As the riot of gun violence in America produces fresh massacres by the day, firearm fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the blood on their hands, and their suicidal stance in the face of escalating carnage is that more guns are the answer.
But it’s worse than that.
Take a close look at the arguments that gun extremists advance and a dark truth emerges. They repeatedly put defense against tyranny at the center of their claim to unfettered access to firearms. In the almost 232 years since the ratification of the Second Amendment, individual gun owners have had no substantial or sustained occasion to take up arms against the federal government. Yet guns are involved in almost 49,000 annual deaths in the United States. Anyone who has studied the matter arrives at the simple conclusion that more guns mean more death, and the gun-permissive U.S. is an extreme outlier in the developed world.
The nature of gun violence in America therefore amounts to a proxy war, with school children targeted as unwitting infantry and grocery store shoppers conscripted as cannon fodder. Attackers armed as if for military engagement, backed by Second Amendment fanatics, are deployed in public to kill unsuspecting innocents.
This is a hot war. We know which side is the aggressor. Gun extremists aren’t just political misfits. They are belligerents.
It is true that the framers crafted the Second Amendment as a defense against a form of 18th-century tyranny. Some representatives from the various states were wary of a strong federal government that could establish a standing army and dissolve state militias, and the right to “keep and bear arms” is explicitly tied to militia service in the text of the one-sentence, 27-word amendment.
What’s not explicit in the amendment is an individual right concerning firearms. In the records of the First Federal Congress, which produced the amendment, “There was no discussion at all about private ownership of guns,” notes Ray Raphael in his annotated U.S. Constitution.
Second Amendment scholar Michael Waldman makes a similar point. “There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in (James) Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights,” Waldman wrote in Politico Magazine.
Courts treated relevant cases accordingly, and state and local governments adopted gun restrictions more or less uncontroversially for more than two centuries.
That all changed with the rise of the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment fanaticism in recent decades. It wasn’t until the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time said the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun. Read more