Should the second amendment be rewritten
Debate Rounds (3)
"Being necessary for the security of a Free society, and to facilitate the protection of life and property, the Right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
In a world where "standing armies" are essential for defense against global aggression, and understanding that such an army cannot respond (in real time) to every threat that an invading army may pose to the civilian population, the idea of an armed population may serve -- once again -- as a deterrent to such an invasion (recall Admiral Yamamoto's warning against invading the American homeland: "There is a rifle behind every blade of grass.")
More realistically, and in light of the current state of the State, an armed population is the most prudent and expeditious means of repelling the very real threat of internal despotism and tyranny. The current administration, while purporting to support a free American society, works more vigerously to enslave us that to promote that freedom.
Lastly, when you look at the inner-city crime/murder rate, or even project the "survival of the fittest" mentality that would overrun even the most civilized man in the event of total societal collapse, to disarm any Individual may eventually prove to be a death sentence; and for what, the illusion of safety? Remember the words of Jefferson and Beccaria: "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve [more] to encourage [rather] than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
Before I begin my argument, I would like to quote the Second Amendment as ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson.
"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."
The second amendment, as it has been preserved for over 200 years, need not be rewritten.
My first point is that of continuity, and the necessity to uphold the integrity of the Bill of Rights in its entirety.
With the gun debate, many have proposed the radical suggestion that the federal government repeal or rewrite the second amendment, citing that this particular amendment must itself be amended to fit the modern times. It has been argued that the second amendment is "not needed," in this day and age, to which I would reply that any changes to any one of the original ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, would constitute fault within each of these ten amendments and render the Bill of Rights faulty as a whole. To argue that the Second Amendment is not necessary in this day and age leaves open the possibility to suggest that the First Amendment will someday be deemed unnecessary and so on and so forth.
While I can respect Pro's desire to clarify the Second Amendment, I strongly suggest that altering the document will only result in further alteration to the Bill of Rights as a whole.
Regarding the existence of firearms in the United States, I would like to agree with Pro's stance that firearms can serve as a deterrent against foreign invaders. Further, I would like to refer to the Swiss model of gun control, where automatic firearms are fully supported and encouraged, and viewed as necessary to national security. The reason that Switzerland has maintained peace through a century of world conflict is not because they are neutral, as many would argue, but because they are armed. In addition, they are experienced with their arms. This type of model is the most successful deterrent to foreign invasion.
Regarding the public ownership of firearms, the federal government simply does not have the manpower or legal ability to institute a nationwide ban or collection of all firearms, and such measures would take years to implement. In addition, such a bold measure would instantly be met with hostility by the public, and lead to revolt. This is something that the federal government has undoubtedly considered, and fortunately recoiled from. However, I do not share Pro's stance regarding the federal government's willingness to "enslave" the American population. If the federal government had any real intentions of entering a totalitarian state, martial law could easily be declared, which would immediately result in mass revolution, leading to chaos, which the federal officials would simply wait out in bunkers, and then fire weapons of mass destruction on any lasting resistance. In the event of a tyrannical rise, God forbid, the public ownership of firearms, even automatic firearms, would only provide a hindrance, not a victory, against so well armed an opponent. Especially when one considers the lack of firearm experience shared by the wealth of the population, as compared to the devastating power of advanced military weapons.
That being said, the most reasonable logic behind the usage of firearms in America is as a means for personal protection, not against federal tyranny per say, but against the very real possibilities of everyday "bad guys." The likelihood of using a firearm in self defense is rather low, but still higher than the likelihood of revolution. Yet even more likely is the chances of firearm misuse, which is what brings me to my chief argument in this debate:
The phrase that I find to be avoided far too often when discussing the Second Amendment is the phrase which Pro so conveniently avoided including in their proposed revision. "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state," is arguably the most important condition of this amendment, and CAN NOT be overlooked.
During every major conflict where militia has been utilized, the militia personnel have been required to submit to a set of standards that ensure firearm competency and ability. This involves proper tactical, and marksmanship training. Simply put, they placed regulations on the militia to ensure that even the unofficial soldiers were disciplined enough to do battle.
Therefore, out of necessity to the security of a free state, firearms are not merely a right, they are also a privileged responsibility and a call to action for the People. While the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, it must be protected by way of holding firearms owners, AKA potential militia, to a high standard of responsible gun ownership and usage. This not only will ensure that firearms owners are prepared for the requirements of combat, but also may lessen the number of irresponsible firearms users within the nation.
I look forward to Pro's response in Round 2.
First, allow me to address a couple of specific points in your argument.
1) "[t]hat any changes to any one of the original ten amendments " would render the Bill of Rights faulty as a whole." I would suggest such a conclusion calls into question the Spirit and wisdom of the amendment process itself. The founders knew that changes would someday be needed, and two methods were put in place: the normal ratification process, and the Article V provision for a convention of the States.
2) "[...] I do not share Pro"s stance regarding the federal government"s willingness to "enslave" the American population." To that I submit that "enslavement" does not necessarily involve chains and shackles, but requires only an unbreakable dependency and an inability or unwillingness to think for one"s self. Look at the situation in most major metropolitan centers, into the inner city ghettos and projects. Look at the generational dependency started and proliferated by the federal government. These are not "free" but "enslaved" people.
3) "[...] firearms are not merely a Right, they are also a privileged responsibility." I would first submit that ALL rights carry with them specific responsibilities; however, and more importantly, no activity can truly be both a Right and a privilege simultaneously. Anything that is regulated by another person or entity other than the actor is a privilege, not a Right. Any Right, on the other hand, carried out irresponsibly is a crime.
The next order of business is one of punctuation and, perhaps, is the source of a large part of the confusion with the original text of the second amendment. In your own quotation of that amendment, you omitted two commas; one between the words "militia" and "being", the other between the words "arms" and "shall." Without delving too deeply into the basic rules of grammar (evidence suggests you"re not lacking in that department), the original text of the amendment contains two separate parenthetical phrases: "being necessary to the security of a free state," and, "the Right of the People to keep and bear arms."
This is important because the first phrase illustrates the importance of a "well regulated militia," while the second acknowledges the specific right(s) that "shall not be infringed."
(Side bar: At the time of ratification, the U.S., having a general distrust of standing armies, did not maintain what anyone could legitimately call a "well regulated or trained" army; instead, we relied heavily on the existence of local and state militias " which could, if needed, be called into national service. Those militias were comprised of every able-bodied man above the age of 18, and were, for the most part, equipped with whatever arms they privately owned. These militias, like those that originally supplemented the Continental Army, were comprised of rag-tag groups of farmers, store keepers and even clergymen, whose primary advantage was their lack of visible connection to the uniformed armies. The days of that type of militia are so far behind us now, that the majority of Americans now hold a greater distrust of anyone openly affiliated with any group labeled as a "militia" than they do the standing army " the term "militia" now conjures negative images of Ruby Ridge, or the Republic of Texas; however, if needed, new militia groups would be formed today just as their predecessors were: by assembling rag-tag groups of common people, armed with their private weapons.)
My apologies for the long side-bar; however, it speaks to my intentional " not convenient " exclusion of the term "A well regulated militia" from my proposed rewrite. In today"s climate, any registered affiliation with organized militia groups would, most likely, simply identify the first target for elimination by a rogue army/government. The call-to-arms by all patriots would, even without mention of a militia in the Constitution " just as what occurred in 1775, result in the same rag-tag groups of insurgents (a.k.a.: "Militia") that repelled the British. It is, therefore, and should be, the main goal of the second amendment to acknowledge the Individual Right to keep and bear arms, and to impose emphatic prohibitions against infringement thereof. The desired goal of a rewrite would be to remove the ambiguity caused by the militia reference. Too many today believe the founders intended firearms to be freely owned (without government approval) only by those affiliated with or a part of a militia " that"s just not the case. The two distinct parenthetical phrases indicate that they believed a well regulated militia is the ultimate safeguard of a free society, and that the Right of the Individual to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; two separate and distinct statements.
1) I do not intend to question the integrity of the amendment process itself, as I fully understand that the founding fathers had the foresight to justify the need for change. However, I do call into question the integrity of our modern legislators. While the founding fathers laid the foundation for politics, they were not in themselves politicians; they were average, well-informed, and well-spoken citizens who were acting on a sense of duty, rather than benefits. This is a stark contrast to the modern system of career politicians, and I fully intend to question that modern system. As a direct result, I argue that any changes to the document risk the possibility of proposing changes to any other portion of the Bill of Rights, in which case politicians could hypothetically unravel the entire document itself.
2) America is the supporter of a flawed economic system that the government is incapable of correcting without severe intervention, but there is no merit to the argument that America is not a free nation on a political basis. The "enslavement" of the American people as you describe it in Round 2 is not a politically based model, but one of culture and economic struggle, which can be argued as not impossible to overcome, and I would be happy to debate with you some other time, but not consistent with your original statement of Round 1, which causes me to suggest that you have lost traction with your suggestion that the government intends to "enslave" the American population. Being that the current debate is regarding a political issue, rather than an explicitly cultural issue, I would suggest that the cultural and economic "enslavement" is not as pertinent to this debate as you intended it to be.
3) "no activity can truly be both a Right and a privilege simultaneously. Anything that is regulated by another person or entity other than the actor is a privilege, not a Right. Any Right, on the other hand, carried out irresponsibly is a crime."
Firearms are regulated by the federal government, making them a privilege. Yet at the same time, the right to firearms is legally considered a Right. In order for this Right to be punishable as a crime, it must be regulated by some sort of governing body. Therefore, by your own definition: The right to bear arms is a right, and irresponsible use is criminal, but the only way to consider irresponsible use as criminal is to regulate the right to bear arms as a privilege. In order for your own definition to apply, the right to bear arms must be ruled as both a Right and a privilege.
4) As I stated in Round 1, I was quoting the amendment as ratified by the states and authenticated by Jefferson. This particular phrasing omits the aforementioned commas. I chose this phrasing of the Second Amendment precisely because this was the originally drafted phrasing of the document, which each state approved before moving the document forward in the legislative process. This phrasing is more difficult to separate into parts, which protects it from being misread, as often is the case, unfortunately. The version that was passed by Congress and stored in the National Archives includes said commas at the respective locations that you have specified. Proof of the distinct versions can easily be viewed here:
Regarding your position on the existence of a militia, I can understand the trepidation at the conceptual labeling of a militia, however I do not believe that the word association of militia is grounds to do away with the concept. For all intents and purposes, one could label any group/gang as a militia if they felt encouraged to, however this is merely the label. The only real standing militias in the United States today are the National Guard and Army Reserve. All other militias are the result of poorly defined organizations that only resemble the term in name. America has not seen any serious need for a legitimate citizen militia in over a century.
My intention is not that the federal government should back or label a citizen group as the American militia. I do agree that such a labeled group would only be targeted if/when warfare arrises. However, the government has a responsibility to position it's people in a way that they may become a militia when needed, and the people have a responsibility to learn necessary combat and firearm skills, so that they may survive the rigors of combat.
The need for a militia is inarguable; the label of the group is irrelevant, therefore it makes little sense to do away with the phrasing, as such a change would only lead to the argument that firearms are only strictly required for personal use.
Your concerns that the amendment process today, as opposed to the time of our inception, is in the hands of untrustworthy career politicians, suggests a deep distrust in the People " the ones on whom the ratification process depends. Government may propose any amendment they wish; however, the final say in not in their hands. My biggest fears in that regard comes from the un/under-informed electorate.
The current system of enslavement, while it clearly falls along economic and societal lines, is also political. The motivation for the government to dole out more and more "freebies" for the purpose of growing and sustaining a large dependent class, is rooted more in the securing of votes than in the betterment of the recipients, thereby securing a "guaranteed" voter base and a better chance of retaining political power. The pertinence of the enslavement statement, however, is that marshal law is easier declared and carried out on a population that already views government as its provider, its protector and its master. The larger, more entrenched that sector of the population is, the more confidently and easily the government can impose itself. Freedom requires a confident independence, while slavery requires only submission.
Would you have us believe that there can be no crime in the absence of a regulated privilege? A crime is an act carried out by one individual against another. That a person owns a firearm, or any weapon, by Right " that is, by some authority other than a regulated privilege, does not exempt his criminal behavior with that weapon from the realm of criminal prosecution. The "governing body" that claims jurisdiction over such behavior is of a far higher authority than any written statute, though prosecutorial jurisdiction still rests in the courts ... with or without evidence of a regulated privilege.
The authority of the federal government to regulate the manufacture, distribution and transport of firearms is derived from their authority under the "Commerce Clause", and is based on the interstate nature of that industry. It is, therefore, those activities that are rightly classified as "regulated privileges"; however, no such Constitutional authority is granted the federal government over commerce conducted within the territorial boundaries of any State. As for the intrastate part of that transaction, I"m not aware of any such grant of power to the States by that same Constitution. It should be noted, however, that I do not object to having background checks prior to the sale of a firearm through federally licensed dealers (FFLs); however, I do not agree with either the maintenance of a data-base of registry, nor with the requirement to obtain and maintain a state-issued permit to exercise a Right.
If an activity is acknowledged as a Right within the Bill of Rights, and a prohibition against infringement exists therein, and so long as the actor acts in a responsible manner " taking into full consideration the safety of the general public, then any statute, ordinance or rule intended to regulate or restrict that activity violates the infringement prohibition, and usurps the Spirit of the "Supremacy Clause" (Article VI, Section 2).
If the second amendment can be (and it historically has been) deemed applicable only to those in the militia, and contending that that was not the intent of the founders, then that ambiguity should be removed.
Excellent resource; however, how a law " statutory or Constitutional " is drafted and passed/ratified, versus how it appears in its final form is irrelevant. It is, after all, by its final version, not its original, that we will be judged and held accountable. If in its final form it is prone to ambiguity, then in the interest of justice we should strive for greater clarity.
The main impetus for removing the "militia" reference has more to do with clearing the misconception that the "Right to keep and bear arms" is limited to those active in anything labeled as such, and less to do with the negative word association. The fact that any civilian militia would, with as much certainty as one can have, be monitored in the most negative preconceptions by government, they would also be the first targeted for neutralization in the event of total marshal law " justified or otherwise.
In light of the current heavy arming of executive-branch bureaus, and the stronger push to establish some sort of state or national registry of gun owners, it is not out of the realm of possibility that government would use that data-base for the purposes of confiscation. Many say it wouldn"t or couldn"t happen here; however, I"ve no doubt the same denial was prevalent in 1930"s Germany as well.
I"m in partial agreement with your assertion that "the government has a responsibility to position its people in a way that they [those people] may become a militia when needed"; however, where does that leave the rest of the population in the event that the problem IS that government?
To assert that the removal of the "militia" reference "would only lead to the argument that firearms are strictly for personal use," is to ignore the first statement in the proposed rewrite: "Being necessary to the security of a Free society." As I stated in Round 2, "militia groups would be formed today just as their predecessors were: by assembling rag-tag groups of common people, armed with their private weapons." If a militia reference is to be retained, then it should be an extension of the Right of the People to independently organize as such, and have no bearing on the separate Right to keep and bear arms.
In closing, I would submit that this proposal to rewrite the second amendment is but an attempt to open the debate on the subject. As a strong proponent of the rule of law, I will operate within the spirit of the law as it exists, and would not recommend " neither for myself nor others " the notion that anyone should operate to the contrary.
1. I do not intend to distrust the informed population, but would wholeheartedly agree that there is an unfortunate demographic of the under-informed electorate. That being said, the government is proven to utilize mass media and hysteria to manipulate the uninformed voting population; which causes me to propose the need for accountability, stemming from voters and applying to the election and term processes. We must hold each other, and our leaders accountable for their policies and actions.
2. The argument that the current system of enslavement is politically based is poorly conceived. While the government doles out these "freebies," it is far easier to label this activity as a form of manipulation, or pandering, than to call this a form of enslavement. The real enslavement is based on the economic and cultural oppression that prevents individuals from raising themselves above the working class. The government has no reason to hinder the economic growth of the working class, because economic growth stimulates the federal economic growth through higher taxable incomes.
3. My justification of rights and privileges being linked resides in your own definitions, posted in Round 2. You had posted: "no activity can truly be both a Right and a privilege simultaneously. Anything that is regulated by another person or entity other than the actor is a privilege, not a Right. Any Right, on the other hand, carried out irresponsibly is a crime."
In response, I suggest that: although the right to bear firearms is a protected Right, in order to legally define misuse of this Right as a criminal activity, the government must provide regulation.
This is supported logically by your own argument.
I would like to point out that, while I am not arguing for or against the sale or legal regulation against gun manufacturing and sales policies, I do support the concept of background checks, purely as a qualifying measure in the firearms transfer process, and I do not support the concept of a firearm registration database in any form.
I will concede that the Second Amendment has been historically misinterpreted by the federal government as applicable to the militia exclusively, however, I also will propose that the militia, for all intents and purposes, is the American People as a whole.
I would argue that the Right is not dependent on the explicit existence of a militia, as this would suggest that the Right to keep and bear arms is reserved exclusively for militia members, instead of the general public. Rather, I would suggest that Right belongs to the public, as a provision that a militia may be formed when needed.
4. Although I am of the mind that the original documentation was more strongly worded; I can see your point, and begrudgingly concede mine.
5. I will fully agree that any openly labeled civilian militia could be targeted in the event of a government attack scenario, but I will not concede that this is grounds to do away with the militia reference. A militia, no matter how it is or isn't labeled, is still a militia. The concept of a civilian militia is intended specifically to be an unofficial, discreet, guerrilla warfare type of unit, composed of rag-tag citizens. The need for a label is irrelevant, and the blunt of it is that any reasonable militia that intended to defy the government would simply not choose to call themselves a militia. The point of a militia is precisely that it cannot be defined or labeled, making it harder to target and eliminate this militia.
Regarding the current arming of government and regulation of people, I will freely admit that I think creating a national registry of firearms would only lead to further and further regulation measures, as has been the case in several other societies.
6. Your argument seems to suggest that the militia is a separate entity from the American population. I disagree with this perception, and instead propose that the militia is not officially controlled, but composed of the entire civilian American population. In the event that the militia sees the need for civilians to raise arms in combat, the militia may organize a rag-tag force to do battle, but the militia itself is the People as a whole. The two cannot be separated, and a realistic civilian militia cannot be defined, because it constantly exists and changes with the need for it.
7. The final and most important point that I would like to address is that "Being necessary to the security of a Free society" is just as ambiguous, if not more so, than leaving the current amendment intact. "Being necessary to the security of a Free society" can mean any number of things, and can be interpreted in whichever way politicians see fit. To gun lobbyists, this would be a free reign to propose introducing more and more firearms into an already saturated market with little to no consideration for the thousands of unenforced ATF laws currently on the books. To gun opposition, this law would only require that they readjust their definition of what "Free society" should need firearms for, just as the assault weapons ban discriminates against a majority of rifles not explicitly intended for hunting purposes. The "security of a Free society" is no more definitive than the "militia being necessary to the security of a free state."
In conclusion: While we clearly have a common goal of providing the American People with the appropriate tools to protect themselves from their government, we appear to have different philosophies regarding the definition and application of the Second Amendment. While you have argued that the Second Amendment should be rewritten to omit the existence of a civilian militia, you clearly support the idea of a civilian militia to combat the government. The largest difference between our two stances is that I suggest the concept that civilian militias will exist and be militarized to do combat on an as needed basis, regardless of labeling. For all intents and purposes, the civilian militia is the civilian population, and this group is intended to be protected by the Right of the People to keep and bear arms, in defense of the security of a free state. Therefore, the proposal for amending the amendment is not needed. Please vote Con.
I would like to thank Pro for the hard-fought, civil and thought-provoking debate. I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth and wish you luck in the future. I think that we have both raised some very interesting points and hopefully a few eyebrows as well. May the best argument win!
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