The Right To Bear Arms Against Slave Revolts
October 4, 2017 10:14 PM   Subscribe

It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?" If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains
This Article challenges the insurrectionist model [the theory of the Second Amendment predicated on the idea that ‘the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself’]. The Second Amendment was not enacted to provide a check on government tyranny; rather, it was written to assure the Southern states that Congress would not undermine the slave system by using its newly acquired constitutional authority over the militia to disarm the state militia and thereby destroy the South’s principal instrument of slave control
-Carl T. Bogus, "The Hidden History of the Second Amendment"

Radio interview w/ Prof. Bogus
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (62 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
Regardless of the original intent or intents, the idea that ‘the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself’ is still valid.
posted by Homer42 at 2:23 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Every time I find myself in some sort of 2nd Amendment kerfuffle I will reference back to the original intent and purpose of the act. I am usually met with blank and disbelieving stares. I find the emphasis on "original intent" to be a nice tweak to the nose of the Scalia types...
posted by jim in austin at 2:56 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]


Regardless of the original intent or intents, the idea that ‘the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself’ is still valid.

Either my American friends have a massive blind spot or I'm massively underestimating the power of guerrilla warfare, but do you really believe a "well-regulated militia" is going to last more than six weeks against the US military? In other words: if you don't have the army on-side you'll fail. If you do have it on-side you can't lose. Owning a bunch of small arms is (IMO) neither here nor there. (Although they may have symbolic power).

(Looking forward to reading this, may even buy the book, hoping there are some solid primary sources in there).
posted by Leon at 3:02 AM on October 5 [33 favorites]


Owning a bunch of small arms is (IMO) neither here nor there.

I mean, fighter jets and ICBMs are still out of reach of the average 2nd Amendment enthusiast in the US, and I guess fully automatic combat weapons, portable rocket launchers, tanks, and such count as small arms these days?

I suspect there are a few non-government groups in the US who could pull together a passable private army if it suited their financial interest. Beyond Erik Prince, who already has one, that is.
posted by eviemath at 3:23 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Regardless of the original intent or intents, the idea that ‘the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself’ is still valid.

Not really, and like most modern-day gun-rights propaganda, it's built on myths the NRA and associated groups created in the 20th century rather than the Founders in the 18th:
“Throughout the history of the republic, until about 1960, as a matter of law, the right to bear arms was a collective right and not an individual right,” said Professor Bogus. He explained that the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy as a crucial moment in gun rights history, noting that Lee Harvey Oswald purchased his rifle from a mail-order ad in American Rifleman, an official publication of the National Rifle association. “Afterward,” said Professor Bogus, “there was a fear of significant gun regulation. The NRA was overtaken by right-wing political extremists.”

Of course, this version of history does not compute with the lofty rhetoric commonly used to espouse the right to bear arms as promoted by the NRA. Rather, one hears broad and abstract statements about the how the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all Americans.
[...]
Relatively new, this interpretation of the language of the second amendment is referred to as “insurrectionist theory,” and has been developed, in no small part, through NRA grant funding. In The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, a 1998 publication in the UC Davis Law Review, Professor Bogus writes that, “insurrectionist theory is premised on the idea that the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself.” But, in this self-contradicting concept, the wise framers of the constitution, whose foundation for American democracy is praised for its unique freedoms, expresses enough mistrust to require the need for citizens to arm themselves with sufficient deadly force and vehemently contested regulation to risk unparalleled levels of collateral damage. The Hidden History points out that insurrectionist theory would have one believe that all of the other Constitutional components designed to prevent the abuse of government power are insufficient and the ultimate guarantee of freedom comes from the barrel of a gun.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:56 AM on October 5 [37 favorites]


I'm a lot more concerned about the citizenry than the government, personally
posted by thelonius at 4:07 AM on October 5 [24 favorites]


At present, there is little chance of guns being used to provide any meaningful resistance. Instead, we should enshrine the right to build, program, etc. anything you want as essential to liberty. And modify anything you own anyway you like.

Yes, you could build or 3d print a gun of course, but if you cannot sell guns then guns will pose little risk overall. You can also build far more important things, like software that encrypts communications or defeats corporate efforts to enslave their customers, or like drones that photograph police brutality against protestors.

Actual weapons of mass destruction could be excluded of course, ideally restrictively defined as say anything capable of killing 10k people in under 1 minute, which excludes anything but nukes and the most effective chemical agent delivery systems. We do regulate pollution, food, health claims, etc. too of course, so just building it does not give you the right to operate it much, if it releases toxic chemicals, or operate it on other people for pay, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:04 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


That said, there is mounting evidence that gun control should be handled differently :

Mass Shootings Are A Bad Way To Understand Gun Violence

I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

What would work? There are good suggestions in those articles, but also..

There are regulations that could be simplified by requiring a "psychologist's (negative) prescription" rather than tighter regulations. In this case, prospective gun and ammo buyers would need to undergo a psychological evaluation, for which the APA should provide guidelines. If the psychologist detected no evidence of depression or domestic abuse, then they would write a letter that say they cannot find any reason why the prospective buyer should be forbidden from owning a weapon. This part would not interact with any "registration" scheme and details would be protected by doctor patient confidentiality. If the psychologist refused to issue the letter, say due to depression, then they should explain their findings appropriately and recommend alternative measures, like say "I recommend that you be with your friends when handling weapons."
posted by jeffburdges at 5:23 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Can't buy that Jeffburdges when there are plenty of meta studies (here is a good place to start) that show a direct correlation between decreased access to guns and a decrease in homicidal rampages. Also as a bonus, suicides go down when gun control is enacted.

I personally don't think the second amendment applies anymore. The founding fathers never anticipated tanks, nuclear warfare, and chemical weapons. And as the FPP suggests, the right to bear arms may have just been a caveat to keep the Southern states in line, which means that it, like many anachronistic laws, should have been signed away when the Southern states rebelled.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 5:32 AM on October 5 [22 favorites]


You already have pill mills where doctors "prescribe" medications. You're just setting up "fit to own a gun" certificate mills.

Instead, we should enshrine the right to build, program, etc. anything you want as essential to liberty. And modify anything you own anyway you like.

That attitude is why you don't have good data protection laws. It sucks, but the reality is that "Freedom to" is a force multiplier - it benefits the big guy more than it benefits the little guy. If you genuinely want to help the little guy, focus on "Freedom from". Freedom to collect personal data vs freedom from your data being collected.
posted by Leon at 5:33 AM on October 5 [26 favorites]


Either my American friends have a massive blind spot or I'm massively underestimating the power of guerrilla warfare, but do you really believe a "well-regulated militia" is going to last more than six weeks against the US military?

In short, yes. Yes the people who spout the 2nd amendment as a defense against the government really do believe they can fight back against the best funded military in the world. I know smart, otherwise sensible people on both sides of the political spectrum who believe that when the government comes for people, to put them on trains or to take away their rights in some way, that being well armed can make a difference.

Those gun folks I know on the left tend to believe that the guns will help them stand up and protect people when Trump comes for us, but they also expect they would only have to do so for a short period. The folks on the right do fully believe that they can hold up and fight back a la the Revolution.

Both are, in my opinion, idiots who underestimate people, the military, and the police and believe in their own exceptionalism.
posted by teleri025 at 5:34 AM on October 5 [21 favorites]


The thesis seems convincing inasmuch as it links the exceptional US protection for guns to the exceptional US experience of slavery.

Normally I would think it is seen as a core function of government to take private vengeance and private enforcement out of the hands of arbitrary groups of citizens. If citizens with guns could be trusted to act justly, no government would be needed.

On the other hand recent peaceful revolutions have shown that where a consensus exists, governments can be overturned without a gunfight. It looks as if allowing guns provides help to unjust or criminal minorities without being necessary for the people as a whole to resist tyranny.
posted by Segundus at 5:51 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


In short, yes. Yes the people who spout the 2nd amendment as a defense against the government really do believe they can fight back against the best funded military in the world.

Part of that belief also includes the notion that a lot of the military would either defect to the citizen's side or outright refuse orders to go to battle against the citizenry.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:02 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


Something impish in me loves this pair of quotes.
posted by idiopath at 6:14 AM on October 5 [19 favorites]


We should always strive to use minimal but effective legal interventions when dealing with individual behaviors, Leon, not just deploy heavy handed authoritarian tactics.

Yes, there would be certificate mills of course but the gun owners cannot attribute malicious intent to the certificate system like they can many heavy handed proposals. At some point, you want the gun owning world to "own" some benign but effective interventions that reduce suicides and domestic killings.

Also, psychiatrists running pill mills know the limits of the pills' side effects, and they may earn more due to resale value, but a psychiatrist running a certificate mill may face a suicide in which the whole family says the guy was obviously depressed, possibly prompting action by the APA. It's a different cost benefit analysis.

Said differently, there is no benefit to the "government" itself retaining the information produced by a background check for gun ownership, only in that information being evaluated and retained by some person qualified to evaluate it. If anything, the "government" retaining the data inspires resistance. We'll have much more effective checks if we add a psychological evaluation along with doctor patient confidentiality.

There was little if any policing when they wrote the Second Amendment, so if you really wanted protections that ensured the state could be overthrown then more effective reforms might be : No sovereign immunity except by specific warrant pertaining to named individuals. No sovereign immunity even with a warrant when the individuals were non-violent and merely engaging in protected speech. etc. These might keep the police from suppressing protests as easily, enabling greater social progress.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:25 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Either my American friends have a massive blind spot or I'm massively underestimating the power of guerrilla warfare, but do you really believe a "well-regulated militia" is going to last more than six weeks against the US military?

Approximately 3 dozen federal agencies have police or security forces or individual employees with arrest and firearms authority. Some are obvious, like the DEA, some not so obvious, like the EPA. Who knows how many are at the state level. If and when one of these groups considers running roughshod over the rights of the people, an armed citizenry means they have to ask themselves 'what if they won't let us?'
posted by Homer42 at 6:54 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


There are regulations that could be simplified by requiring a "psychologist's (negative) prescription" rather than tighter regulations. In this case, prospective gun and ammo buyers would need to undergo a psychological evaluation, for which the APA should provide guidelines. If the psychologist detected no evidence of depression or domestic abuse, then they would write a letter that say they cannot find any reason why the prospective buyer should be forbidden from owning a weapon.
  • What Leon said above about "fit to own a gun" certificate mills.
  • It's easy to lie to a mental health professional and some of the more dangerous conditions to mix with guns, like antisocial personality disorder, make that lying even easier.
  • I've never believed for a minute that the mental health screening idea was anything more than a dodge because why would the people who are opposed to the government knowing about their gun ownership be okay with the government knowing about their much much more personal and intrusive psych evaluations, or even appointing another party to do it? In the world of "keep the government out of my _____", the government actually in your head is like the worst of all possibilities.
  • Where do you draw the line? You said depression, there's a world of stuff out there beyond depression that's much more of a risk factor than depression. Depression on its own isn't much of a flag anyways without suicidal ideation or a desire to take it out on others violently (easy things to lie about).
  • You need a lot more than a quick session with a psychiatrist to get a good diagnosis. Even if someone has a very dangerous mental health issue, what if you catch them on a good day?
  • A mental health professional is not the person to root out domestic abuse. If it hasn't been reported to the cops and successfully prosecuted, you're talking a prolonged investigation by social workers, doctors, police... if you really want to screen for domestic abuse, and not just catch the comparatively few instances that have made it onto people's criminal records, that's the level of intrusiveness and commitment you need.
  • If you're going to filter for behavior, alcoholism and drug abuse need to be in there. Good luck with that, every asshole who thinks he can handle his liquor just fine will freak the fuck out and even if the law gets enacted, again it's easy to lie.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:54 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]


Maybe it's me but I wouldn't believe someone named Prof. Bogus.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:00 AM on October 5 [8 favorites]


As for the insurrectionist model, it's been plainly obvious for ages that the path to tyranny in the US is through appealing to far right wing gun owners and bringing them into your power structure, and this past year has been a huge warning sign about how easy that would be, because if there were a competent fascist in Trump's spot it would already be done and a hell of a lot of private guns would be lined up on the government side.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:00 AM on October 5 [14 favorites]




Gun nuts are weird.
posted by notreally at 7:04 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


There is no right in the Constitution for an armed citizenry to fight war against the government. It's clearly spelled out in Article 1, Section 8 that the government may summon the militia to "suppress insurrections." The Constitution itself was created, because elites were scared by the insurrection of Shays' Rebellion & they felt they didn't have a way to effectively suppress future insurrections.
posted by jonp72 at 7:15 AM on October 5 [15 favorites]


If and when one of these groups considers running roughshod over the rights of the people, an armed citizenry means they have to ask themselves 'what if they won't let us?'

Just looking at how minorities have been treated in the US even when armed belies this statement, as well as the privilege within.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:16 AM on October 5 [27 favorites]


If and when one of these groups considers running roughshod over the rights of the people, an armed citizenry means they have to ask themselves 'what if they won't let us?'

Then they can look to previous examples of armed insurrection against the US government, the largest of which was the Civil War, to see what happens, which is that soldiers fight and die and the insurrection is put down. If it is a small enough insurrection, perhaps a better model would be the Indian Wars, which resulted from and in a de facto policy of genocide that the general population pretty much did nothing about.

Armed insurrection is a fantasy. Worst of all, it is a fantasy that has led to an America that is one long, atomized mass shooting, to the tune of 93 dead per day, 279 injured per day, and 12,000 murdered each year.

If that's the price of your weird, ahistoric insurrection fantasy, it is too high. To high by miles. Too high by the height of the moon.
posted by maxsparber at 7:22 AM on October 5 [36 favorites]


You already have pill mills where doctors "prescribe" medications. You're just setting up "fit to own a gun" certificate mills.

This already happens with Concealed Carry Licenses (CCL). A sheriff in a state with lax laws will just allow any applicant a CCL on request. Hell, there was a sheriff in Oregon who was going to gunshows and signing up all comers - while pocketing the license fee.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:32 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Approximately 3 dozen federal agencies have police or security forces or individual employees with arrest and firearms authority. Some are obvious, like the DEA, some not so obvious, like the EPA. Who knows how many are at the state level. If and when one of these groups considers running roughshod over the rights of the people, an armed citizenry means they have to ask themselves 'what if they won't let us?'

When one of these groups considers running roughshod or, waaay more likely, when one of these groups has to do their damn job and a bunch of pissed off idiots with guns don't like it. See the Bundy chucklefucks bringing guns to bear on BLM agents trying to do their jobs.

Oh or how about that armed citizenry deciding that Civil Rights progress is tyranny, that's a good look for an armed citizenry.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:32 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Great phrase maxsparber, I really like "long, atomized mass shooting" to describe this sad state of affairs. Far too high a price, indeed!

BTW, in case anyone doesn't know about it, gunpolicy.org (out of U. Sydney) is a GREAT source for good data on guns and gun violence around the world. They place the 2014 USA gun homicide toll at 10,945 -- I say this not to quibble with your estimate, but to share the resource.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:35 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


> I'm a lot more concerned about the citizenry than the government, personally.

In a Democracy the government is the citizenry, and the citizenry is the government. At least in an ideal world.

Here's my take on the whole ‘the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself’ thing: If this were the case, if citizens should be expected to rise up and overthrow tyranny and corruption, at what point does one do this? Because the way I see it, there's been an Us vs Them war going on for some time (ask any police officer and they will tell you that there's a "war on cops"), and the line between law enforcement and the military is getting blurrier every day. So, at what point do we rise up?

Because I've been long on guillotine futures for some time.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:45 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


The most plausible reading of the "being prepared to fight the government itself" thing is that you're being prepared to die at the time of your choosing. I mean, come on, think about the worst-case scenario of a government agency running roughshod over the rights of the people*--does that look like getting a knock on your door from someone in uniform, and they say "come with us to this van"? Or what would that look like, really? And do you think your gun will ward any of it off? Your gun might buy you some time to off yourself if you're trying to avoid whatever fate it is. That's all. There are many, many more items available for you to do that, but I guess a cyanide capsule doesn't confer the same tough-guy cool ~look~ that a gun will give you in your last moments.

*excuse me while I catch my breath from LOLcrying thinking about NRA folks' lack of concern for Black citizens being murdered by law enforcement, and the real threat of being persecuted by the goddamn EPA.
posted by witchen at 7:57 AM on October 5 [16 favorites]


Either my American friends have a massive blind spot or I'm massively underestimating the power of guerrilla warfare, but do you really believe a "well-regulated militia" is going to last more than six weeks against the US military?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Athens_(1946)

It's not so much a revolt against the federal government. But the US had a long period where local tyrannies, with faked election results, were, in fact, checked partly by the risk of a local insurrection.
posted by ocschwar at 8:14 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


If murdering your way out of tyranny was a constitutional right it would be a solid defense against a murder charge.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:17 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


It's funny how that one particular event is always brought up when gun rights activists are looking for a case where guns were used to "fight off tyranny", and not, say, Tulsa - where the black community fought to protect themselves and saw their community burnt to the ground in retaliation.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:22 AM on October 5 [32 favorites]


It's not so much a revolt against the federal government.

Right: it's not actually a counter-example.

But the US had a long period where local tyrannies, with faked election results, were, in fact, checked partly by the risk of a local insurrection.

No, it really did not. I'd also note that you've cited evidence for one single instance -- not for a 'long period' -- and, well, from the same article you linked:
The new GI government of Athens quickly encountered challenges including the re-emergence of old party loyalties. On January 4, 1947, four of the five leaders of the GI Non-Partisan League declared in an open letter: "We abolished one machine only to replace it with another and more powerful one in the making." The GI government of Athens, Tennessee collapsed. Tennessee's GI political movement quickly faded and politics in the state returned to normal. The Non-Partisan GI Political League had replied to inquires by veterans elsewhere in the USA with the advice that shooting it out was not the most desirable solution to political problems.
In other words: the Battle of Athens is mostly notable because of how it shows that armed insurrection does not, in fact, actually serve as a check on those in power.
posted by cjelli at 8:24 AM on October 5 [8 favorites]


And, if murdering your way out of tyranny were a constitutional right you'd see the left as the bastion of gun rights because causes supported by the left have certainly had more need to water the tree of liberty in the history of our country. You know what should scare the shit out of the right when they argue for gun rights framed in an insurrectionist model? The left saying "You know what, you're right. You win. I see your side clearly now and I agree."
posted by jason_steakums at 8:24 AM on October 5 [15 favorites]


But the US had a long period where local tyrannies, with faked election results, were, in fact, checked partly by the risk of a local insurrection.

We also had a long period where armed locals lynched black men in similar insurrections. In fact, when you compare the amount of times an armed populace has murdered a black prisoner to the amount of times they have successfully waged a low-level insurrection against local tyranny, I'd say we're looking at about 100 dead black men for every successful revolt against dishonest polls.

So I guess it is a matter of whether you believe the extremely rare occurrence of armed citizens standing up for justice is worth the much more frequent occurrence of armed locals engaging in frontier justice and lynch law.

Seeing as this article forcefully makes the case that an armed population is actually a product and a legacy of white supremacy, this is not surprising, but I guess how much this factors into considering the subject depends somewhat on what side of privilege you fall on.
posted by maxsparber at 8:24 AM on October 5 [23 favorites]


If you are going to prevent tyranny, the first thing you need is not the ability to defend yourself against armed soldiers, but the ability to defend yourself against lies.

Most guns-rights folks would be happy to shoot at the agents of any government with a Democrat at the head of it.

But by and large, they seem to be enthusiastic supporters of the only forms of tyranny we're in any immediate danger from.

What we got in the way of a citizenry armed against tyranny in this country is a Maginot line, bristling with guns, pointed in the wrong direction.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:25 AM on October 5 [16 favorites]


Unless the guy who says gun control isn't the answer can explain to me why Japan, with 1/3 the population of the USA doesn't have a mass shooting every three days (to the USA's more than daily mass shootings) then I'm going to assume that he's missing some critical data.

All other things being equal you'd expect mass shootings per capita to be roughly the same in all first world nations. And yet, mass shootings per capita are not. Clearly all other things are not equal, and the most obvious difference is that in the nations with fewer mass shootings per capita guns are not so easily accessible as they are in the USA.

I asked on reddit what the anti-gun control people proposed as solutions to the mass shooting problem.

The answers divided into four categories:

1) Denial that there was a problem.

2) Claims that even if there was a problem it was a mental health problem and should be addressed as such.

3) Claims that if there was a problem there was no solution because, like earthquakes and hurricanes, it was just an inevitable part of life.

4) Claims that if there was a problem it was an acceptable price to pay for freedom.

I'm not going to claim that's an exhaustive bit of research, but it does match roughly what I've found the more official pro-gun voices saying, often all four invoked in the same article despite the fact that they're mutually contradictory.
posted by sotonohito at 8:41 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


do you really believe a "well-regulated militia" is going to last more than six weeks against the US military?

Well, it sure has in Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by corb at 8:43 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


I am reeling a little that I did not know this aspect of the framing of the Second Amendment.

(I expect that I will now spend discussions arguing that, no "State" does not mean the country because...look, evidence.)
posted by desuetude at 8:52 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


>do you really believe a "well-regulated militia" is going to last more than six weeks against the US military?

Well, it sure has in Iraq and Afghanistan.


That's not a fair comparison: the Taliban, for example, aren't so much a militia as a former government in their own right (however illegitimate a government we might think them), and they've received (and by many accounts continue to receive) substantial funding and support from other state actors.

None of those conditions hold true for 'well-regulated militias' in the United States, in the way people talk about them; we're exactly not talking about, say, Canada funneling arms to the state government of Maine to help it declare independence from the United States.
posted by cjelli at 8:55 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


>Well, it sure has in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sounds like an ideal future for us all. That's how we want to live, that shining example.
posted by turntraitor at 8:58 AM on October 5 [15 favorites]


None of those conditions hold true for 'well-regulated militias' in the United States, in the way people talk about them; we're exactly not talking about, say, Canada funneling arms to the state government of Maine to help it declare independence from the United States.

Contemporary implements of "Well regulated militias" are pretty much the State Guard, which is IIRC correctly really just branches of the National Guard. IIRC, it's unlawful in NY to drill in uniform unless you're part of the State/National guard.

The fact that once slavery ended, no-one needed a state militia is pretty clear. I pretty much at this point just tell 2nd A. pushers that they're racists.
posted by mikelieman at 9:00 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


prospective gun and ammo buyers would need to undergo a psychological evaluation

What, a 50-question multiple-choice online quiz? Or a week-long intensive evaluation, costing hundreds or thousands of dollars? The former is useless. The latter is of uncertain value, and would quickly be challenged as an unconstitutional impediment.

There is never going to be a simple, objective test to use to decide "should this person be allowed to carry around a weapon that can kill a lot of people?" It will always take personal judgment. It's rarely a difficult judgment call - but someone has to be on the hook for making it, and right now, the NRA and the politicians it funds are fighting hard to insist that nobody be allowed to make that call, and certainly gun shops should not be allowed, much less required, to consider whether a prospective customer is going to be reasonably safe with a gun.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:09 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


The people who believe guns protect freedom also tend to be the ones who think only gold can back legitimate currency.

I don't get the fetishizing by some on the right of things as objects of freedom. That makes as much sense as deriving a system of government by having watery tarts throw swords at people.

Freedom and money aren't objects but rather concepts. As such, they are only ever truly sustained through ideas and debate.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:17 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


"None of those conditions hold true for 'well-regulated militias' in the United States, in the way people talk about them; we're exactly not talking about, say, Canada funneling arms to the state government of Maine to help it declare independence from the United States."

Um, the Russians did this very thing in Crimea. You don't think they'd try it with US paramilitaries if they thought it would work?
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:19 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


In a Democracy the government is the citizenry, and the citizenry is the government. At least in an ideal world.


So are you taking personal responsibility for US foreign policy and all the killings that entails, or are you going to cop to theories about an ideal world being useless and irrelevant?
posted by Dysk at 9:25 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Um, the Russians did this very thing in Crimea. You don't think they'd try it with US paramilitaries if they thought it would work?

Pretty sure there aren't many people in the NRA who would consider taking Russian military support in order to create enough chaos for Russian Army regulars to quietly move in and annex their state a victory.
posted by Dysk at 9:27 AM on October 5


I mean I wouldn't think that either Dysk, but some of the same population sure seemed A-OK with letting Russians do it for our presidency.
posted by corb at 9:32 AM on October 5 [13 favorites]


So are you taking personal responsibility for US foreign policy and all the killings that entails,

Not the person to whom it was asked, but yes, I do believe that I have personal responsibility for US Foreign Policy and all the killing that entails.

I just wish I knew how, in practical terms, I can discharge that responsibility and CHANGE the policies to end the killings.
posted by mikelieman at 9:43 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Well, it sure has in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If we stopped operating largely under rules of engagement that adhere to international laws on war, that resistance would be crushed, in a horrible, inhuman fashion. We absolutely should not ever do that, but what makes you think a tyrannical government trampling the Constitution and cracking down on domestic insurgency in the US ever would adhere to those rules in the first place? Good luck shooting down a guided missile launched by a tyrant who doesn't care about domestic civilian casualties. Good luck using guns to root out a Stasi style police state brought to bear against you. Also, there are tactical considerations like building out supply lines overseas that tilt things in the favor of insurgencies elsewhere that would not hold here.

ALSO I can't think of a single potential insurgency ideology that would unite Americans enough to give an insurgency the support from the general population that it needs to survive.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:51 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Fear of slave revolts was strong enough in the South that after Denmark Vesey led a revolt, South Carolina converted an arsenal into a military academy to train additional soldiers for their state militia; Virginia had a similar reaction to Nat Turner's rebellion. And since this is the South where it's all about heritage, The Citadel and VMI are still with us.
posted by TedW at 9:55 AM on October 5 [9 favorites]


I'm becoming increasingly aware that the idea that gun ownership is an effective deterrent against oppression by a modern government with a vast modern military is a fantasy that exists on both the right and the left.

The reason the US military struggles to defeat people in cities is because they are motivated to somewhat limit collateral damage. If they stop caring about collateral damage and start attempting to kill rebellious citizens, enough of those citizens will be immediately annihilated to crush any rebellion. Gun ownership will barely slow down that process, let alone prevent it. The damage the presence of guns is currently inflicting on our society outweighs any action-hero dreams of effective civil rebellion.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:56 AM on October 5 [9 favorites]


Thanks for this link. Now and then you hear about some significant piece of history that makes understanding the current state click into place. This was one of those times for me.
posted by latkes at 11:09 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]




Seems to me there is a complex set of issues around gun access in the black community. Black communities have been disproportionately harmed by guns (in the setting of economic, educational and other disparities). At the same time, I think a lot of black people are rightfully suspicious of gun restrictions as a) all criminalization policies are disproportionately enforced against black people and 2) guns have in some historical cases been perceived as a way to defend oneself against state violence and white violence.

Looking at this article, I realize how deep that part is: disarming black people (at that time slaves) and sanctioning armed white people to specifically keep black people enslaved is a core part of American history.
posted by latkes at 11:25 AM on October 5 [9 favorites]


@latkes, I was aware of this history because a lot of black american leftists now frame strict gun control in those same terms, as a way to disarm black people and sanctioning armed white law enforcement to keep them under control. You can definitely see the racial split emerge among left and even centrist positions on "ban all X" approaches that rely on "can't trust citizens with guns, just the police" arguments.

I'm neither american nor black so I have no opinion on this but the prevalence of "I trust the government [trumps government and the law enforcement that has consistently taken the side of the alt-right recently] more than the citizens" in mostly white spaces seems telling. As is the the fact that most of these calls translate to "ban the scary looking guns" and have no realistic plan to actually disarm Americans, with their strong gun culture, without risking incredible unrest and violence.
posted by Infracanophile at 12:42 PM on October 5


As this article makes clear, guns at the time of the writing of the second amendment were a tool of racial power. In other places they've been a tool of proletarian revolutions, fascist coups, sports, abusive husbands, freedom fighters, and psychopaths.

The tendency to offer opinions on particular contingencies in terms of principles and rules makes this stuff more complex than it needs to be. Guns are a tool, in a given time or place they assist oppression or allow the oppressed to defend themselves, or simply act as an agent for pointless suffering. Unless you are pro-status-quo as an absolute principle no matter who is in power, or pro death, it's a situational calculation balancing dangers to the population in general and power balances between authorities and revolutionaries.
posted by idiopath at 1:15 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Epic twitter thread on guns, white supremacy, and the bullshit myths we tell ourselves so we think we're supporting something other than white supremacy.
posted by maxsparber at 11:18 AM on October 5 [1 favorite +] [!]


As this is kind of illegible, can you copy and paste your point with attribution to whichever of the authors you meant to quote?
posted by eustatic at 3:22 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


There is never going to be a simple, objective test to use to decide "should this person be allowed to carry around a weapon that can kill a lot of people?"

Q: Do you want to own a gun?

A: Yes

Request denied, next please!
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:25 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


There's a 20 year old review of the military vs. individual right at the time of adoption by Garry Wills. It's kind of sad reading it given how things have turned out but still interesting.

In terms of current 2nd Amendment absolutists, it's kind of compelling that "militia" in the constitution is under the federal government control: "Congress shall have the power ... to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." States train and appoint officers, Congress sets the rules they follow. This would not make some random patriots with guns part of a "well organized militia" and the idea that the militia is supposed to oppose the second ammendment looks pretty silly.

-----

The OP article leaves me unconvinced. It is extremely detailed on fears that slavery would be abolished and their use in opposing the constitution (which I knew about and are pretty damning on their own), but very vague in actually tying it to the second amendment. When it gets to that point it is simply asserted that the change in wording was made for that reason at the behest of those people and intended to have that effect, without the level of quotes and evidence for all the earlier stuff. Maybe the full journal article has more detail.

Also per the link above, similar concerns about militia use and proposals existed among some in non-Southern states, like Pennsylvania.
posted by mark k at 11:55 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Well, it sure has in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No. That is terribly, incredibly disingenuous. The only tactic that works against US Soldiers is suicide IEDs, particularly VIEDs. Not rifles.

The militias in the region are regularly ROFL-stomped into the ground by the 3rd rate security forces and the fallout is a constant stream of dead civilians.

Your statement would be more true if you said, "Homicidal jackasses with access to weapons are good at fucking over people that just want to live their lives in peace." Oddly enough, that holds true here in the US as well.
posted by pdoege at 9:15 AM on October 6 [8 favorites]


I've never really heard detailed arguments for the original purpose of 2nd amendment, but I've always assumed, perhaps wrongly, that it's not about a pitched battle where on one side of a field there's the miliary, and on the other, militias. I figured the proponents have in mind something close to the recent failed coup in Turkey where military forces were split, time was of the essence, Erdogan made a plea to his base, who came out to the streets and that was seen as possibly playing crucial role in the events, scaring off parts of the military who were not pro-Erdogan but who did not wish to be part of a failed coup, either.

I would disagree because most European countries seem to be doing just fine keeping their governments in check using electoral processes. Unfortunately, in the US, patriotism seems to mean "by god if we ever learn anything useful from Europe, the American dream is over and the only thing left would be to commit a country-wide seppuki, which we'll also need to learn from the Japanese."
posted by rainy at 12:37 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Epic twitter thread on guns, white supremacy, and the bullshit myths we tell ourselves so we think we're supporting something other than white supremacy.
posted by maxsparber at 11:18 AM on October 5 [1 favorite +] [!]

As this is kind of illegible, can you copy and paste your point with attribution to whichever of the authors you meant to quote?


I'm assuming the auto-loading of the entire thread is making it difficult for you to read the thread, but you can start here and just keep scrolling down for a deluge of links to articles about how guns is a white male privilege, that it'll never be fixed while white men are in charge, and that when non-whites care about gun rights, they're the ones that gets policed and literal gun-control by white men.

It's indeed an epic thread. But really worth the time to read through.
posted by numaner at 5:01 PM on October 10


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