Embracing the 2nd Amendment while rejecting Weapons of War — Mass-causality Guns ~ Part 1

by faithgibson on November 17, 2017


“Don’t Shoot”

Assault rifles like the AR-15 and other military mass-causality weapons are not ‘guns’ under the 2nd Amendment’s definition as written in 1787, any more than machine guns (constitutionally outlawed in 1932), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), cannons, missiles, and ICBMs.

Rapid-fire, large-magazine assault rifles like the AR-15 are bomb-delivery systems. If the explosive power of the ammunition used by the Las Vegas shooter were put together, those rounds of ammunition would make a bomb that was illegal in every state of the union.


I was moved to write this after the most recent mass-causality shooting at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, with 45 gunshot victims – 26 fatalities and 20 wounded.

One out of every 14 people living in this small town were killed in this attack.

Today, President Trump was asked if the same kind of ‘extreme vetting’ that he wants to use for people coming to the US, shouldn’t also be applied to those buying guns? He replied by saying:

“… If you did what your suggesting, there would have been no difference 3 days ago, and you might not of had that very brave person who had a gun or a rifle in his truck and got out and shot (the killer) and neutralized him, and I can only say this, if he (the brave citizen) didn’t have a gun, you would have had hundreds more dead.”

‘All or Nothing’ is All Wrong!

Far too many Americans don’t understand the 2nd Amendment and erroneously think the legal issue of guns is an ‘all-or-nothing’ proposition, which is not true.

Neither thoughtful citizens nor elected representatives want to make all guns illegal; that’s good, because the 2nd Amendment as currently interpreted would not permit Congress to ban the use of guns for protection of self or family, gun ownership that functions as a tool of ordinary life — employment in law-enforcement or the military, rifles for hunting, guns used in target practice and educational purposes and gun collectors — and that pose no ‘extraordinary’ hazard to society. Each of these categories has a legitimate use that is consistent with the public good, while not introducing a hazard that is far greater than it’s positive effect, or that negate that category’s positive contributions to society. 

Anyone who goes through airport security, or enters a courthouse (or the White House) or a concert knows there are places that you can’t legally have any type of gun in your possession unless you are in law enforcement.

Even the NRA and gun manufacturers are cool with such commonsense restrictions.

Wisely, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional for states and municipalities to pass laws regulating aspects of gun private ownership and limiting the type and nature of gun use in the interest of public safety.

A historical example that the Second Amendment is not an “all or nothing” provision is the law passed by Congress in the 1930s that banned the private ownership of machine guns as used by Chicago gangster Al Capo in the Valentine Day Massacre. For more 88 years, this law has been on the books, accepted by Americans with virtually no controversy.

The argument by some special interest groups that gun safety is already an aspect of responsible gun ownership is no replacement for public policies that rationally address both gun safety (demonstrated ability to safely use, carry and store guns) and to limit or even ban military-type guns specifically designed to produce mass-causalities such a shoulder-launched RPG, machine guns, assault rifles, etc.

The picture below is from a large gun club and illustrates this point quite well. In this case, the people most intimately involved with guns — proprietors of a hunting club — insist, in great big letters, that all dogs be kept on their leash AND all rifles are to be carried safely by keeping them the ‘open‘ or crack position at ALL times!

Safety Instructions posted by a gun club in British Columbia ~ NOTE –> even a gun club has safety rules to prevent guns accidents

Unfounded fears of a federal conspiracy to take everybody’s guns away 

Nonetheless, gun owners are made needlessly anxious by a constant barrage of political campaigns financed by gun manufacturers once removed via the NRA. These ads and political campaigns promote a false but fearful story that the US government is secretly planning to outlaw private gun sales, thus setting people up to buy and horde new guns, ammunition, and accessories.

I’m sure panic buying would be equally good for the sales of cell phones, PlayStations and Nintendos if Apple and Sony, as a huge part of the political “donor class”,  were to repeatedly flood the airwaves with campaigns telling people the government was trying to ban future purchase of smartphones and video games, so you better hurry and ‘stock up’.

And members of the US Congress and White House would likewise develop a “willful blindness” (also deaf and dumb) about this problem, which is to say, elected politicians of both parties (perhaps for different reasons) would

(a) do nothing to fix the problem

(b) make it sequential worse from time to time to demonstrate their loyalty to their big (and big-mouthed) donors and/or to protect themselves from becoming the target of a “Big Money” smear campaigns with ads to defeat them

(c) never admit that our federal electoral system is being shamelessly gamed by special interest groups such as the NRA and too many others to list.

The Second Amendment ~ to be embraced and fearlessly used to bring about gun sanity & safety

But the Second Amendment is constitutionally alive and doing quite well, (despite the well-financed strategy of fear-mongering by gun manufacturers),  because the vast majority* of Americans, including a statistical majority of gun owners, believe gun safety regulations in the US should be more effective at keeping Americans safe from gun accidents and violence. This very same majority do NOT think that banning all guns as reasonable, necessary or constitutional.

**60% by Gallup’s 2017 poll; 85% of the public – including large majorities of both Republicans (79%) and Democrats (88%) – favored making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks – Pew Research Center, July 2016

The right to self-defense is both common sense and constitutional

Americans, in general, recognize the obvious — that self-defense is both a human and a constitutional right. That said, they also are overwhelming in favor of reasonable, rational laws to increase personal gun safety (i.e. avoiding accidental injury and death). Most of us see laws making the private ownership and use of gun safer for everyone as needed, wanted and constitutionally appropriate.

This kind of gun safety-gun sanity would dramatically reduce mass-causality shootings by making illegal the private ownership of military-style guns specifically designed to create mass causalities. This response has already been put to the test and proven effective in many other countries.

The human right to defend ourselves and our families

What’s missing from in the public discourse is the historical context that guns played in the founding of the 13 colonies and life on the frontiers and farms of American for the last two hundred-plus years and that continues to be tool of everyday life for farmers, hunters and people in rural or remote areas of the country.

This 1930s photo of mother and child living alone on a rural farm while her husband is out plowing the field has a common-sense right to have a working rifle in the house for hunting and self-defense, should she find a would-be robber or rapist skulking around her back door.

When the 2nd Amendment is understood in its historic contest, it becomes clear that reasonable, rational gun safety is not only constitutional but also consistent with the protection of our human rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence and the goals expressed in the US Constitution for in our democratic republic.

Do NOT say “Gun Control” when you mean “Gun Safety/Sanity”

Personally, I believe that one of the very biggest barriers to sane gun laws is the unfortunate use of the phrase “gun control”. This plays into the PR stories of the NRA and gun manufacturers by perfectly setting up their favorite scare tactic — Big Government is trying to take YOUR GUNS away!

This isn’t true and our language should reflect that fact. The more useful wording doesn’t cost anything, can be done immediately, and is actually a pretty easy thing to change.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the 2nd Amendment but were afraid to ask!

To unpack this complicated and controversial topic, I want to start with the actual historical text of the 2nd Amendment, which 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.”

Interestingly enough, this language comes directly from an English Bill of Rights written in 1689  the gave the British people the ‘right to bear arms’ as long as it was consistent with the rule of law. Its basic purpose was to protect the population against a tyrannical king, reasoning that the king would think more than twice if he knew that people the could and no doubt would fight back if it tried to do something wacky.

However, this same law also allowed its subjects to defend themselves against criminals and other acts of aggression. At the same time,  ‘rule of law’ in the 17th-century still meant that citizens had to leave their guns at home when visiting the King or any of his palaces, the House of Parliament, the Courts, and specific public occasions.

In using that same simple 17th-century sentence, our Founding Fathers not only addressed the need for self-defense but also realized that we, as a nation, would have to continue to fight for our democratic way of life. As a result, the US Constitution acknowledged the need to defend our democratic republic against foreign invasion and domestic uprising.

The writers of our Constitution chose to assign the responsibility for national security to a “well-regulated militia” manned by ordinary American citizens instead of a standing army of soldiers paid by the federal government. Obviously, this idea has undergone a great many changes since 1787, but right now we are focusing on the original concept.

Having constitutionally identified the central role of local militias in providing security and fighting for our freedom, the 2nd Amendment does what all good laws do – it made sure that identified responsibilities were paired with the necessary authority and materials to carry out the job.

For emphasis, let me unpack the sentence to its most essential element — good laws pair responsibility with the necessary authority and means (material) needed to achieve the stated goal.

Logically-speaking, we would not pass a law creating a volunteer fire brigade, but forget to authorize the firefighters to use water to put out the fire, or worse yet, made it illegal to use water to put out fires.

As “good” legislators, the Founding Fathers constitutionally authorized ‘The People’ to organize militias and for its members individually to acquire, own and use the necessary materials — ‘arms’ (guns) — necessary to defend our democratic republic against threats both foreign and domestic.

The words and phrases in the 2nd Amendment and the historical narrative behind them make its intent clear – the relationship between Americans and guns is protective. The Founding Fathers early on realized that without the right of American civilians to ‘keep and bear’ arms, our citizens as individuals would be defenseless and democratic government would be at great risk of being taken over by hostile countries and/or factions within the country bent on treason.

The Second Amendment eloquently prevents both of these tragedies.

Yea Second Amendment!

Other Interpretations of the 2nd Amendment

However, the words and phrases of the 2nd Amendment lend themselves to different shades of meaning, many of which are quite controversial. Among these differences, some people turn the original idea around and instead of seeing our constitutionally-guaranteed access to guns as a tool to protect one another and our democratic institutions, they see its intent as protecting American citizens FROM their government and from each other under circumstances where a high proportion of Americans see other American are their enemies.

According to this reverse perspective, it would be unconstitutional for any government entity, whether federal, state, municipality to put a limit of any kind, or for any reason, on the circumstance of gun ownership (who and what they can buy), carrying of guns in public (whether ‘concealed’ or ‘open’ carry), as well as any limit the type of guns legally available to be purchased, owned and carried in the United States.

tiny 2″ gun in coin pocket of jeans

Proponents of this interpretation of the 2nd Amendment are afraid to acknowledge that the government has any legal right to impose legal criteria on gun ownership. If the smallest crack in that theory were permitted, they see it as the first step on a ‘slippery slope’, and are sure the pendulum would sooner or later swing all the way to the opposite end.

Not even one gun, no matter how small!

In the scenario, all gun ownership by citizens would be outlawed, their guns would be confiscated, and no one would be able to own even one gun, no matter how small.

To escape such a nightmare world, many people honestly argue for the other extreme – that everyone should be able to own as many guns as they choose, no matter how big and powerful.

The logical extension of this idea is a wide spectrum of gun sizes and types that runs from the very tiniest 2-bullet Berretta pistol to the biggest and most powerful gun ever manufactured, which has two barrels that are 131 ft. long, requires a 400-pound powder charge and 264-pound projectile that takes only 170 seconds to reach a target 70 miles away.

This extreme perspective risks turning the ‘shield’ of our Constitution’s 2nd Amendment into a ‘sword’, that is, using something developed to help in ways that perversely cause great harm. This is not consistent with the intention of our Founding Fathers as expressed by the Declaration of Independence and all the other provision of our Constitution.

A Better Answer ~ The Middle Ground Found in our Constitution

I’m suggesting that there is a better and more logical answer than any we have so far found.

To achieve this, the ‘middle ground’ would have to encompass and respect our human experience and the needs of ordinary life, while taking into account the well-known human perversities that make protection of persons and our country necessary in all its many forms. But it must also include the equally compelling need to protect ourselves from the unintended consequences and accidental effects from those very acts and instruments of ‘protection’.

Our Constitution is itself a very logical document, specifically developed to address both the known issues of our fledgling democratic republic, circa 1787, as well as the unknowable problems of future generations. Balancing conflicting needs is a core constitutional principle and primary goal of our constitutional process. As a humane document, it sought to provide us with the tools to prevent bloodbaths of any kind and under any circumstances by using those very principles to resolve seemingly unresolvable conflicts.

Given such wisdom, I believe we can arrive at a mutually acceptable middle ground, a place that also is logical and allows us to view our relationship with guns from a standpoint that is consistent with the intent and language of the 2nd Amendment, which was itself protective of our country and its citizens.

Within the context of our Constitution, we need to determine how and where guns fit into the modern world – their role, their place in civilian society, and our rights as individuals to “keep and bear arms” sufficient to protect ourselves and our loved one. I believe our Constitution provides guidance to us in our attempts to balance the issues of safety, both from the perspective of personal self-defense as a private citizen and the right to hunt and otherwise have a working relationship with guns as a marksman or collector, as well as the safety of other members of society as we go about our daily lives.

This means honoring the whole Constitution – the intent of the 2nd Amendment as well as each and every other provision of this marvelous document.

Pearls of Great Price ~ What the US Constitution says & doesn’t say

To do that, I want to take us back to the language of the Constitution — what it actually says and equally important, what it does NOT say.

So imagine for a moment that you are living in 1787 (the year the US Constitution was written), either as a private citizen or as one of the Founding Fathers who is working to translate principles into the language of our Constitution.

What you would NOT see in the 2nd Amendment, or anywhere else in our Constitution, are any provisions relating to the tools of ordinary life in 18th-century post-Colonial America. Nowhere does the Constitution either promote or restrict the ability of Americans to “keep and bear” (i.e., acquire, own and use) plows, scythes, pitchforks, hammers, saws, knives, muskets, pistols, hunting rifles, shotguns, swords, scissors, or surgical instruments, ropes or any other types of equipment that could conceivably be used or misused to harm other humans.

Nor does the Constitution mention air, water, food, log cabins, childbirth, and many other aspects of normal life, as the Founding Fathers were attempting to forge a ‘more perfect union’ under democratic principles. They had no interest in, or reason to attempt to control the minutia of the daily life of its citizens.

The everyday tools in use in the 1700s, even those that could be used as a weapon, were an absolute necessity to the survival of its citizens. In 1787 the vast majority of Americans lived in rural areas, and each American was personally responsible for feeding themselves and often an intergenerational family of considerable size.

Whether you lived on a farm or in the city, everyone was directly or indirectly dependent on agricultural tools such as plows, scythes, knives, pitch-forks, and the like used by farmers to produce a stable food supply for the entire population.

To put meat on the table, someone (usually the ‘man of the house’) had to used knives to slaughter farm animals. Pistols and hunting rifles were the tools they called on when going off into woods to hunt for squirrels, rabbits, deer, pheasants and other wild game.

Another responsibility of adults was to protect themselves and family, which sometimes meant using knives, muskets, pistols, rifles, and shotguns as a tool of self-defense.

Whether used for farming, hunting, or slaughtering both wild and domestic animals or for protection of those living on the wild frontier of our new country, standard farm implements, as well as knives, guns used for hunting, swords, scissors, and surgical instruments, were indispensable. Each of the tools listed above was a bona fide part of normal daily life, even though these potentially dangerous tools could be misused as weapons to rob the stage coast or stab or shot a rival.

While a concern for public safety might have convinced our Founding Fathers to outlaw anything that could possibly be used to seriously harm or kill another person, they wisely recognized this as penny-wise and pound-foolish. It was not necessary, and its ‘unintended consequences’ would work against the country’s security.

Equally germane to us living in America today, they realized that by making all weapons illegal – swords, knives, pistols, hunting rifles, shotguns –, the citizens of the United States would be unable to defend themselves against hostile powers, both foreign AND domestic.

Given our experience of the last few decades with the massive and unstoppable powers of Wall Street banks and financial institutes, the military-industrial complex, big Pharma, AMA and others numerous to mention, its quite likely that having outlawed the private ownership of guns in 1787 would have made our newly independent republic so temptingly vulnerable to powerful internal factions — domestic groups — and to other countries that we would now be living in a French, English, Spanish, Mexican or Russian territory and speaking something other than English.

I honor the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for not making what I believe would have been a fatal mistake for our fledgling democracy.

Continue to Part 2   (and yes, it’s worth it!)

The Revolution Starts today at 3pm ~ Be there or be square!




The Math of Mass Shootings

The following numbers refer to 132 events in which four or more people were killed by one of two shooters (only three cases of two shooters).

  • 974 victims from nearly every race, religion and socioeconomic background, and 153 were children or teenagers.
  • A total of 274 guns

The oldest victim ~ Louise De Kler, 98, still took her pool cue and boombox to the rec room at Pinelake Health and Rehab and shot pool with the “young guys,” her daughter told the Associated Press. She was shot to death on March 29, 2009, along with seven other residents and a nurse, by a man who had come to the Carthage, N.C., nursing home looking for his estranged wife.

The youngest victim ~ Eight-month-old Carlos Reyes was buried in a casket with his mother, Jackie, who had tried to shield him, as an unemployed father of two killed 21 and injured 19 in a busy McDonald’s in San Ysidro, Calif., on July 18, 1984. The man told his wife he was going out “hunting humans” and opened fire with an Uzi, a shotgun, and a semiautomatic pistol.

SOURCE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/mass-shootings-in-america/ to see the names and a short story of all 974 victims

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