Monday, March 07, 2016

Why The Second Amendment Needs Serious Strengthening

It's so simple, the Second Amendment. Surely anyone can understand it! It's inviolable and there to stay, right?

Wrong. After decades of being left alone, a profound attack has been levied on the Second Amendment, based primarily on two ideas. First, that states and even municipalities could interpret the Second Amendment however they pleased, and that the phrase 'a well regulated militia' did not refer to an individual's right to near arms,  but to a government regulated paramilitary or military body.

Anyone who has read what the Founders had to say about this (especially James Madison, who actually wrote the Amendment*) knows it is sheer Leftist, Big Government deconstructionism. But an even clearer idea comes when we look at what a militia actually was when the Constitution was written...private citizens who possessed their own arms, shot and powder, kept them in their homes and could be called on to defend the Republic in an emergency. That's exactly what the Minute Men were.

Lexington and Concord were not fought by a government organized military, but by free men whom brought their own weapons and ammunition out to defend their homes against the invader.

 File:Statue in Minute Man National Historical Park.jpg

Nevertheless, the second Amendment has been under attack for some time, especially in Blue States and Democrat run municipalities. I ought to know. I live in one of them. And  I have seen Second Amendment rights whittled down by draconian restrictions that outlaw many basic, commonly used kinds of firearms, the sale or even inheriting of firearms, outrageous taxes on sales of firearms and ammo and even sheer bureaucratic obstruction to obtaining licenses to keep, carry, sell and own guns.

It was only in 2008, by a vote of 5 to 4, that the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment actually protects a citizen's rights to own a handgun and keep it in his home to defend himself.

Even that didn't settle the matter. It took McDonald v. Chicago in 2010, another 5 to 4 decision for the Court to rule that the City of Chicago was unable to outlaw the possession of handguns by private citizens. And believe it or not, that was not decided based on the clear language and intent of the Second Amendment, but using the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

So, when asking whether the Second Amendment needs strengthening, the answer is obvious, especially to anyone familiar with varmint fencing or rat proofing a home. You have to constantly monitor it, and be prepared to strengthen and reinforce it anywhere you see a sign the rats are starting to make their way in.

There are several ways that come immediately to mind and remember, the Left plays a long game. So should we. First, let's look at the culture.

The Left has invested quite a bit of time and money towards propagandizing the every notion of even possessing fire arms. It even starts at the earliest levels of the public schools, where children have been suspended for making a gun shape out of a poptart, or even making a 'finger gun' out of closed hand and an index finger.

Thus the idea that guns and those whom own them are evil and a menace is transmitted from an early age. And reinforced constantly.

Let's contrast this with the message kids got in the past. In much of America, a boy's right of passage involved receiving that first .22 from Dad, along with careful instructions on how to use it, how to take care of it and what a responsibility it was to possess it. That tradition still exists in some parts of the country, but in other parts it has been dead for some time.

Many high schools once even had their own shooting ranges on campus and had gun safety classes as part of curriculum.  

We had at one time, believe it or not, a Director of Civilian Marksmanship, head of an actual government office created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act. His job was to coordinate with shooting clubs, ROTC classes, institutions like the Citadel and VMI and the National Rifle Association to promote safety, increased excellence in shooting practice, familiarity with weapons to young men and the sale of unneeded surplus weapons to the public.

That ended in 1996 during the Clinton years, when the office ceased to become a part of the Federal Government and was denigrated into a 'government chartered' organization called the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety. It receives no federal funding any more, aside from the donation of a scanty amount of surplus .22 and .30 caliber rifles in the Army's inventory for it to sell. That's chiefly what it does now aside from a few clubs and shooting competitions, but in its day the Office of Civilian Marksmanship was a powerful force for teaching young Americans to shoot well and shoot safely.

Taking education out of the hands of the Teacher's Unions (along with instituting textbooks celebrating American heroism and courage) is an important part of changing changing the culture and attitudes among children towards firearms and the men who use them. Children need heroic role models beyond the latest gangsta rapper or most of the products of today's TV and film industry, but again, these are both long game strategies.

More immediate would be reconstituting the Office of Civilian Marksmanship in its original role and prominence with Federal funding. And perhaps incentives for schools with successful ROTC programs or shooting clubs. Some of the 'Jr.' programs the services have like the Marine Corps Devil Pups should also be expanded. At a time when many fathers are increasingly absent by choice or by the force of unfair and biased laws,  a positive role model in uniform would have an enormous effect on a child.

Another important step would be enforcing the Solomon Amendment mandating that all high schools must  allow military recruiters in uniform on campus or lose federal funding. Kids at that age almost automatically admire men and women who carry themselves with the pride and confidence that comes from being tested and succeeding.

By itself, these steps won't immediately affect a lifetime of programming, but it would be an important start in teaching kids that in the right hands, guns save lives and protect their freedom.

Another vital step as far as I'm concerned would be the social shaming and punishment of those who misuse firearms to commit crimes. Imagine the effect on gun crime and society that a national law mandating the death penalty for anyone using a firearm to commit a felony would have! Mandatory sentencing, one appeal allowed only. Execution by firing squad would be a poetic touch.

It's highly important not to neglect the cultural aspect of these changes. Remember, today's children are tomorrow's voters, and perhaps even judges and legislators. Trust me, the Left remembers. If we're to keep the Second Amendment and indeed our other freedoms, we need to change the culture.

I know of two countries where guns, even military assault weapons (real, full automatic ones as opposed to the Left's fantasy ones) are an important and normal part of every day life. Or to put it another way, where owning firearms and their responsible use is seen in a  positive light by the culture. And not coincidentally, both countries have some of the lowest murder rates in the western world.

Israel and Switzerland both have compulsory military service. And after one's service is over, reserve duty continues until age 55 in Israel and age 50 in Switzerland. Both countries maintain small, well equipped professional militaries, but reserves can be called up and mobilized  in a matter of hours because they are required to keep their weapons well maintained and in their homes as well as ammunition and other equipment. The same is true in Israel. Kids from an early age see their fathers and older siblings routinely handling weaponry and perceive it as something positive and indeed, protective.

In Israel, after several horrendous terrorist attacks on schools and children, it is routine for teachers to go armed on field trips. And there are no 'gun free zones'  in schools and universities.

What's more, these weapons are in the hands of people who have been trained quite well during their military service on how to use them.

Get on any bus or train in Israel and the chances are you'll see a reservist wearing the IDF uniform with his or her weapon within easy reach. The positive message this sends to kids is that the people they see as heroes, even their family members, are protecting them using  guns and using them responsibly.

While I don't see America adopting compulsory service anytime soon, some of the other steps I've mentioned would go a long way towards changing the culture when it comes to firearms and the Second Amendment. And they're necessary, I think, if we wish to keep it.

Next, let's look at the legislative aspect.

I'm a big fan of the Tenth Amendment, but even a casual glance shows us that the way the Second Amendment is followed differs widely from state to state, and even from municipality to municipality. That can't really be said for any other amendment.

Even worse, in many jurisdictions there's very little reciprocity, meaning that residents of other states or even other cities obeying the gun laws of their own states on matters like concealed carry can be harassed and charged.

So unfortunately, we need some federal laws to ensure reciprocity on items like concealed and open carry, what's known as 'peaceful travel' ( transporting legally owned weapons through a given jurisdiction) and permits if required. The same should apply to gun ownership - a law abiding citizen who relocates from one state to another should have the assurance that his Second Amendment and personal property rights will be respected.

Some areas deliberately make a point of using bureaucratic slow downs to subvert the Second Amendment rights of their citizens. A uniform federal standard on the amount of time before someone can expect to receive  permits (if required) and on waiting periods after purchase would do a lot to make this a thing of the past.

If all the 50 states can offer  reciprocity on things like same sex marriage, there's no reason they can't do the same thing when it comes to Second Amendment rights, although they may need a push from the Federal government in the form of legislation to make it happen.

It's our Second Amendment, a treasure bequeathed to us by our Founder. It's high time we took the attacks on it seriously and protected it.

* “[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” - James Madison, 4th President of the United States and Father of America's  Constitution

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