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The 2nd Amendment Says a Lot More Than the ‘Right to Bear Arms’—And the True History of It Will Blow Right-Wing Minds The Founding Fathers weren’t advocating for mass shootings.

Many politicians, especially those on the Right, pretend they are strictly adhering to the U.S. Constitution when they often are just making the founding document mean whatever they want – but perhaps nowhere is that as dangerous as with their make-believe Second Amendment.

In the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas—where one individual firing from a high-rise hotel murdered 58 people and wounded more than 500 at a country music festival—we are told that the reason the United States can’t do anything to stop this sort of carnage is the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.”

“Gun rights” advocates insist that pretty much any gun control violates the design of the Constitution’s Framers and thus can’t be enacted no matter how many innocent people die.

Some on the Right, as well as some on the Left, even claim that the Founders, as revolutionaries themselves, wanted an armed population so the people could rebel against the Republic, which the U.S. Constitution created. But the Constitution’s Framers in 1787 and the authors of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress in 1789 had no such intent.

Arguably other individuals disconnected from the drafting of those documents may have harbored such radical attitudes (at least rhetorically), but the authors didn’t. In fact, their intent was the opposite.

The goal of the Second Amendment was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order at a time of political unrest, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers. Indeed, the amendment’s defined purpose was to achieve state “security” against disruptions to the country’s new republican form of government.

The Second Amendment reads: “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.”

In other words, if read in context, it’s clear that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e., to put down armed disorder and protect its citizens.

In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of “bearing” arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn’t mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.

No Anarchists

Further to the point, both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were the work of the Federalists, who—at the time—counted James Madison among their ranks.

And whatever one thinks about the Federalists, who often are criticized as elitists, they were the principal constitutional Framers and the leaders of the First Congress. They constituted the early national establishment, people such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and Madison.

The Federalists feared that their new creation, a constitutional republic in an age of monarchies, was threatened by the potential for violent chaos, which is what European aristocrats predicted for the new United States. Democracy was a largely untested concept that was believed likely to fall victim to demagoguery and factionalism.

So, the Framers sought a political system that reflected the will of the citizens (the House of Representatives) but within a framework that constrained public passions (the Senate and other checks and balances). In other words, the Constitution sought to channel political disputes into non-violent competition among various interests, not into armed rebellions against the government.

The Framers also recognized how fragile the nation’s independence was and how domestic rebellions could be exploited by European powers. Indeed, one of the crises that led to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 was the inability of the old system under the Articles of Confederation to put down Shays’s Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-87. Washington saw the possible hand of British agents.

So, the Federalists were seeking a structure that would ensure “domestic Tranquility,” as they explained in the Constitution’s Preamble. They did not want endless civil strife.

The whole idea of the Constitution—with its mix of voting (at least by some white male citizens), elected and appointed representatives, and checks and balances—was to create a political structure that made violence unnecessary.

So, it should be obvious even without knowing all the history that the Framers weren’t encouraging violent uprisings against the Republic that they were founding. To the contrary, they characterized violence against the constitutional system as “treason” in Article III, Section 3. They also committed the federal government to protect each state from “domestic Violence,” in Article IV, Section 4.

Putting Down Rebellion

One of the first uses of the new state militias formed under the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts, which required able-bodied men to report for duty with their own muskets, was for President Washington to lead a federalized force of militiamen against the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

In the South, one of the principal reasons for a militia was to rally armed whites to put down slave uprisings. On the frontier, militias fought against Native Americans over land. Militias also were called up to fight the British in the War of 1812.

But you don’t have to like or dislike how the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts were used to recognize how the Framers intended these legislative provisions to be used.

The Second Amendment was meant to maintain public order, even an unjust order, rather than to empower the oppressed to take up arms against the government. That latter idea was a modern reinterpretation, a distortion of the history.

The revisionists who have transformed the meaning of the Second Amendment love to cite provocative comments by Thomas Jefferson, such as a quote from a 1787 letter criticizing the Constitution for its commander-in-chief provisions.

Jefferson argued that violence, like Shays’s Rebellion, should be welcomed. He wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.”

Jefferson, of course, was a world-class hypocrite who rarely believed what he was saying or writing. He crafted noble words, like “all men are created equal, … endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” but he was a major slaveholder who raped at least one and likely more slave girls and had slave boys whipped.

He also was never willing to risk his own blood as that “natural manure” of liberty. During the Revolutionary War when Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia’s governor, fled the capital. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.

But more to the point, Jefferson was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, nor was he in the First Congress, which produced the Second Amendment. In other words, it’s a historical error to cite Jefferson in any way as speaking authoritatively about what the Framers intended with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was not directly involved in either.

A Collective Right

The real history of the Second Amendment was well understood both by citizens and courts in the generations after the Constitution and Bill of Rights were enacted. For most of the years of the Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right, allowing Americans to participate in a “well-regulated Militia,” not an individual right to buy the latest weaponry at a gun show or stockpile a military-style arsenal in the basement.

It’s true that many Americans owned a musket or rifle in those early years especially on the frontier, but regulations on munitions were still common in cities where storing of gunpowder, for instance, represented a threat to the public safety.

As the nation spread westward, so did common-sense restrictions on gun violence. Sheriffs in some of the wildest of Wild West towns enforced gun bans that today would prompt a recall election financed by the National Rifle Association.

However, in recent decades — understanding the power of narrative on the human imagination — a resurgent American Right (and some on the Left) rewrote the history of the Founding era, dispatching “researchers” to cherry-pick or fabricate quotes from Revolutionary War leaders to create politically convenient illusions. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of apocryphal or out-of-context gun quotes.]

That bogus history gave rise to the image of the Framers as wild-eyed radicals – Leon Trotskys of the Eighteenth Century – encouraging armed rebellion against their own Republic. Rather than people who believed in the rule of law and social order, the Framers were contorted into crazies who wanted citizens to be empowered to shoot American police, soldiers, elected representatives and government officials as agents of “tyranny.”

This false history was advanced particularly by the American Right in the last half of the Twentieth Century as a kind of neo-Confederate call to arms, with the goal of rallying whites into a near-insurrectionary fury particularly in the South but also in rural areas of the North and West.

In the 1950s and 1960s, some white Southerners fancied themselves an armed resistance against the tyrannical federal government as it enforced laws on racial integration and other supposed infringements on “states’ rights.” In the 1990s, armed “citizens militias” began to pop up in reaction to the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1994.

While designed primarily for the weak-minded, the Right’s faux Founding history also had an impact on right-wing “intellectuals” including Republican lawyers who worked their way up through the federal judiciary under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump.

By 2008, these right-wing jurists held a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and could thus overturn generations of legal precedents and declare that the Second Amendment established an individual right for Americans to own guns. Though even these five right-wing justices accepted society’s right to protect the general welfare of the population through some gun control, the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively “validated” the Right’s made-up history.

The ruling created a political dynamic to which even liberals in national politics — the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden — had to genuflect, the supposed Second Amendment right of Americans to parade around in public with guns on their hips and high-powered semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

What the Framers Wanted?

As guns-right activists struck down gun regulations in Congress and in statehouses across the nation, their dominant argument was that the Second Amendment offered no leeway for restrictions on gun ownership; it’s what the Framers wanted.

So, pretty much any unstable person could load up with a vast killing capacity and slouch off to a bar, to a work place, to a church, to a school or to a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and treat fellow Americans as targets in a real-life violent video game. Somehow, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was overtaken by the “right” to own an AR-15 with a 30-or-100-bullet magazine.

When right-wing politicians talk about the Second Amendment now, they don’t even bother to include the preamble that explains the point of the amendment. The entire amendment is only 26 words. But the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, find the preamble inconvenient because it would undercut their false storyline. So they just lop off the first 12 words.

Nor do they explain what the Framers meant by “bear arms.” The phrase reflected the reasoning in the Second Amendment’s preamble that the whole point was to create “well-regulated” state militias to maintain “security,” not to free up anybody with a beef to kill government officials or citizens of a disapproved race or creed or just random folks.

So, even after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

At the time, the clear message from the Right was that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama, the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) especially if he pressed ahead seeking common-sense gun restrictions. But Napolitano was simply wrong on the history.

Another dubious argument from the gun-rights lobby was that armed citizens could take down a gunman and thus stop a mass shooting before it became a full-fledged massacre.

But a gunfight among largely untrained civilians would likely add to the slaughter, not stop it. For instance, a 2012 mass shooting occurred in a darkened theater in Aurora, Colorado. Does anyone logically think that a bunch of terrified gun carriers exchanging fire in such a situation – not knowing who the original shooter was – would solve the problem?

And how about Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas where the shooter positioned himself on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and fired down on a packed concert venue, a substantial distance away?

Assuming that the concertgoers were armed and tried to defend themselves, they would likely have ended up shooting other innocent concertgoers because of the initial confusion as to where the shooter was positioned. That would have further complicated the challenge to police who could have mistakenly opened fire on armed people in the crowd rather than locate and stop the original killer as he kept firing from his sniper’s perch. In other words, the horrific death toll could have been even higher.

To pretend that such carnage was the intent of the Constitution’s Framers, who wrote about achieving “domestic Tranquility,” or the goal of the First Congress, which drafted the Second Amendment to promote “the security of a free State,” is intellectually dishonest and a true threat to the lives of American citizens.

By Robert Parry/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Is North Carolina stuck in an abusive relationship?

Behavior of state leaders, state policy community raise warning flags

Image: NC Policy Watch

The last seven years in North Carolina politics and policy have been extraordinary. In a very short period of time, a once moderate state has been transformed into a kind of laboratory for far right policies and a testing ground for what we are coming to know now as Trumpism. On issue after issue, state legislative leaders have aggressively pursued an ultra-conservative agenda that seeks to radically remake the state’s social contract.

What’s more, this has not been a happy or buoyant transformation. Rather than being predicated on a positive or hopeful new vision of society, the conservative revolution in North Carolina has mostly been a counter-revolution. Even today, a point at which they enjoy veto-proof majorities and can realistically contemplate an entire decade in power, conservative legislative leaders premise most of their actions and policies more on an angry rejection of past supposed transgressions by Democrats than a coherent articulation of what they want to build.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

5 of the Most Dangerous Delusions of the Far Right

That the conservative movement is built on a bunch of misinformation, strange fantasies and outright lies has been the subject of thorough documentation, particularly in the past few decades. Conservative leaders deny inconvenient facts, make up lurid tales to justify their beliefs, and outright lie, if it suits their agenda. But these lies and myths rarely just sit in amber. They tend to evolve and get stranger and more baroque over time. Just when you think conservative misinformation can’t get any weirder, it does. Here’s four topics where conservatives are taking the lies and denialism to the next level.

1) Climate change. The White House recently released a report on climate change outlining how climate change is no longer a “future” issue since it’s having an impact on the environment right now. Conservatives responded by abandoning all restraint. No longer content with the line that they are simply “skeptical” of the science, George Will and Charles Krauthammer (neither of whom are scientists) went on Fox News to “explain” how all this science stuff is hokum. Will basically accused scientists of making it all up for mercenary reasons, saying, “If you want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government, don’t question its orthodoxy.” Why the federal government would make up climate change and then bribe scientists to lie about it was left unexplained.

More from Alternet

Posted by The Non-Conformist

6 Most Absurd Things Right-Wing Christians Have Blamed on Gays

“We have displeased the Lord and the earth is going to answer,” so-called prophet Cindy Jacobs warned in advance of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act last summer. If this warning sounds familiar, it should: right wingers have a long history of blaming everything from earthquakes to recession to climate change on the advance of gay marriage, and they’re only getting more ridiculous.

1. Autism and Tornados…

 

2. Climate Change…

 

Read more at Alternet

 

Posted by Libergirl

Requiring an ID to Eat?! The Right-Wing’s Next Crazy Plot Against Low-Income Americans

Image: bradblog.com

Food stamp recipients will have their grocery store humiliation compounded by having to show a photo ID in order to buy food if Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) gets his way.

Under a bill Vitter introduced Wednesday , beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be denied their food if they are unable to show a photographic identification card at the register. For millions of low-income Americans who don’t have an official photo ID and can’t necessarily afford to buy one, Vitter’s bill would mean being cut off from their primary food source.

Estimates of how many people are without the kind of ID Vitter wants to require are a bit fuzzy, as researchers have tended to focus on the issue in the context of voting rights, but multiple surveys have found that around 10 percent of the voting public doesn’t have a state-issued ID. One survey of voting-age citizens in 2006 put the ID-less proportion of the population at 11 percent, meaning that more than 21 million people nationwide likely lack photo ID, and found that one in four African-Americans surveyed had no ID.

More from Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

10 Certifiably Insane Rants from the Right-Wing Fringe This Week: War on Santa Edition

1. Megyn Kelly: This is for all you kids out there: Santa is white! Hear me? He’s white!

One is only left to scratch one’s head and wonder why, why, why? Why was it so important to Fox host Megyn Kelly to repeatedly look into the camera and tell America’s children that Santa is “just white”?

It is laughable, yes—and Jon Stewart helped us laugh at it when he asked, “Who is Megyn Kelly talking to? Children who are sophisticated enough to watch the 10 o’clock news, yet naïve enough to believe in Santa, and racist enough to be upset that he might not be white?” That is, as he points out, a fairly narrow segment of viewers.

But what Kelly’s insane rant really shows is just how mean-spirited she really is, that her vaunted empathy extends only to white working women, or rather to white working right-wing women who think like her.  Her empathy deficit is front and center in the repetition of the word, “kids,” and the use of the word “just.” When she says, Santa is “just white” to the “kids” out there, and they are just going to have to deal with it, it seems that she is also talking to non-white kids. Just deal with it, you non-white kids. Santa’s not for you.

In the ensuing kerfuffle, she accused her detractors of race-baiting — and claimed it was an off-handed remark, that she was just kidding — and again asserted that Santa is white. In response to a thoughtful article on Slate by Aisha Harris, who chronicles the genuine pain she felt reconciling Santa’s “whiteness” with her African-American family’s Christmas celebration, Kelly ratcheted up the jerkiness. “Just because it makes people uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it has to change.”

Because you can’t change the facts of a made-up story about a jolly man who flies around and gives children toys. And made-up stories belong on the news, kids.

Kids!? Are you listening?

2. Pat Robertson: Letting lesbians into your house could turn your kids gay.

Patty Robertson slays us. He really does. His delusional view that gayness is a contagious germ was revealed this week when a viewer named Catherine wrote in for some advice. She had recently reconnected with an old best friend who, it turned out, was a lesbian. Catherine had invited her old friend to meet her children, but became concerned when her old friend wanted to bring her life partner along.

Big mistake, the 700 Club host told her. Having lesbian friends in her home could turn her children gay, and “you don’t want your children to grow up as lesbians.”

Exactly how this transmission of sexuality would occur, he did not explain. It, like the lord, works in mysterious ways, but suffice it to say, “Danger!”

While Catherine should not risk infecting her children with the acceptance-of-the-lesbian-lifestyle virus, Rev. Pat said nor should she shun her old friend. Because, who knows, maybe Catherine could infect her friend with the good Christian, heterosexual lifestyle, ummm, virus.

Failing that, he counseled: “It doesn’t hurt to tell somebody, ‘Look, I love you and we’re going to do what we can to be friends if we can, but I have my lifestyle, it’s Christian. And you have yours, it’s not. And so, I’m sorry, we can’t indulge in certain things together.’”

Like lesbian sex, we’re presuming. That’s out.

More from Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Meet the ‘Hip’ Christian Right-Wingers Trying to Make Conservative Christianity Look Cool for the Kids

Young people are leaving the church in droves. Enter the hipster Christian leader intended to pull them back in.

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Image: rookerville.com

It’s no secret in Christian circles that young people are leaving the church in droves, with  Christian research firms finding over and overthat once there’s not a parent there to push them to church, the majority of high school kids drift away from religion once they move out of the house. Some come back, but some leave permanently.

One favorite solution is to try to make the church more hip by employing young, seemingly cool Christians who are in tune with modern pop culture as leaders. A lot of these young, hip Christians are actually quite progressive in their politics. In a lot of cases, however, the change from the cranky, judgmental church of old is purely aesthetic. If you scratch the surface of these seemingly with-it young Christian leaders, you’ll see they’re peddling the same old sex-negative, hyper-conservative intolerance that motivates their elders.

Here’s a list of some of the leaders who are trying to make conservative Christianity seem cool, and who generally fail because conservative Christianity is the exact opposite of cool.

1) Bradlee Dean. In many ways, Bradlee Dean epitomizes the Christian right overreaction to the fact that young people are ignoring religious fundamentalism in growing numbers. Many Christian leaders have taken to suggesting that Christianity should be more manly and aggressive to woo the young, and Dean took this to heart, starting You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International and the Christian rock band Junkyard Prophet, both of which embrace an over-the-top Harley motorcycle-influenced aesthetic.  Dean had a habit of sneaking Christian propaganda into public schools by offering programs he portrayed as merely anti-drug to school administrators but once he was in front of the students, turned into Bible-thumping.

More from Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist