Ed.: 032918 – Words: 1925 – Audio: N/A
I follow a fellow blogger at DemocratizeMoney and he made a recent post that pointed out something that had escaped my scrutiny as we explore/debate gun control. He brought up the U.S. Code that specifically specifies the
illegality of attempting or carrying out an act of insurrection. It reads as follows….
- 2385. Advocating overthrow of Government
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or
Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.
So what exactly does this have anything to do with the gun debate or the Second Amendment?
Nothing really other than maybe getting a perspective for understanding. But my biggest objection the Second Amendment protectionists use to justify their “right to bear arms without government meddling” is this idea that gun ownership is a deterrent to government and that somehow the citizenry is armed to the teeth and can revolt at any time against an unruly government. After all, this is exactly the reason the Founding Fathers included this amendment in the Constitution. I fully agree with that original reasoning; absolutely no question in my mind. In fact, my opinion is that the FF fellows meant we should keep our guns in the event we need to form militias against an unruly government… as they wrote in the Constitution… just the same as those circa 1775 Minutemen formed their militia to meet the Brits head on at Lexington and Concord.
But here’s the interesting paradox with that reasoning. Did the FF’s want to make the point that the new government would not infringe on the “right” of the people to essentially overthrow the government (by not infringing on gun ownership for the expressed purpose of having a tool to do just that) if government ever failed to meet the will of the people? Hence, does not the U.S. Code as expressed above thusly impede the process of a person’s right to decide when to use violence (through gun ownership for the reason to overthrow the government by force)?
More questions. Do we, the people, assume that having an amendment allowing for gun possession for reasons of insurrection “insurance” so that government continues to comply to the will of the people, somehow validates a right for any American to insurrect when they think they should?
That being the case…. who/what determines when to initiate an insurrection? Is this an individual declaration or action, or is it a collective action by group, state, political party, gender, race, etc.? Who decides on the “call to arms”?
Here’s my point. I do firmly believe that the original intent of the Founding Fathers was the idea of keeping in place a common means by which the people’s will can be maintained. Think about it for a minute… the FF guys were very educated; the elites and power-holders of their day. Mankind has had a history of rising and falling governments for various reasons and there were ample political theorists and philosophers of the day (and theologians) from which to draw from for providing a basis for constructing a new government. The idea that man has an inherent right to overthrow the bonds of an oppressive government was a common feeling of the day, hence bearing arms was in fact assuring a “tool” was in place to use for insuring government stays responsive to the people. The effectiveness of calling up for muster local citizens to serve in an organized militia had already been proven during the insurrection against English rule. In other words, the Fathers wanted the Second Amendment to be an assurance, not to possess a weapon by itself, but to take up arms in an organized militia to defend from an oppressive government. Gun ownership itself was a matter of fact back in 1775 colonial America. It was needed for providing food, defending against “the hostiles”, etc. It was the same thing as having a knife or a spear or a sword. They were tools for protection. Why make a specific amendment for ownership back then? The important thing was proclaiming the philosophical inherent right to organize a common defense against an oppressive authority. We are looking back on the reasons for creating the Second was all about gun ownership when in the reality of their day it was all about the inherent right to stand up against governmental tyranny collectively.
Why doesn’t this Founding Fathers explanation for the Second Amendment work in 2018?
Well, for one major reason we are way more obsessed with guns than Americans back in 1775. Guns are NOT the tool for survival as they once were prior to the 20th century. They remain a method by which we protect ourselves from each other… and hunting for sport rather than necessity.
Another major reason?
The Great Experiment in Democracy as set forth by our Founding Fathers has been a success beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations. It worked! We’ve managed to carry forward what the FF guys put into the Constitution and created the greatest power, military and economic, in the history of mankind; envy of the world!. Oh, for sure everyone is not living in the lap of luxury nor are we all happy with current politics (or at any time of the last 250 years). But that was NOT a guarantee of the Founding Fathers’ document. Our Bill of Rights have survived the passage of time, and all our internal and external struggles along the way. The original need for an option of having a call to arms to defend against governmental tyranny has all but vanished given our form of government has been the longest running in modern history. But here again, the Second was originally NOT about gun ownership anyway.
Could Former Justice Stevens be correct in calling for repeal of the Second Amendment?
Well, in a way perhaps… if one agrees to my interpretation above. If the reason for the Second in the beginning was to proclaim man’s inherent right to defend against a tyrannical government in an organize militia hasn’t been a necessity in 250 years.. and it’s current usage has taken on a political life itself well beyond the original intent, then MAYBE his suggestion to repeal could be understood as not being just the meanderings of an old guy hung up on gun control.
I prefer another option.
Consider this “solution”….
In the recent past I’ve even suggested a re-write of the Second to clean up any doubt about the language.. specifically proclaim the right to own firearms. But here’s a re-think.
Leave the Second Amendment alone as it does, in fact, represent the original Founding Fathers’ concept of human rights in that we have the inherent right to defend against a tyrannical government through an organized militia. It states the principle by which we assure government is responsive to the people.
Let’s add another amendment to address gun ownership for reasons of personal protection… already supported by SCOTUS. Obviously that debate would/could include whatever governmental regulations can apply for the public good… or not. Firearms were NOT a focus back in 1776; weapons themselves cost money, and so did powder and lead balls (and/or lead and mold). So casual shooting was not a big thing back then; every shot had to count. Firearms were simply another tool like knives, swords, tomahawks, clubs, and the occasional rock.
Do I honestly think this would work? Of course.
Do I honestly think anyone will ever, ever, do this? Of course not. As misguided as the debate is, the wagons of discontent have already been circled and regardless how anyone interprets the origins of the Second Amendment people are so divisive for many other political reasons that the current mood of the country simply would not entertain anything else.
If you think as a gun owner that your right to keep and bear arms are so you can keep government in line… consider all this.
To presume there’s any sort of threat to America that would even hint of a universal call-to-arms response is pure fiction. Comparisons to Nazi Germany, Orwell’s 1984, yada, yada, is malarkey. More to the point… if someone in government wanted to “take over” you truly think they would be deterred by some 300 million people without any sort of desire for military discipline, all wanting to pull their own triggers their own way, and no one wanting to take orders from the comparatively more qualified ex-Army neighbor down the street? Everyone will want to play by their own rules and play some “Red Dawn” style guerrilla war in the hills.
Let’s continue this little dance. You’ve got your gun and you are going to protect your family. Are you going to leave your family, without a source of food, to go off to fight (and very likely die), for the common good of revolting against a runaway government? Just how far will YOU be willing to be a “patriot” for the common cause? Oh.. and what exactly will that common cause be that will make you load up the family AR-15 or AK-47… or both? You going to have enough ammo to fight a government beyond a ten minute firefight? (An AR-15 or an AK-47 make for lousy clubs; better off with a musket.)
Look, all I am saying is that this right-to-own-a-gun-is-to-keep-government-in-order is ridiculous in practice. Just plain say, the right to keep and bear arms is for family and personal protection. That’s it plain and simple. Even that has its own level of ridiculous to meet all the possible threats.. but I see nothing wrong with basic defense, or even conceal & carry (you screw that up you pay the price; should you use your weapon the law won’t protect you; that’s the risk that’s all your’s).
The risk of the Second Amendment is not that someone will take it away… but that people are worshiping the weapon far more than what the spirit of the amendment truly represents.