Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Rights and Arms-bearing

The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States was written in different versions. Did you know that fact? As passed by the Congress it 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.
But the text that was ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, is a bit different:

          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.

As any qualified English teacher can attest, the first version is a syntactical abomination, while the second is a clearly expressed statement. Of course there is still plenty of room to argue whether the Amendment meant that arms were a right to militias, meaning military units--including the "civilian" units such as the National Guard--or any person who could, in principle, be on call as a militiaman. The question of just who has the legal right to bear arms (at present, just about anyone who can get a weapon) has been hotly debated for decades, and the debates will likely not abate and time soon. No debate abates.

But I ask a new question regarding the Second Amendment: Where, precisely, does it say that the right to bear firearms shall not be infringed? I mean, if I own knives (check) or a bat (nope) or a bow and arrows (nope) or a boomerang (check), then I also own arms, don't I? And if you add to that anything around the house that can be used as a weapon, then I own a bloody arsenal. Consider the mayhem and bodily harm that can be caused by a broomstick, forks, chlorine bleach, frying pans, and a bottle of fluid that is more than 3 fluid ounces! (I don't really know how that last could be used as a weapon, but the airport security folks say it is possible, and they ought to know.)

The really sad thing about any discussion on the subject of gun control (NOT confiscation) is that it doesn't happen. The pro-gun-ownership people trot out the Second Amendment, and everyone else melts back into a great sea of apathy. NO ONE has the guts to stand up long enough to present and defend any counter argument, least of all politicians.* Having even suggested that some sort of dialog take place probably assures my being listed now as an enemy of the state. Whatever.

But wouldn't it be something if just once someone with backbone came back with the argument that arms does NOT have to mean firearms? Why not? After all, the Constitution provides for freedom of speech but also draws the line at using it to do things such as shouting "Fire!" in a crowded and not-on-fire theatre. If you may speak freely but within limits, why can't the same principles apply to firearms? No one is allowed to own an operational tank, armed fighter jet, or nuclear weapon. So why does no one think guns are fair game for a bit more regulation?

Perhaps I just don't understand. After all, I long questioned where it was writ that "Thou shalt not kill, except by authorization of Congress".

* Politician, noun. 1. A vertebrate life form that possesses a skeleton so gelatinous in nature that they are often mistaken for invertebrates. 2. Any semi-intelligent humanoid that exists for the sole purposes of (a) getting elected to office and (b) getting re-elected as many times as possible.

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