Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pro-Gun Mythology: a Culture of Guns, Death and Violence

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The NRA works assiduously to create a culture of guns, lies and violence in the United States. Tragically, their efforts have borne fruit. Almost anyone can get a gun; lies about the Second Amendment are unquestioned by intimidated politicians who should know better; and fatal shooting rampages will eventually (if not already) cease to shock an inured public.

The BBC was on the right track but, themselves, went wrong. Consider the following from their recent broadcast in the wake of the latest campus shooting:
The United States has the largest number of guns in private hands of any country in the world with 60 million people owning a combined arsenal of over 200 million firearms.

The US constitution, which was written in 1787, enshrines the people's right to keep and bear arms in its Second Amendment.

BBC World Service
The BBC is most probably correct about the number of firearms inside the US. That the United States has nurtured and thus become a culture of both guns and violence is true on its face. The BBC is correct as far it goes. Indeed, fatal shootings in recent years, many involving teenagers, are troubling.

But is it accurate to say that those shootings, as horrible as they are, have made the issue of gun control a key debate in US politics? No. There is no real debate about that in America. The NRA has been extraordinarily successful in perpetrating a gestalt of myths about the Second Amendment and, in doing so, it has re-framed the issue. It is no longer a debate about needless death, carnage and violence but about mythical rights under the Constitution, rights never intended by the framers, rights never intended by James Madison, the man who wrote the Second Amendment. The NRA has hoodwinked a gullible nation.

Sadly, the NRA has no opposition. The Democrats are split right down the middle on the gun violence issue. The GOP sold out long ago.

It is on the second point that the BBC has gone wrong. Though the NRA would have you believe that the "right" to keep and bear arms is both unconditional and made law by the US Constitution itself, that is just not the case. I would have expected the venerable BBC to have looked beyond NRA propaganda with regard to the meaning and significance of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. 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.

Second Amendment, US Constitution
The NRA, in fact and practice, ignores fully two thirds of the language of the Second Amendment. If you tried to get away with that in Freshman English, you would have flunked. Clearly and contrary to NRA propaganda, there is no unconditional right to own, keep, bear, or use firearms of any kind in the United States.

Moreover, events time and time again have proven with blood and carnage the absolute folly of NRA lies, propaganda, and unprecedented tactics denounced even by George Bush Sr.

The NRA position is premised upon a pernicious lie found repeated in NRA literature, position papers, and works by paid "scholars". In the world according to the NRA, only the final clause -...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed ... has the force of law. Modifying phrases, the NRA would have you believe, may be ignored. That position is simply absurd on its face. But, in the American sub-culture of guns, death and violence, logic takes a long holiday.

As a Findlaw summary concludes:
Since this decision, Congress has placed greater limitations on the receipt, possession, and transportation of firearms,8 and proposals for national registration or prohibition of firearms altogether have been made.9 At what point regulation or prohibition of what classes of firearms would conflict with the Amendment, if at all, the Miller case does little more than cast a faint degree of illumination toward an answer.

Findlaw, U.S. Constitution: Second Amendment
The NRA is wrong, knows that it is wrong and lies about it. There is no unconditional, individual right to keep and bear arms. Let's consider, in turn, some of the myths, lies, and articles of misplaced faith that are peddled by the NRA.

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people"

In fact, people with guns kill people. Guns are the weapons of choice. Knives, rocks, clubs, and paper cutters hardly pull up the rear. In most cases, it is the very access to a firearms that triggers murder. It is easier to pull a trigger and kill from afar than it is to plunge a bloody dagger into someone's heart up close and bloody! What would have been the death toll at Virginia Tech if 23 year old Cho Seung Hui, had not been able to get a gun easily. How many could he have taken out with a knife or even a sword before being subdued?

I must give credit to the BBC for spotting ludicrous American absurdities and here is one:
I have heard a representative from the Gun Owners of America claiming that if children grow up with guns in the house they get used to them and know how to handle them.

He said that in the old days children used to carry guns to school on the New York subway to take part in shooting competitions.

Such is the power of the gun lobby, and most notably the National Rifle Association, that even the mildest gun legislation, a requirement that all new guns should be fitted with gun locks, got bogged down in Congress.


BBC, Ludicrous Claims (NRA) (emphasis mine, LH)
Some dubious "scholars" suggest that because the "militia" phrase lacks both a subject and a predicate, it may be ignored, a suggestion that is simply absurd on its face. Phrases, by definition, lack both a subject and a predicate and, rather, modify an independent clause. The Second Amendment is a single sentence. By law and by grammar that single sentence must be considered wholly; it is not a Chinese menu from which you can pick one from column A and one from column B.

Furthermore, the NRA conveniently ignores and denigrates a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court that literally decrees how the Second Amendment is to be interpreted. And when it isn't ignored, it is "spun". That decision is U.S. v Miller:
The Court can not take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia; and therefore can not say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.
The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. "A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline."

U.S. v Miller
There is no way to spin that first sentence quoted above. The high court established a principle that guns may be regulated, even prohibited if they have no "...reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia".

Miller goes further, clearly establishing the context, the only context (a well-regulated militia) in which an individual in the United States may excercise a right to own a firearm of any sort.
With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.

U.S. v Miller
The NRA, when it is not denying the significance of some two thirds of a single sentence, would have you believe that you have a right to own and use a gun because being born American, you are automatically a "militia" member. But that's not what Miller says. It is not what Miller does. Miller, rather, states flatly that certain weapons may be prohibited and places the right of individuals to own firearms within the context of well-regulated militias themselves. There is no reference to an individual's right to own firearms outside that context.

We are often told by NRA proponents that "the militia" referred to in the Second Amendment, consists of all able free men between the ages of 17 and 45. That is taken to mean that all people meeting that description are, therefore, militia members.

That is nothing less than universal conscription; universal conscription is unconstitutional involuntary servitude. Li'l ol' ladies, the infirm, babies, the mentally retarded and/or disturbed, the terminally ill --all would be members of a militia if NRA arguments were taken to their absurd conclusions. It was, indeed, George Mason's argument but he lost that debate back in 1789 and it was James Madison who, at last, wrote the Second Amendment.

Not all citizens are, in fact and in practice, members of a militia by any definition of that term. One is not "enrolled" automatically by virtue of being born. One must "volunteer" in order to "join" the National Guard or - to use the terminology of US v Miller - one must be "enrolled" to become a member of a militia. When one "enrolls" he/she makes a choice to do so. The alternative is conscription. But militias are, by definition and Miller, voluntary. How would a "conscripted" army differ from a standing army?

In any case, it is clear that citizens are not members by birth. Perhaps in an authoritarian, fascist, latter-day Sparta - but not in a Democratic Republic! Contrary to pro-gun propaganda, the founders never debated "conscription" and many denounced the performance of militias during the war of independence.

Then what can be said of the oft-stated position that guns are necessary to defend against a tyrannical government? Universal conscription is the first means by which a tyrannical government may raise its army; it is premised upon the Hegelian notion that the State is superior to the individual. The draft has never been popular in America. During the civil war, draft riots in New York almost undermined Northern unity.

It would appear, we have unmasked the ideological underpinnings of the NRA and it has turned out to be ideological totalitarianism in which the individual is subordinated to the leviathan of state power. This is what the NRA has in mind. Moreover, conscription has never been given serious consideration as a means by which a "militia" - as opposed to a standing army - may be raised:
Conscription, however, is a device that is meaningful only in the absence of a militia. ...but any citizen also, with a minimum of commitment and training, can formally join an organized militia at the County level. That should also make them reserve sheriff's deputies, as an official part of the posse comitatus, the only armed police force that should be allowed, and reserve members of the National Guard, which of course is organized at the State level. Such a system keeps in place a small but professional, volunteer regular army (and professional sheriff's deputies) but has behind it a very broad citizen's army, trained to varying degrees in case of national need.

Ross, Kelley L., Ph.D. Machiavelli and the Moral Dilemma of Statecraft, Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
A "drafted" military is not a militia in any case.
Although Machiavelli was quite right about mercenaries, militias have often not worked out well, since they tend to be insufficiently disciplined or hardened as fighting forces. That was the case when the citizens of Renaissance Italian cities attempted to resist foreign armies (French and Spanish), and it was the case in American history, mainly in the War of 1812, when Militia forces often performed badly. Ross, Kelley L., Ph.D. Machiavelli and the Moral Dilemma of Statecraft, Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Additionally, conscription is incompatible with the historical context which Miller took pains to establish. If the gun proponent argument had any grammatical or legal validity whatsoever, why did the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v Miller attribute to the militia phrase such weight and consideration? Fully, one half or more of U.S. v Miller is spent defining the very word "militia" as it was understood by the founders.

Those sections of the decision outline the "collective" duties and responsibilities of militias. It analyzes the historical context in which the word is defined. It considers, in turn, the role of states in regulating militias. The NRA is therefore wrong, and the decision of the Supreme Court in US v Miller is the law, whether the NRA likes it or not. Incidentally, one of the best "histories" of the role of the militias during the so-called "revolution" is to be found in the body of U.S. v Miller itself. Because this history is not written by the NRA it is a breath of fresh air.

Another absurd theory often favored by NRA types would have you believe that what the founders meant by "militia" were un-regulated bands of well armed citizenry beyond the control and the regulation of states or national government. The proponents of this theory will tell you that the term "regulated" in the Second Amendment does not mean regulated "...by the government". Regulated, we are expected to believe, means self-regulated and equipped. In other words, armed to the teeth and unaccountable to anyone.

Believing the militias had been neglected, Madison would have denounced the NRA position. It was the opinion of both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison that the states had neglected the regulation of their militias. Madison wrote the second concurrent with his oft-stated criticism of the states and he sought to redress his grievance in that famous single sentence:c
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.

US Constitution, Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment II
Madison was not talking about an individual right. He was talking about "regulation" which meant the same thing then that it does now. Who but a state could regulate what were, in fact, mobs dignified by the word militia? What are states if not "governments"? And, if a militia, is to be regulated, as Madison proposed, then who, as Hamilton asked, but a duly ordained and freely elected government "of the people" should do so? Hamilton and Madision were right. The NRA has always been wrong.

There is no point is speculating about Madison's intentions. We have his own words to rely on. There is no point in indulging in arcane interpretations as one might with Shakespeare. Madison wrote what he meant and meant what he wrote. A clue to his thinking is to be found in the chronological notes that he kept during the Constitutional convention:
Much stress had been laid by some gentlemen on the want of power in the Convention to propose any other than a federal plan. To what had been answered by others, he would only add, that neither of the characteristics attached to a federal plan would support this objection. One characteristic, was that in a federal Government, the power is exercised not on the people individually; but on the people collectively, on the States. [ emphasis added ]
It must be pointed out that here Madison is not addressing the Second Amendment directly, but rather the mind-set that he would bring to its drafting. It must be remembered that Madison initially opposed the addition of a Bill of Rights, i.e. any document which listed and specified individual rights. While not opposing individual rights per se, he felt that enumerating them would have the effect of limiting them to only those rights so enumerated.

Madison and the other founders were suspicious of armed bodies of men and the militias.
Has not Massts, [ Massachusetts ] notwithstanding, the most powerful member of the Union, already raised a body of troops? Is she not now augmenting them, without having even deigned to apprise Congs. [ Congress ] of Her intention?
The position, oft disseminated by the NRA that the "right to keep and bear arms" is a safeguard, intended to be used by the people in armed insurrection against the Federal Government when it is deemed to have abused its federal power, is simply ludicrous and seditious on its face. No governmental authority on earth has ever said, in effect: you can overthrow us by force whenever you like! No sane person believes for a moment that the Second Amendment immunizes a rag tag mob of gun nuts attacking the White House and Congress, armed to the teeth, with "revolution" on its agenda!

Whatever the motivation - revolution or self-defense -there simply is no individual, unconditional right to own a firearm. Madison's Second Amendment tells you upfront what it is about: well-regulated militias. It is not about the individual right to own a gun except in that context. Madison was very bright and had mastered the English language. He would not have written an Amendment that said anything other than what he wished it to say.

NRA literature often, conveniently, omits those portions of the US codes that say militia members must join National Guard. A militia is therefore precisely what Madison had in mind when he wrote the Second Amendment. US Codes concerning the National Guard are in line with Hamilton's original conception of a state militia subject to "National" regulation:
The President shall prescribe regulations, and issue orders, necessary to organize, discipline, and govern the National Guard.U.S. Codes, Section 110. Regulations
U.S. v Miller makes law of its interpretation of the Second. It states outright that any interpretation of the Second Amendment must consider:
  1. the significance of the "militia" phrase;
  2. the intentions of the founders in writing that phrase;
  3. the definition of "militia" as that word was understood by the founders including Hamilton, and, of course, Madison who drafted it.
Upon that criteria, U.S. v Miller then addresses the issue directly even so far as defining "militia", placing it's definition within an historical context with which Madison would most certainly have agreed. Miller outlined the "collective" responsibilities in defense of the nation - as did both Madison and Hamilton before them:
The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they [307 U.S. 174, 179] were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia - civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.

U.S.v Miller
The decision is directly based upon the consideration the court gave to the "militia" phrase of the Second Amendment:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State of Tennessee, 2 Humph., Tenn., 154, 158.

--U.S.v Miller
Some dubious "scholars" suggest that because the "militia" phrase lacks both a subject and a predicate, it may be ignored. Phrases, by definition, lack both a subject and a predicate. The Second Amendment is a single sentence - and by law and grammar - must be considered wholly.

If the
arguments of various "scholars'" had any grammatical or legal validity whatsoever, then why did the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v Miller attribute to that phrase such weight and consideration? Fully, one half or more of its decision is spent defining the very word "militia" as it was understood by the founders, outlining the militias' "collective" duties and responsibilities, analyzing the historical context in which the word is defined, and in considering the role of states in regulating them. Interestingly, one of the best "histories" of the role of the militias during the so-called "revolution" is to be found in the body of U.S. v Miller.

Madison's initial opposition to the Bill of Rights, which he later drafted himself, is ignored. It is often said that the founding fathers had just fought a war against government tyranny, the Second, therefore, was a hedge against another tyrannical government. But

George Washington and other prominent founders believed that the war had been almost lost because of the incompetence of undisciplined, un-regulated militia. It is highly doubtful that the founders would have placed the future of the new republic in the hands of people they considered to be incompetent.

The colonies had fought a war but it had been fought a decade earlier. They had also suffered the near chaos of the Articles of Confederation. They were at work in Philadelphia to redress the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. Even as they convened, Massachusetts had assembled an army and suspicions were mutual. In the end, however, Madison was convinced that the new charter, the new Constitution, had so successfully outlined a "government of the people" that no additional protections were necessary.

These were first to protect the people agst. their rulers: secondly to protect the people agst. the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led. A people deliberating in a temperate moment, and with the experience of other nations before them, on the plan of Govt. most likely to secure their happiness, would first be aware, that those chargd. with the public happiness, might betray their trust.
When Madison was at last persuaded to support a Bill of Rights, he insisted upon drafting them himself.

It is often said without basis that without the citizen’s ability to arm themselves, the American revolution would have failed. But the American revolution had been fought and won some ten years prior to the drafting of the US Constitution. The Republic, under the Articles of Confederation, had, indeed, failed. But it was not because citizens were not armed. Later, Washington would put down a rebellion of citizens who had been armed.

What saved the young republic was not armed citizens, militias, or Washington himself. It was France. Washington, arguably, lost every battle but Trenton. It was France who won the American revolution by blockading the harbor at Yorktown.

The "militias", meanwhile, were even less distinguished. They were undisciplined, often incompetent and un-regulated. They were severely criticized by Washington.

Washington, with few Continentals, began to turn in desperation to state militia. Although, as Mark V. Kwasny points out in Washington's Partisan War, 1775-1783 (1996), they made positive contributions, Washington dealt them much more criticism than praise in this five-month period. They were undependable, "there today, & gone tomorrow" (8:439).

Militiamen went home with the arms and equipment that the government issued them. Because militia officers were interested only in concocting schemes to increase their pay, they gave little attention to discipline. Some militia troops plundered citizens under the pretense of their being Tories. Washington warned that the militia should be kept away from regular troops because it would "spread the seeds of licentiousness among the regulars" (9:127). The militia failed in several cases to provide adequate defense against British and Tory foragers. The Pennsylvania militia did not turn out in a force as large as Washington expected, and many returned home after a dispute with General William Alexander, "Lord Stirling," over the distribution of supplies. Some states planned to raise what were called "colonial" troops because they could not rely on their militias to turn out to defend the state. Washington opposed this because these forces would compete with the Continental Army for recruits.


-Review of The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, Volumes 8 & 9, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Reviewed by Benjamin H. Newcomb
Madison knew this and addressed the problem in a single-sentence: the Second Amendment. In fact, there is no gun debate among the founders outside the context of militias which they had criticized and intended to regulate.
Moreover, if one reads Founding Era documents, one finds that the phrase "bear arms" was almost always used to refer to military service. (The interested reader can try this himself or herself by searching for the phrase "bear arms" in the Library of Congress's databaseof congressional and other documents from the founding era.)

Michael C. Dorf, Findlaw, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2001
The "gun" debate among the founders focused entirely upon the organization, the duties, the responsibilities, indeed, the regulation of the various militia:
It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense. It would enable them to discharge the duties of the camp and of the field with mutual intelligence and concert an advantage of peculiar moment in the operations of an army; and it would fit them much sooner to acquire the degree of proficiency in military functions which would be essential to their usefulness.
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #29
Conveniently ignored by NRA advocates is Hamilton's proposition that militias be placed under the supervision and regulation of the national government:
This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union ``to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, RESERVING TO THE STATES RESPECTIVELY THE APPOINTMENT OF THE OFFICERS, AND THE AUTHORITY OF TRAINING THE MILITIA ACCORDING TO THE DISCIPLINE PRESCRIBED BY CONGRESS.''

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #29 [ emphasis Hamilton ]
Columnist Jack Anderson (Inside the NRA: Armed and Dangerous) documented NRA ties with militant "para-military groups" and points out that the NRA has repeatedly refused disavow the militants or to condemn their terrorist tactics, excesses, and activities.
If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary, will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions upon paper.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29
Hamilton had in mind a national militia. How that would differ from a modern all-volunteer army, we can only speculate. It is clear, however, that the self-styled militants who exploit misunderstandings of the Second Amendment are not what either Madison nor Hamilton had in mind.

It raises the question: is the Second Amendment moot? Both Hamilton and Madison had in mind the "...right to keep and bear arms" --but within the context of a disciplined, "well-regulated militia" whose members would be expected to defend the nation. Defending the nation is not what the Texas separatists and other para-military groups have in mind; they have in mind overthrowing it by violent means. They will need guns to do it. Their motives have nothing to do with sport.

What is to be done about the the NRA, perhaps the most powerful lobby in American history? Gun control has become one of the most controversial issues in American politics over the last several decades and it is difficult not to believe that this has been the NRA's desired outcome. Much worthwhile scholarship, the Federalist Papers, the writings of those who wrote the Constitution, James Madison who wrote the Second Amendment, indeed, the Bill of Rights itself are all drowned out with NRA money, phony scholarship, propaganda, and strong arm tactics. The NRA legacy is most certainly and undeniably Whitman, Columbine, and now, Virginia Tech.

On substance, those favoring prudent measures to control gun violence have always had the stronger argument. It is not surprising to learn how often the gun lobbies resort to what has been called "dirty dealing". NRA tactics crossed the lie so often that even George Bush Sr. resigned his membership in disgust when Wayne LaPierre referred to ATF agents as jack-booted thugs.

Tragically, just as nothing changed following Columbine, nothing will change following Virginia Tech. A safer world falls victim to politics and money. We know where the GOP will come down on the issue of guns. What is tragic is that Democrats will not find the political will to help make America a safe, a more civilized nation. Most people are skeptical that 33 deaths at Virginia Tech will do anything to change a political atmosphere that is, perhaps forever, poisoned by NRA lies, money, and propaganda. The Washington Post writes about "gun rights", conceding the paradigm to the NRA. The "rights" rather are spelled out by Madison in the Second Amendment. It is time now to work within that framework to make of this nation a safer nation, a civilized nation, a mature nation that may embrace a more enlightened attitude.

An additional resource:

Inside the NRA: Armed and Dangerous--An Expose

You can safely ignore the reviews of these books on Amazon. Most simply miss the point and none are exhaustive or well researched. Just read them, if you are so inclined, and make up your own mind.

An update:

A website entitled The U.S. v. Miller Revisited puts forward the theory that US v Miller upholds a version the NRA position vis a vis Miller. Following a fairly straightforward background of the case and Robert Jackson's presentation of the The Government's Brief for the Supreme Court, the web master presents his own interpretation: How an Attorney for Miller Might Have Replied. I have placed his main points in quotes followed by my refutations:
Formally limiting the government's powers was the main goal of the American Revolution.
Simplistic! As Gen. Omar Bradley allegedly told George W. Patten: "I can read a map", I suggest one take a look at any map of North America from that era. The English foothold on the Atlantic had been cut off in "the rear" by two flanking maneuvers - one from Canada, the other based in New Orleans on the Mississippi.

That the French had made allies with interior Indian tribes was clearly a threat to British westward expansion. The war that raged in North America through the late 1750's and early 1760's was, arguably, the "first" world war and but one part of the larger struggle between England and France for trade dominance throughout the world. That portion of the war fought in North America involved the struggle between France and England for control of lands coveted by the American colonists themselves. It was but a prelude to the so-called "American Revolution" when the stated "main goal" might have involved limiting the taxing power of the the crown over the commercial interests in what we now call the Northeast.

It was the geo-political struggle between England and France that trumped all else. Often ignored was the desire of the "states", the original 13 colonies, to explore and settle areas west of the Eastern seaboard themselves, a desire that would bring the colonies in conflict with the crown over taxation, representation in Parliament, and the right of the colonies to market their own goods free of regulatory interference from the Crown. To suggest or even hint that the war of independence was fought for gun rights is, politely, simplistic.
It is plainly absurd to argue that the Framers intended directly – or indirectly by creating a foundation on which some later law-makers might build – to provide for an actual or potential government monopoly on the use of armed force or on the ownership of arms themselves.
That simply misses the entire point. If the framers ever thought about the individual "ownership of arms themselves", then show it to me in the Federalist Papers, James Madison's notes of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington's letters, etc. In fact, there was no debate whatsoever about the individual right to own firearms but within the context of the various state militias which were, in fact, derided by the likes of George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton et al.

It is because these personages were so unhappy with the performance of the militias that James Madison stated flatly in the Second Amendment that a "well-regulated militia" was essential to the security of the free state. The key word is "well-regulated". Both Madison and Washington believed that the various militias had not been well-regulated, supplied or disciplined. Washington complained that he could not even depend upon them to show up for duty. The Second Amendment is keen to redress that grievance.

It is absurd to think that the founders, unhappy as they were with the militias during the Revolution, would sit down to draft constitutional law rewarding them for having been incompetent and unreliable.
When they wrote the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, they adhered closely to English Common law, which provided that arms could be owned and carried for self defense, so long as the intent of these actions was not to terrorize others.
But the language of the Second Amendment says absolutely nothing about personal self defense. Not one word. It does, however, expend an entire phrase to the defense of the state.
That each person is responsible for his own defense against criminals has long been the law in the United States.
That is simply not the issue addressed by the Second Amendment nor by US v Miller which states clearly how the Second Amendment is to be interpreted.
In 1939 the Supreme Court was not asked to recognize that Americans never have had a right to protection by the government, and so have a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
What the supreme court may or may not have been asked to do is always trumped by what it does in fact. US v Miller states unambiguously that the individual right to keep and bear arms must be interpreted within the context of a "well regulated militia".

Miller did not address the issue of "self defense" except to say that a sawed off shotgun is probably not considered to be a good choice for that purpose. That is hardly a universal principle of law. The statement referring to how the Second is to be interpreted most certainly is. Therefore, any argument citing Miller in defense of a "self defense" interpretation of the Second amendment is fallacious.
And now for something completely different. The World Snooker Championships start this week. Ronnie O'Sullivan, who has won 2 World Championships and 16 other ranking tournaments, is off to a flying start.
 

In 1997, he cleaned the table in just a few seconds over five minutes, running up a score of 147. Here's what it looked like then.



According to the snooker experts:

The tournament favourite is Ronnie 'the Rocket' O'Sullivan, the most talented and enigmatic player on the professional snooker circuit. O'Sullivan has won the World Championship twice, along with 16 other ranking tournaments, but none of those successes have come in the last two years..
4/19/2007: Ronnie O'Sullivan favorite to win the World Snooker Championship

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