I have recorded a talk by two experts on the second amendment to the Constitution. Here I will record my own brief thoughts on that controversial amendment and then watch the program. After that, I’ll discuss the topic further to see if my views have changed after listening to a couple of experts. The forum takes place in a conservative setting, but I believe one of the participants may be neutral or take a liberal stance.
The second amendment deals, on the face of it, with militias. Most people think of the Minute Men assembling quickly with their muskets and fighting a foreign invader. The British come to mind, especially their Hessian mercenaries.
However, a quick look at what was going on in the colonies tells us that attacks by Native Americans and slave rebellions were the true source of anxiety and sense of need for a quick reaction strike force at the local level.
One might think that the weapons could be stored in a central location. However, that would be both unnecessary and foolish; people can just keep the weapon at home, as the Swiss do, and a central storage facility could easily be seized by slaves in rebellion as their first point of attack, thus disarming the population of slave holders and other possible hostile forces.
Two points: the notion that keeping a weapon in the home for personal protection makes sense in a society without a police force. Once a sheriff with deputies is on hand, such a show of force in the home seems less required, although wide-spread farms might want such a weapon to deter brigands and other bad actors on the frontier. Once the area was heavily settled, not even wild animals would be a threat and it is doubtful everyone owned a weapon for personal protection. Hunting would still be popular and require hunting rifles but not weapons of personal protection. Something else was afoot to persuade people every home needed a personal defense weapon.
That something else derives from the need for a militia in the first place: slave rebellions. Few Americans know the extent to which people in slave-holding areas feared a slave rebellion. One must read the history of slavery to see the way historians comb newspapers, agricultural journals, magazines, sermons, diaries, popular lectures, governmental publications and personal letters to understand how pervasive this fear was. Contemporary records reveal few reasons for this fear and the emphasis on the very few actual rebellions in our history through movies, books, and Black Studies lectures in the interest of pointing up Black resistance to oppression distort the picture. Resistance among slaves was heavy but outright rebellion was foolhardy on many counts, as the actual rebellions’ outcomes show.
So how did the fears of Whites in slave-holding areas, where it made some sense, get transformed into a mania on the part of a minority of the population for military-grade weapons of personal protection and personal aggression? Enter the gun lobby and gun manufacturers, movies, the migration of Blacks to the out of the South, politicians eager to stoke fears of a breakdown of law and order. It can be shown that the latter is almost always in our society code for fear of Black crime, a dog whistle to promote the further repression of African-Americans. Witness Fox News’ hysterical (in both senses) promotion of the New Black Panthers.
Now let’s see if our two experts can add to or alter my perceptions of this issue. By the way, the moderator referred to the issue as of major importance. I don’t think so. Public health, the electoral system, military projection abroad, national spending priorities, and on and on are far more important and impact us far more. It’s just that mass shootings are so horrifying, they are like plane crashes that kill dozens of people: they just stop you in your tracks and make you afraid.
11/24/17 Well, I took advantage of my wife being at Black Friday sales and watched the program, a discussion between two disagreeing scholars on the Second Amendment. What I got out of it was there is more disagreement over how to read the Constitution than there is over who gets to have what gun. No one thought it unconstitutional to prohibit carrying guns around displaying them in public. Even Texas, of all places, doesn’t permit that. So lots of liberals like me usually think of the pseudo-macho guys who like to sling military weapons over their shoulders and walk around in public looking mean at people as if to say, “Wanna try me, buddy?”
But it’s a subject worth pursuing. As I said on the post of this same date re Obamacare and patriarchy, there’s a lot in the Federalist Papers and other works I want to read.