The Obsolete Second Amendment

It’s not 1776 anymore. It’s not even 1976 anymore. Things have changed. Even if we accept the notion that the Second Amendment was written to protect us from our own government — a notion I reject when put into the proper historical context of what the British occupation of the continent put the colonists through — we don’t live in that reality. This is precisely what Jefferson meant when he wrote about Earth belonging to the living generation. It wasn’t just a commentary on Jefferson and the other founders being mortals, it was an acknowledgment that the world Jefferson left behind on July 4th, 1826, was much, much different than the world we live in today.

The Second Amendment is obsolete. And we all helped make it that way.

You want to know what made the Second Amendment obsolete? Our obsession with the machines of war, plain and simple. Here’s a chart that shows our defense spending as a nation from 1950, just after World War II ended, to 2010. In that sixty year period, watch the line just creep higher, and higher.

What does our ever-increasing Defense budget have to do with a constitutionally protected right to bear arms? It’s actually quite simple if you look at it from a historical stand point. When the Revolutionary War began, we didn’t have the world’s best Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. What we had was a Continental army cobbled together from the state militias. General George Washington led the army that was trained by  Prussian General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. When victory over the British was finally secured, the colonies were tasked with formally creating the United States of America.

One of the biggest fights among those chosen to literally write the documents that our nation would be founded upon was what do about national defense. The threat of re-invasion and occupation from Great Britain was strong, and despite the loss, they were still the most powerful armed forces in the world at that time. Many of the colonists feared strong central government and a standing army was felt to be an overreach. So in lieu of a large national army, the Second Amendment was written, guaranteeing a right to own guns so that those guns and the citizens who owned them could be part of a well-regulated militia.

Yes, gun zealots, “regulation” in the sense that the Founders used it in the Second Amendment does not actually mean legal regulations — or laws — but rather a well-trained militia. But that doesn’t exactly prove your argument that Madison and the others wanted American citizens to own every gun under the sun. As Scalia said in D.C. vs. Heller, no Constitutional right is unlimited. We should be debating on where the limits are, not whether there are limits at all, but that’s a digression for another time.

So in other words, the Second Amendment was actually a national defense strategy. The idea was that in a nation where anyone who wanted to keep a firearm could do so, the threat of invasion from another country would be mitigated because those citizens would be party of a well-trained militia, able to become the nation’s army at a moment’s notice. But World War II changed all that. It was a fully-industrialized war, and the war effort itself has been largely credited for really restarting the nation’s economy in the wake of the Depression.

[one_third]In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. –Dwight Eisenhower[/one_third]

The problem for the Second Amendment came when we started spending more and more on defense each year. If the second World War started the Second Amendment on a path to obsolescence the Cold War killed and buried the need for it. The arms race between the former Soviet Union and the United States helped magnify a million times over the military- industrial complex’s role in our economy. Our armed forces take up such a large chunk of our government’s expenditures that it actually has become a wobbly leg that our economy is perched on. We didn’t heed President Eisenhower’s admonishments to keep the Pentagon’s budget in check, and in doing so we created an armed forces so large that even if the intent of the Second Amendment had been to help shield us from the tyranny of our own government (it wasn’t), it could crush any uprising of citizens anywhere. We managed to create a military strength so large, it renders our right to bear arms irrelevant.

Well, irrelevant outside the auspices of personal protection. Which is where you’ll find me getting off the anti-Second Amendment train. I’m actually not against the right to bear arms at all. But I am in favor of redefining it, or rather simply just refining the definition of what kind of arms citizens should have for personal protection. And therein lies the problem with the gun control fight these days. Every time someone like me suggests even discussing a look at what kinds of guns should be off-limits, you have the gun zealots screaming from the rafters about “gun grabs” and “infringing our rights.”

I’ve written extensively about how we infringe on all our rights every day, willfully, in order to have that more perfect union we’re always striving to become. We’ve had numerous discussions and debates in this country about what kinds of speech are protected by the Constitution. It’s time to have that conversation about guns. Or at least it was in the wake of Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin, or the other three spree killings we saw last year. But in just a few months, support for stricter gun control measures has dropped ten percent in the latest CBS poll. I personally place a heavy amount of blame on the fact that Congress — and particularly the useless bastard Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) — for the shift in the polls. As the CBS poll suggests, as soon as Reid announced he would not include the assault weapons ban in the gun control advanced out of the Senate, support started to falter.

The good news is that overwhelmingly Americans still believe in universal background checks for all gun purchases. Maybe we shouldn’t be just loaning guns to people, because you know, you can’t shoot twenty kids with a cup of sugar. So yes, if you want to loan your hunting rifle to your friend, you should have to prove your friend isn’t a psychopath. You can’t just loan your car to an uninsured and unlicensed driver, so what about treating guns with the same kind of respect for human life? No, driving isn’t a specifically-assigned constitutional right, but ostensibly it’s covered in the general promises of the Constitution and of our nation. And more importantly, no Constitutional right is unlimited. None of them.

Maybe it’ll take forty children dying. Maybe a hundred thousand. I don’t know what the threshold is for gun zealots. Clearly twenty small children and six teachers and faculty members isn’t that magic number. I’m assuming there is none. But we’ll never be able to have the conversations we need to have until as a nation we come to grips with the fact that our right to bear arms has nothing to do with governmental tyranny. It has nothing to do with an invading army. It’s now about personal protection from each other.  And the question we have to ask ourselves is just how much protection we think sensible people need from other sensible people. We can’t continue to allow paranoia about the armed gunman to determine whether we let military-style weapons loose on the streets.

Keep the Second Amendment in place. Until those Americans who feel they need a gun to be safe don’t feel that way anymore, there’s no reason or point to attempt disarmament, which I don’t think is necessary if we force ourselves to find rational conclusions to draw from reasoned debate and discourse. We have to address our obsolete but completely entrenched and perhaps even necessary Second Amendment. It’s just time to redefine what we need it for, and how we’re planning on implementing it.





About James Schlarmann 2612 Articles
James is the founding contributor and editor-in-chief of The Political Garbage Chute, a political satire and commentary site, which can be found on Facebook as well. You definitely should not give that much a shit about his opinions.
  • First, let us be correct with our words. There are no constitutional rights given to the people, the people already had those rights. The Bill of Rights does not bestow rights, it protects those rights already held by the people from infringement by a central government.

    James, you go on and on about how the SA is obsolete because we no longer need a militia for defense of the country. Yes, our armed forces would probably be able to handle just about any attempt to invade this country. However, you belittle the part about it protecting the people from a central government, but if the SA was only to have a militia because we didn’t have a standing army at the time to defend the country, why isn’t there some provision requiring the people to obtain a firearm to be use in the malitia, or why wasn’t one issued to all who didn’t have one? The central government eats away at the Bill of Rights every chance they get and I believe they would LOVE to get rid of the SA.

    People have recently referred to a number ofifferent spree shootings to try to justify banning alleged assualt weapons as the evil thng that causes these shotings. But if Iremember correctly, most of these spree shootings were done with weapons other than assault rifles and that seems to be ignored. If the Sandy Hook shooting had happened to have been done with a shotgun, and it easily could have been done with one with the same results, would you now be crying about banning shotguns? If he had driven his car into the playground and run them over, would you be crying about banning cars? Cars kill more people in this country than guns, maybe we should ban cars, especially those black ones with the fancy wheels and tinted windows because no one NEEDS a car like that.

    • James Schlarmann

      There is no ” part about it protecting the people from a central government.” Or have you not read the Second Amendment lately?

      • I think he’s referring to the Bill of Rights in general, which is certainly a document designed to limit the power of the central government. Anyway, I think your analysis is missing a few key dots that should be connected. The second amendment is designed, at least in part, to arm the people against a repressive authority, either foreign or domestic. What difference does it make if your oppressor is in London or D.C.? (or Philly, etc). There is a long tradition dating back to the English Bill of Rights in response to James II restricting some groups from keeping arms, in order to quell any resistance from his Protestant enemies.

        But what I really think you’re missing here is the federalism element. You skipped the Articles of Confederation and went from the Revolution to the United States. But what they were debating during the Constitutional convention was mostly the allocation of power to the state v. the central government.

        I agree with you and disagree with Justice Scalia that the right was tied to a “well regulated militia,” but these militia were not unorganized. They were STATE militia. The second amendment was, in my mind, a promise to the states, who were giving up significantly more power to the central government under the Constitution than they had under the Articles of Confederation, that this newly strengthened central authority would not be able to infringe on the right, of the states to bear arms, in the form of a well regulated STATE militia.

    • Hank Chinanski

      Gary ; Your argument is mute because not matter the conversation you have your fingers in your ears! Anyone can justify anything by your logic and you are obviously not experienced in combat or it’s aftermath so again your point is mute! That’s the best way of telling you that just when did the rights of the killer infringe on the rights of the victim?

      • James, I guess we are supposed to ignore all the writings of those involved in creating the S and just go with what we think it means. If part of it was not as a defense against an out of control centra government, then why bother to have it as an amendment. If there were no fear of a gun grabbibg central government there would have been no need to make sure the people’s right to bear arms was not infringed by that central government. Who else would the SA be protecting us from?

      • gay

        Hank, you assume a lot for someone who doesn’t have a clue. I won’t bother with my combat resume, but it spans more than a few years of service.

        Do you even have a point? I didn’t and don’t have to justify anything, it is you and your ilk that are trying to justify and infringement of the SA based on what someone did using a particular tool. Based on that, you want to eliminate that tool. I will ask as I did in my original post, if it had been done with a shotgun, would you now be wantng to ban shotguns?

        The victims rights were infringed when they were killed and the person who did it is the one who infringed those rights, not the tool as that could have been anything.

    • Bryan

      “The central government eats away at the Bill of Rights every chance they get and I believe they would LOVE to get rid of the SA.”

      OK Gary, please list one thing the central government could do if US citizens were without guns (not that anyone is proposing to ban all guns) that it can’t do now. Anything?

      • It is not so much that they COULDN’T do whatever they wanted, the difference now is it might be very messy and costly. Dealing with an armed population is like harvesting honey from bees, You have to be careful. If the stingers were removed from the bees…..

  • The greatest danger to a free state is the central government.

    • James Schlarmann

      That’s certainly one paranoid and delusional way of looking at it.

  • “what the British occupation of the continent put the colonists through” has to be the most bizarre phrase I have ever read relating to American or British history. The British never even came close to “occupying the continent”, by the way. They colonized the east coast, the French the midwest via the Mississippi, and the Spanish took over the west coast and Mejico.

  • studing the history of the 2nd Amendment a big part of it was wanting a well armed militia not to

    protect oneself from its own Government or even by an attack on the United States at the time.
    The worry was of a slave revolt (even then) and they wanted enough men with arms (militia) to be able to stop the revolt.

    • Randy, if this was the reason for the SA why bother having it, it does’t require anyone to have ams, it just makes sure the central government doesn’t think it can disarm the people. And even if this was the reason (I don’t agree it was) it doesn’t matter, the people always had the right to keep and bear arms. A lot of people seem to want to ignore the fact that the constituion and the bill of rights does NOT bestow rights on the people. The goverment has no rights to bestow, the only rights the government has are those given by the people to the government through the constitution.

  • You idios

  • Great post, James! Good luck dealing with the knuckle draggers who love guns more than they love their neighbors and children.

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