Friday, January 20, 2023

Can, Worms, Some Assembly Required

      I keep seeing memes, comments and articles on the general theme of "The Framers and the first Congress never meant for the Second Amendment to apply to anything like an AR-15!"

      Like it or not -- and that's a whole other issue for debate -- the Second Amendment specifically describes "the people" "keeping and bearing arms" -- that'd be citizens owning and carrying guns, and presumably edged weapons as well, etc. -- along with the need for a "militia," i.e., a citizen army.  So at the very least, the people who wrote and approved the Second Amendment were quite comfortable with the idea of anyone who might be up for militia service (essentially the prospective voter pool at that time) owning and carrying military-grade weapons.

      Flintlock muskets and rifles might look quaint to us now, but they fire large, deadly bullets and were relatively fast for an experienced user to aim, fire and reload.  In a world where wind and water power were the biggest prime movers, and horses, mules and donkeys the only portable source of power besides humans and the occasional dog, they were astoundingly powerful and capable of causing great harm.

      I'm not telling you that you have to believe civilian firearm ownership is a good thing.  I'm certainly not claiming an AR-15 or similar rifle isn't a deadly instrument -- but so is any other rifle.  Center-fire rifle cartridges all have the capacity to do immense harm to people and the 5.56×45mm or similar .223 Remington cartridge a standard AR-15 fires is very far from the most powerful or largest caliber.  It's smaller than most hunting rounds.  But hunting-type rifles don't look as scary, are rarely marketed as super-manly guns for super-manly men and they aren't decried as horrors suitable only for mass killing.  The twisted losers who commit mass murders have TV sets and computers too, and they're going to gravitate to whatever they're told is the most awful of the awful.

      All firearms are dangerous.  Modern firearms are indeed more dangerous than older ones -- but the old ones were not safe or friendly.  A modern automobile is dangerous, too, but a horse or wagon can kill or terribly injure a pedestrian.  And while the 18th Century had plenty of house fires, they had zero domestic electrocutions or gas explosions.  We live in a dangerous world.  We always have and our fellow humans constitute one of the greatest dangers.

      "Original intent" or "historical context" might not be ideal yardsticks of legislative or Constitutional meaning, but they're what the present Supreme Court is using and they're logically justifiable, even when they lead to outcomes we may personally dislike.  You're not obliged to approve of the Court's decisions, but when you argue against them you must still use logic and reason.  Describing some or all of the Justices as terrible people who make terrible decisions does not contribute to the debate, no matter how heartfelt your opinion or even how accurate history may hold your evaluation.


  1. The argument that the 2nd Amendment doesn't cover anything newer than flintlocks proves too much. Under that line of reasoning, the 1st Amendment doesn't protect radio, television and anything printed using an offset or more modern press, or printed on paper made with a continuous papermaking machine.

    And then there would be an argument that hanging people for theft, robbery, counterfeiting and blasphemy is Constitutionally protected.

  2. Congress is authorized by Article 1 Section 8 to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal. In simple terms that is giving commissions to civilian warships to raid enemy shipping.

    Civilians had access to military-grade crew-served weapons to equip their raiders.

    The British military issued muskets to the troops but at least a few Minutemen had rifles, so some of the rebels had BETTER than military-grade weapons.


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