Gun Regulation and the 2nd Amendment

I honestly think the 2nd amendment is a problem for sensible gun regulation only because people chose to make it into a problem. A constitution is only supposed to lay out principles, not the specifics of actual law. Actual laws contains lots of specifics and exceptions.

Consider the 1st amendment and what it says about free speech:

or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press

That does not prevent having laws against hate speech, slander, lying under oath etc. What matters is the spirit of the law. I don’t see how the spirit of the 2nd amendment is broken by having:

  1. Extensive background checks.
  2. Registration of all gun sales and ownership.
  3. Safe storage requirements of guns in the home and in gun stores.
  4. Minimum requirements in training of safe handling and storage of guns.
  5. Bans on particular kinds of guns, such as fully automatic, high capacity magazines and potentially semi automatic.

American history is full of examples of such restrictions. E.g. in the wild west it was common for cities to be gun free zones. In the 1930s automatic and semi-automatic guns got banned in several states as a reaction to the widespread use of Tommy guns by prohibition era gangsters.

So it seems clear to me that particular restrictions is on gun ownership has not historically been viewed as a conflict with the 2nd amendment. Just as banning hate speech does not conflict with the 1st amendment.

In the time of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson argued for gun free zones at universities, so even at the time of the writing of the constitution it was not generally understood that the 2nd amendment was a blanket license to carry around any kind of gun anywhere.

Perhaps more importantly the founding fathers of the American republic made it clear that the constitution ought to be living document and not some sort of religious scripture set in stone for perpetuity. Citizens should make up their own mind about how think think gun laws rather than letting the constition think for them. If the constitution does not reflect the interests of the American people, it should change.

Americans ought to ask themselves what goal they hope to achieve. The 2nd amendment is just a means to do so. The method to reach a goal should not trump the goal. The primary objective of the 2nd amendment was to my knowledge to allow individual states in the union to oppose a tyrannical central government. The reference to militia, was referring to individual states keeping militias they could use for their own defense.

Seen in this light, the current interpretation of the second amendment is useless to achieve this goal. People assume naively assume that individuals with guns can oppose the US army if the government turns tyrranical. That is utterly absurd. A ragtag group of civilians with guns have zero chance against an organized modern army.

If the goal is to protect against a central government then it makes more sense to distribute the military across states. Each state should maintain and organize their own army, which is ultimately under the control of the governor. In addition the state should help organize a citizen militia, so that there is an effective organization allowing people to fight effectively.

Then they would actually have a chance against a tyranicial central government.

Still I would claim that using military to secure freedom is a terrible solution. A good democratic system with a free press and well educated population is the cheapest way to do it. Look at the American civil war. It was fought before there was a military that could carpet bomb cities. Yet it ended up as an utterly destructive war.

Right or wrong, seen from the point of view of the southern states, they were oppressed by a tyrannical central government and fought back. That did not help them much. They got their cities burned down and a large portion of their population killed. Despite being multiple states and having real armies, they still lost.

At a smaller scale, access to weapons for native Americans and blacks have never protected them against oppression. The Tulsa massacre is a good example. Black residents trying to protect themselves with guns ended up just painting a big target on themselves. It allowed whites to depict it as a riot that has to be squashed and the government was sent in, bombing the black neighborhoods.

It is a reason why non-violent government protest has often been more successful than using violence. Once you use violence, you give the government a pretext to use excessive violence against you. This sort of psychology of power and violence is entirely missing from the simplistic argument that owning a handgun somehow helps protect yourself against government tyranny.

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