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The Second Amendment: How Does It Work? Progressives Have No Idea


I genuinely want to be done with defending the Second Amendment from the regular barrage of its historically illiterate and inept detractors—the people who say this amendment protects only the “right” of the “militia” to own weapons.

One friend and fellow gun rights activist said it’s best to just ignore such people, in the same way that you might ignore people who say triangles have four sides or that the Sun orbits the Earth. It is tempting to just stop engaging the dopes who simply refuse to consider basic, objective historical facts.

But I actually think this might be a bad strategy, as it may allow the debunked and nonsensical “militia” reading of the Second Amendment to gain ground. With a Hillary Clinton presidency and Supreme Court on the way, we need an American population that is historically knowledgeable. That means fighting back against the corruption of American knowledge.

Unsure About the Meaning of ‘Is’ Again

Anti-gun folks will cheerfully exploit (and in many cases encourage) the ignorance of the American body politic to get what they want. It is important to push back against that wherever and whenever possible. By way of example: at the Huffington Post this week, Daryl Sneath, a “recreational grammarian,” is trying very hard to take advantage of American historical ignorance:

One of those things [the Framers] knew about is the comma, the only purpose of which is clarity. Doubtless the writers were acutely aware of this grammatical truism (despite their apparent affinity for complex diction) when they drew their collective stylus southward (certainly aware too of that symbolic direction) making the little mark immediately following the phrase the right of the people to keep and bear arms. As such, the subject of the predicate shall not be infringed is clearly not the right of the people. No subject is ever separated from its predicate by a comma alone. Put more plainly, the principal clause (or declaration) of the whole amendment is this: A well regulated militia shall not be infringed. The middle bit modifies the main.

Leaving aside the dubious grammatical reading, as well as the utter travesty of ahistorical non-engagement with contemporaneous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century primary sources, just marvel at this: “A well regulated militia shall not be infringed.” What would such a “right” even mean in the context of extant constitutional structure and precedent? It would actually mean nothing.

Sneath seems to suggest that the Second Amendment provides some sort of bulwark to protect state militias against congressional infringement. But this is objectively, factually false: Congress has complete control over state militias—the federal government can organize and abolish the militia whenever it feels like it, and for whatever reason—and no serious historical scholar has ever suggested that the Second Amendment somehow circumscribes this congressional power in any way. Put another way: Sneath is implying that the Second Amendment prohibits Congress from doing the very thing Congress is fully empowered to do. 

I am genuinely curious: is there any other constitutional right, or any other constitutional amendment, that is so consistently and so aggressively handled with such base and inexcusable stupidity, on so regular a basis, and on such an industrial scale? I am not sure. You don’t usually see arguments of this idiotic magnitude when it comes to, say, the Fourth Amendment, or the Sixth. You certainly see dumb interpretations of the First Amendment, but that’s usually a matter of degree, not kind: you will have people arguing that the First Amendment doesn’t protect “hate speech,” for instance, but nobody ever argues that the First Amendment only applies to state governments, say, rather than to individual members of the body politic.

Only the Second Amendment is subject to such illiterate and ahistorical analyses. Once you realize that, you can fully grasp why : many people simply do not like guns, and they will lie—or else keep themselves deliberately ignorant—to prevent other people from having them.

Fact Checkers Who Hate Facts

This is not an isolated incident: anti-gun folks are very happy to resort to falsehoods to advance their cause. Recently the National Rifle Association put out an ad that claims Hillary Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.” This is entirely true, but Glenn Kessler over at the Washington Post calls it “false:”

Clinton has said that she disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, but she has made no proposals that would strip Americans of the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. Clinton is certainly in favor of more gun regulations and tougher background checks, and a more nuanced ad could have made this case. Conjuring up a hypothetical Supreme Court justice ruling in a hypothetical case is simply not enough for such a sweeping claim. That tips the ad’s claim into the Four-Pinocchio category.

This is just a shameless mess. As I have argued before, Clinton’s “disagreement” with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller is an unequivocal rejection of “the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.” That is the very right Heller decided in favor of! To be against Heller is to be against the individual right to own firearms. This is not up for debate.

Now, Clinton claims she merely disagrees with Heller insofar as she believes “cities and states should have the power to craft common-sense laws to keep their residents safe.” But this is nonsense: Heller not only allows for such laws, it explicitly authorizes them. Given that Hillary’s justification for opposing Heller is meaningless, we must assume she opposes it for its core substance—namely, that it affirms the individual right codified in the Second Amendment.

In other words, Hillary Clinton wants to take your guns away. She’s been honest about it; why can’t our fact checkers?