Monday, April 22, 2013

How the NRA Helped Create a Culture of Guns, Death and Violence

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

A culture of guns and violence may be traced to the many myths and lies told about the Second Amendment by one lobby organization specifically: the NRA. The NRA has worked assiduously to create a culture of guns, lies and violence in the United States. Sadly for our country, they have largely succeeded. 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; fatal shooting rampages will eventually 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 down the middle on the gun violence issue. The GOP sold out long ago. This 'impasse' is due to many cultural factors that may be impossible to address. The best hope for rational debate is a concerted effort to disseminate the many truths about the Second Amendment in opposition to the NRA's many lies about it.

The NRA, for example, lies about 'U.S. v Miller'! The NRA lies about U.S. v Miller because that decision is in opposition to NRA lies about the Second Amendment. The NRA leaves out an entire phrase --the part about a 'well-regulated militia'. In U.S. v Miller, the Supremes recognized the obvious: the 'right' to keep and bear arms occurs only within the context of a well-regulated militia.

'Miller' outlines the "collective" duties and responsibilities of militias, 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 " the government". Regulated, we are expected to believe, means self-regulated and equipped. In other words, armed to the teeth and unaccountable to anyone. That's absurd, of course.

Believing the militias had been neglected, Madison, if he were alive today, would denounce 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 amendment concurrent with his oft-stated criticism of the states. He sought to redress his grievance in that famous single sentence:
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, Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution

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