive gun uses during that same time.
But don’t tell that to Mr. Parry while he’s busy building a straw man about how gun owners are all psychotic traitors.
Which brings us back to the Navy Yard massacre in Washington D.C. It has quickly and quietly taken its place among the other mass slaughters that can’t be stopped because the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous – and false – notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted it this way.
These modern “revolutionaries” have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.” But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite.
Or perhaps the reality is that the Second Amendment protects the inalienable right of individuals to keep and bear arms from infringement and it doesn’t give anyone the right to do anything. But I suppose that when you approach the idea of human rights as being privileges bestowed by a higher governmental power it becomes hard to see the freedom for the restrictions.