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02-21 2nd amend Commentaries

From Commentaries On the Time

A Gun Crazy Nation!

Februrary 13, 2013

 

Camden+Violence+Gun+Buyback - illegal guns confiscated on the streets of Camded

            Illegal Guns taken from the Streets of Camden New Jersey

 It’s Time to Repeal the Second Amendment

It was great to hear President Obama address the gun plague in the most passionate language ever spoken on the subject by a President in a State of the Union address, according to the presidential historians.  Yet given the escalating slaughter of innocents by gun wielding madmen and criminals: It was too little too late.  Although the gun freaks and their lobbyist in theNRA and the American Gun Owners Association portray the President’s call for gun controls as government tyranny that violates the Second Amendment, I think the Second Amendment itself is the problem.

It is a dangerous anachronism that should be repealed!  The reason I think repeal is the only way out of this nightmare of random mass murders by demented gunman seeking a place in history, is because so long as it remains intact its meaning will be subject to interpretation by the Courts, which vacillates according to their political orientation – despite its pious claim to be above politics.  Hence it will be impossible to control the flow of guns, so long as it is left up to the states to pass gun control laws, and some do while some don’t.

The course we must take to end the gun scourge is therefore clear. We must repeal the Second amendment!  Without repealing this amendment our government cannot fulfill its most fundamental obligation to the nation’s citizens: To maintain law and order and protect them from violence which can take their lives or ruin what is left of it, robbing them of any chance at the “pursuit of happiness.”

For instance, I have a friend who had a luminous smile, that’s what I would always think of when I thought of him; that smile which could light up the dark corners of life.   But now the light has abandoned that smile: It went out when his four year old grandson was shot through the head while playing in his front yard, and two thugs started shooting like it was the gunfight at OK Corral.

This was in Camden New Jersey. Homicide has become a part of the rhythm of life in the black neighborhoods of Camden.  Another buddy of mine, a hip savvy guy who led a fabulous life before retirement and is the great Nephew of Dr. WEB DuBois, grew up in Camden and remembers when it was a wonderful place to live.  Now he doesn’t go out at night, because although gun violence does not break out “everywhere it can happen anywhere…not all the time but anytime,” as his distinguished ancestor once said of white American violence against Afro-Americans a century ago.

And yet Camden is not even the most dangerous city in America; Philadelphia, just across the Delaware River, is more dangerous than Baghdad!  I chose Camden because I came across this picture above while listening to a debate about gun control on CNN; the guns in the picture were taken from the streets of Camden, and they had been illegally acquired by their previous owners.  These guns were not found due to detective work, their acquisition is the result of a city sponsored program to buy them from their illegal owners.

The nature of the program tells us that they come from the lower class, more than likely from the Lumpen-Proletariat – that class who are forced to engage in a Darwinian struggle for bread with no formal connection to the legitimate economy.  Young men with no prospects of gainful employment at a living wage; no family who can support them; few educational opportunities; unmarried because they cannot support a family; so they father babies with several women and are plagued with ‘baby mama” dramas.  Hence taking up a gun often becomes the only way they can feel like men besides seducing females, which is hard to do with no green in yo jeans.  It is from this class that the majority of gun violence is committed.

The term of art for this social strata among contemporary sociologists is “the underclass,” and they are the ones who are mainly responsible for turning Chicago into a free fire zone, where whole families get wiped out by gun violence.  Five hundred were slaughtered with guns last year, and forty people have been murdered this month, including the murder of Hadiya Pendleton – a beautiful, bright young lady who had recently performed at President Obama’s inauguration.  In order to place the Chicago murder rate in perspective, consider the following facts.  The murder rate by gunfire in Chicago averages out to better than one a day.

During the height of the race war waged against black America by white racist 1880 -1915, when lynching was at its peak – a black person was killed by white Americans at the rate of one every two and a half days for the entire country.  Tragically, the murder rate for Afro-Americans by the guns of black criminals in the city of Chicago alone more than doubles that.  The murder rates of black citizens – as well as shootouts between criminals – exceed the death rates from Iraq or Afghanistan during the most intense periods of combat!

Yet all attempts by the City of Chicago – as in Philadelphia and myriad other cities – to control the flow of illegal guns on the streets of their cities has been defeated.  Their main enemies have been the state legislatures and the Supreme Court.  Both of these bodies maintain that their opposition to gun control laws is simply a defense of the Second Amendment.

In the case of Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled that their anti-handgun laws were unconstitutional.  The Court’s decision came in the case of OtisMacdonald et al v the City of Oak Park, which was brought by a 76 year old Afro-American, who argued that the gun laws rendered him defenseless in a neighborhood overrun by violent criminals.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas and was hailed as a masterpiece of “Originalist scholarship.”  The term refers to a school of legal thought advocated by Justice Antonin Scalia, which argues that the Constitution should be strictly interpreted based on the “original intent” of the framers.   Based upon this interpretation the entire matter should be left for historians to decide.  But then Scalia qualified his position and said he was going to follow the meaning in the text whatever the Framers may have been thinking at the time.  Needless to say, this is an arbitrary, even dangerous, approach to the law.

Legal argument already contains enough ambiguities. That’s why the fate of a litigant or defender rest upon how a particular judge reads the law.  And when it is the Supreme Court the Constitution means whatever the sitting majority at the time says it means.  In the case of the Second Amendment the most recent cases have been decided on a 5-4 basis.

This has led to panic in the Republican Party.  For instance, at the confirmation hearings on the nomination of Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions – whose own nomination to the high court was rejected because of his racist history – complained: “Our Second Amendment rights are hanging by a thread.”

 Clarence Thomas: Originalist Constitutional Scholar…
Clarence Thomas II
….Or shameless Sophist

Since the close votes demonstrate that the Court is sharply divided on the meaning of the Second Amendment, as well as other vital constitutional issues, what could lead Justice Scalia, a so-called strict constructionist, to such a questionable stance on the law?  Could it be that some of his positions are constructed on shaky historical grounds?  Well, in the case of the Second Amendment the right wing has based its argument on invented history; which is to say that the historical evidence does not support their conclusion that the architects of the Constitution intended for every American citizen to possesses a personal arsenal.

In a desperate effort to find some evidence that the Founding Fathers intended for the Second Amendment to arm American citizens to defend themselves against a tyrannical Federal government, right wing ideologues have manufactured a quote and attributed it to three different people, depending whose telling the tale.  “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government,” goes the quote, which they have attributed at various times to Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, and The Federalist

However there is no evidence that any of them said this.  Yet this idea has become a staple on the far right and is echoed in the rhetoric of right-wing kooks and ignoramuses like Congressman Ron Paul, Michelle Bachman and rejected senatorial candidate Sharon Engle of Nevada.  Anyone who understands anything about the history of revolutions understands that the first thing revolutionists do when they seize power is restore order by any means necessary, including establishing martial law and often a dictatorship until the new order is firmly established.

To believe that the 55 delegates – mostly lawyers, businessmen and big landowners and slaveholders – who drafted the US Constitution would produce a documented that invited their overthrow by armed citizens who disagreed with their policies flies in the face of history and denies all that we know about human nature and the priorities of businessmen.

It is axiomatic that businessmen everywhere prefer a tranquil environment – nobody wants to invest in a war zone where the outcome is uncertain and thus the fate of their investment.  Furthermore, the framers of the Constitution had recently witnessed the chaos that could ensue when armed citizens rose up against the government of the colony of Massachusetts in Shays Rebellion.  Enraged by the foreclosure of farms over unpaid debts and high taxes imposed from faraway Boston, and the arrest of delinquent landowners, armed farmers in Western Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays, a former army officer during the Revolutionary war against England, seized the courthouse in Southampton during the fall of 1786.

It took until winter of 1787 before the rebellion was suppressed by government forces; just a few months before the Constitutional Convention convened during the steamy dog days of August.  To believe that these cautious men – who didn’t even include a bill of rights in the original document, which is why they comprise the first ten amendments to the Constitution – defies reason.

At the time the newly independent North American colonies was governed under the Articles of Confederation.  It would greatly profit Americans who think weakening the federal government is a good idea to study the experience of trying to govern under that system.   It was such a nightmare the framers of the constitution were determined to scarp it for something better; a more effective way of governing.

Hence it is no accident of history that the Preamble to the US Constitution, which establishes its intent and purpose reads: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  Anyone with knowledge of the history of this period cannot fail to see that the emphasis on forming “a more perfect Union” and “insuring domestic tranquility” is a direct response to the dangers of a dysfunctional union where the central government depended on the whims of thirteen sovereign colonies.

For instance, under the Articles of Confederation the central government’s inability to establish a uniform system of weights and measures, or determine the rate of tariffs in conducting trade among the colonies, or even defend the Congress against disgruntled veterans of the Continental Army – which forced them to flee from Philadelphia and hasten across the Delaware to seek refuge Camden New Jersey.  All of these were critical reasons that prompted the Founding Fathers to design a compact that would strengthen the Federal government in 1787, the compact they worked out emerged as the US Constitution, which provides for the removal of any public official who does not carry out the will of the majority of the people: The vote and the impeachment process.  Hence there is no need for armed citizens to defend themselvs against their government.

And there is abundant evidence that this was also the understanding, indeed the preference, of the governors of the colonieswho were horrified at the idea that some citizens thought they had license to take up guns to resolve differences with the government.  They all viewed such action as an invitation to disaster. And it was discussed among those in attendance at the Constitutional convention.

Speaking to the delegates at the convention in Philadelphia, Gouverneur Morrison of Pennsylvania warned the delegates that failure would precipitate new outbreaks of rebellion. “The scenes of horror attending civil commotion cannot be described, and the conclusion of them will be worse than the term of their continuance,” he said. “The stronger party will then make traitors of the weaker; and the gallows & halter will finish the work of the sword.”

And George Washington, who was elected President of the newly formed United States of America – the same year that Louis XVI and Marie Antionette, the King and Queen of France, were beheaded in the Place de la Concorde in Paris – made it clear what he thought of the “insurrectionist interpretation” of the Second Amendment.  He personally led troops to suppress a group of Pennsylvania farmers who took up arms against the newly formed federal government that had imposed a tax on “distilled spirits” in 1791.

The incident is remembered as the “Whisky Rebellion,” and is the only instance in American history when a sitting president led troops in the field. George Washington’s position was clear on the issue of the right of disgruntled citizens to take up arms against the government over unpopular policies.

To yield to the treasonable fury of so small a portion of the United States, would be to violate the fundamental principle of our constitution, which enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail. . . . Succeeding intelligence has tended to manifest the necessity of what has been done; it being now confessed by those who were not inclined to exaggerate the ill-conduct of the insurgents, that their malevolence was not pointed merely to a particular law; but that a spirit, inimical to all order, has actuated many of the offenders.”

The mere fact that the original intent of the drafters of the US Constitution can be so distorted by contemporary politicians, journalists and pro-gun pressure groups like the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America, plus given legal credibility by right wing jurist, provides a compelling reasons to repeal the Second Amendment, and end the gun plague that imperils the “domestic tranquility” of the nation that is cited in the preamble to the Constitution as a fundamental reason for its creation.

It is a promise to the citizens of this nation that transcends the obsessions of the gun nuts!   Now that the course of events has demonstrated that this cannot be achieved while the nation is awash in guns…it’s a no brainer what course we should take: Repeal the god dammed Second amendment!

 The Insurrectionists are Stockpiling Military Weapons
       U.S. Gun Sales Reach Record Levels In 2012
Preparing to fight the Federal Government
******************
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
Februrary 13, 2013
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