Here in Europe, the problem of criminals getting military-grade weapons is a geographical one: the Old World has just too many ethnic/cultural/political fault lines -anglophone readers will probably be familiar with all the deaths brought by Northern Ireland inside Great Britain itself. And though in the new millennium it seems we more or less agreed not to shoot on each other, we are simply surrounded by regions of instability, if not outright war. That’s why the Paris attackers were able to get military-grade guns: they were from actual, recent or at least potential combat zones.
But in America, guns are Constitutional matter.
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.
I’ve tried to wrap my head around those words at every major mass shooting; that is, at regular and fairly short intervals. This phrase must have been crystal clear in what it mandated or forbid when it was written, to be included in the Constitution -but that was 250 years ago.
What confused me more, was how “gun freedom” proponents claiming that guns would keep them free from an overreaching government.
Do you seriously expect to stand against the army?
Yes, you can maybe hide; and hope they decide it’s not worth it. But, that takes decades. If you think of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and now Syria, you must realize that maybe your son will see the federal troops abandon i.e. Texas -but you will be most likely dead in a cave after years of running from drone strikes (…also, I really hope you have some other superpower or oil sultan ready to finance you in the meantime).
What’s more -it just doesn’t fit with the actual words. Or at least requires a lot of twisting. The militia is supposed to be defending the state; not the people from the state.
Turns out, they were completely right.
They had just lost a piece in the sands of history -a big piece.
The illumination came when someone posted an excerpt of a letter written by one of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, during the debate which shortly after resulted in the Constitution.
Here it is, emphasis mine
“The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country, to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil establishments of all the States. To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year.
“But though the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be abandoned as mischievous or impracticable; yet it is a matter of the utmost importance that a well-digested plan should, as soon as possible, be adopted for the proper establishment of the militia. The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed to the formation of a select corps of moderate extent, upon such principles as will really fit them for service in case of need. By thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”
This is amazing. We Europeans are so proud of the French Revolution, which invented the modern State -the one which more or less got exported to the whole world, be it through example or colonialism.
What we forget, is that a splinter of the western world had already invented its own modern state 20 years before. And in a completely different situation, it invented a truly different kind of state.
The big takeaway here is that
THE UNITED STATES WERE NEVER SUPPOSED TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL ARMY
And as Hamilton points out even more clearly in another passage,
To render an army unnecessary, will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions upon paper.
The United States were born with sort of a ‘market solution to defense’. In many respect, it’s brilliant. If many citizens by free choice bear arms, train in their use, and are ready to fight for the state, then the state can do away with not having a permanent army -and only call on armed citizens in times of need. Just as they had done with the Revolution, after all. Or what they did on smaller scale when fights broke out with natives. That’s the world they were thinking of -the only one they could know.
And this is what allows to hope that a rogue general taking over the state could be resisted by regular citizens. Because citizens are trained in using guns, and soldiers are not much more than citizens trained in using guns.
Needless to say, this utterly failed a century ago. When the USA became a big player in the world. And thus went on to have a professional, hugely funded, permanent army.
This is not betraying the constitution. It is adapting to a world which dramatically changed; and the United States themselves changed most of all. For the best, I’d even say. The Founding Fathers would agree that the state now needs an army -and thus, that what they attempted with the Second Amendment no longer makes sense.
Of course, they would still be pretty freaked out by the military being employed needlessly; not only wasting taxpayer’s money, but particularly in contexts where they must constantly strife at precisely what you do not want them to be good at doing -crushing the resistance of an hostile civilian population.
Even more, they would be horrified by this
…and you should too. Should someone at the top try to create a police state -the infrastructure is 100% ready.(also, NSA)
Luckily, you have at least something very precious a young nation just emerged from a revolutionary war, establishing itself among tribes and absolute monarchies, couldn’t count on.
A quarter of a millennium of unbroken democracy.
So, stop hugging your AK 47 -until you drastically scale back the size of the armed forces, police militarization, and communication spying, any person of sense living today would agree that that tradition of democracy is now your main, perhaps only, remaining line of defense against what the Second Amendment tried to prevent.
Just try not to shove it down the drain this election. Or, well, ever. There might be no going back, or not in your lifetime; however many guns you have.