You guys may recall my attempt some time ago to push -via Tomasky- a constitutionally permissable way for the federal government to give such states that wanted one an incentive to enact stricter gun laws. An attempt that at the time Tomasky put in one of his columns, but which, not surprisingly, gained no traction whatever. Not least because it would have required an increase in government spending. Well here’s another attempt to change the conversation about the 2nd, one that requires no new expenditure, just a different and more perceptive reading of the law. I expect it will come to the same fate as the last attempt, but hear me out.
For reference, this is the text of the amendment: 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.
We all know that, until relatively recently, SCOTUS backed the view that nothing in that text suggested the insane idea that every citizen had an inviolable right to buy and own any weapon, or any number of weapons, that he or she wanted. But then the politics of the of a majority of the Justice’s changed, and then view of the 2nd changed, and now citizens are free to arm themselves as heavily as their budgets and bunker-space allows.
What if we read the 2nd another way? Consider this: as far as firearms go, the best muskets available in 1789 might, when used by a very skilled operator, who was left unhindered to reload between rounds, could in ideal conditions, fire maybe 3 rounds in one minute, and more likely only two. Which is why, in military terms, the musket was not at all an effective weapon against, say, a group of opposing soldiers, especially one attacking over even ground, unless weilded by at least a platoon or more of men who had been highly drilled and maintained discipline under fire, so that as one third of them fired, the second third prepared to fire and the last third re-loaded. To obtain the kind of continuous fire necessary to counter an infantry charge, only a group of soldiers, drilled and disciplined, were an effective rapid-fire weapon.
If we read the 2nd in this light, then what it seems to be saying is that citizens must be allowed to keep and train with their muskets, to then be drilled together (“well regulated”) so that in times of threat the states will have available an effective rapid-fire “weapon”, one which could never be provided by one man with one musket, alone.
Now, of course, any of us can purchase this afternoon the equivalent firepower, in one handy portable device, of a large and highly trained platoon of soldiers in 1789. But the 2nd amendment does not, and was never intended to, grant to individual citizens the right to control private militias. The 2nd clearly only grants to citizens a right to be one cog (of a necessary many cogs) in a well regulated state militia.
In Texas that shitbag who burst into that church, and in a very short time [update: apparently he shot for about 7 minutes] killed 26 and wounded another 20, was able to fire at a bare minimm 46 rounds; but many of the dead and wounded were hit more than once and some more than three times and it’s highly unlikely that every bullet he fired hit a body. Which means he must have fired at least a hundred rounds, or likely even more. [Update: apparently he fired around 450 rounds, so about 60 -65 rounds a minute] To fire that many rounds in such a short time in 1789 he would have required a large platoon, or two, of highly trained and strongly disciplined shooters. To kill so many in shuch a short time that shitbag would have needed, in other words, a private militia.
Any society, anywhere, at any time, is far more threatened by large groups of highly trained killers working together than ever it is from lone wolf shitbags. Because large groups of highly trained killers are very hard to organize, and fund, and move around, and even harder to conceal. The men who wrote the constitution in 1789 were intelligent enough to know that highly trained and disciplined groups of citizens with a common malignant intentions would be far more dangerous than any lone citizen however malign.
The reading I am suggesting, therefore, is that shotguns, hunting rifles and even small mag handguns all could conceivably fit with an understanding of firearms consistent with conditions in 1789. Those types of weapons still make sense for the kind of shooting that any individual citizen might want or need legitimately to do (i.e. hunting game or self defense against another person). But for such weapons to be at all militarily effective, even now, they would require to be wielded by a group of highly trained and strongly diciplined shooters working together. In other words they would have to be wielded by a ‘well regualated militia”. On the other hand, semi-automatic rifles with huge mags, and even high mag automatic pistols, now can place the firepower of an entire 1789 militia platoon into the hands of a single citizen, and allowing individual citizens to command their own private militias is an outcome which was never contemplated by the authors of the 2nd Amendment. Indeed, if such and outcome had been presented to them, would have been rejected out of hand, as being a far greater threat to domestic peace and the inalienable rights of citizens than any kind of safeguard of same.