Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: Second Amendment

Rights of the Living

Thomas PaineIn 1789, Thomas Paine wrote Rights of Man as a rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. One of Burke’s arguments, and one he spends over 100 pages writing about, is how the English Parliament of 1688 granted certain rights “for themselves, and for all their posterity, for ever.” Paine takes exception with this and in the first few pages of Rights of Man refutes Burke’s assumptions brilliantly.

I would like to use these same arguments as a foundation for repealing the second amendment, which to my mind, is the only way we will genuinely affect the daily bloodbath that is guns in America.

In the preface to the English edition, Paine speaks of those who make their living by war. I will use this as a metaphor for the NRA, as they are but a mouthpiece for gun manufacturers whose products flood battlefields and street corners, both. About this, Paine writes:

That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.

Consider for a moment if we substitute Races for Nations in the previous passage. Now, how often have we heard those in government go on and on about how critical it is for “law-abiding citizens” to defend themselves against “thugs.” First of all, everyone is a law-abiding citizen until they are not, until they commit a crime. Second, “thugs” has become the code for our African American youth requiring neither an enigma machine nor anything more than a wink and a nod for conservatives to understand.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA misses no opportunity to speak before his epistemically closed audiences of Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh listeners when he frames paranoid image upon fearmongering image as reasons why “law-abiding citizens” need to arm themselves against “thugs.” He never misses an opportunity. As Paine wrote when slapping Burke for the same verbal diarrhea,

When the tongue or the pen is let loose in a frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the subject, that becomes exhausted.

Indeed, later in the book, Paine smacks Burke again for misplacing his compassion. Likewise, as LaPierre is ordained to defend the firearm and not the victim of the firearm every time he blurts that nauseating phrase, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” or the equally noxious “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” I’ll quote two Paine lines:

He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.

And,

Prudent men readily recollect that mischief is more easily begun than ended.

LaPierre, ever the sower of tyrannical fantasies is subject to Paine’s logical argument when discussing what rights the founding fathers are owed. He makes a distinction of ruling by delegation, which he feels is appropriate, and ruling by assumption, which he does not. He writes:

The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.

Furthermore, he writes of the rights of the living superseding the edicts of the dead:

Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated.

He expounds upon this a bit further into the text when he writes:

Those who have quitted the world, and those who are not yet arrived at it, are as remote from each other, as the utmost stretch of mortal imagination can conceive: What possible obligation, then, can exist between them; what rule or principle can be laid down, that of two nonentities, the one out of existence, and the other not in, and who never can meet in this world, the one should control the other to the end of time?

So, if there is no obligation of current generations to accept the laws of previous generations, except through their continued adherence to them, they are then subject to repeal. Paine writes of this tyranny:

It requires but a very small glance of thought to perceive, that although laws made in one generation often continue in force through succeeding generations, yet that they continue to derive their force from the consent of the living. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed; and the non-repealing passes for consent.

That the second amendment was written during the time of the musket and could never address a hand-held machine gun or any of the other wondrous killing machines we have invented to slaughter our neighbor is all the more reason why we need to repeal it and, if appropriate, write a new version consistent with the times in which we live. As Paine wrote it:

The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of men change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it. That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age, may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. In such cases, Who is to decide, the living, or the dead?

Paine even quotes M. de Lafayette who, in appealing to the living said:

Call to mind the sentiments which Nature has engraved in the heart of every citizen, and which take a new force when they are solemnly recognized by all: – For a nation to love liberty, it is sufficient that she knows it; and to be free, it is sufficient that she wills it.

Laws are for the living, not the dead, says Paine. Might I add that they should be for the living to prevent the dead, as well? Paine was a bit of a smartass in his writing
and if I may repurpose one of his greatest upbraidings, I consider the NRA and its fearmongering, paranoid, disingenuous leadership to be “darkness attempting to illuminate light.”

I consider this as the framework and justification for repealing the second amendment, using the words of one of the most logical witnesses to two revolutions. Common sense may not be all that common anymore, but logic is universally appreciated.

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Meanwhile in Texas

Meanwhile in Texas

In light of the horrific massacre of a family in Spring, Texas yesterday, I thought it would be good to gauge the response of our elected officials. Since there was nothing but the sound of chirping crickets in response, I thought we should investigate why. These pictures tell the story. Here they are, your Texas elected officials:

Texas Attorney General and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Greg Abbott:

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Texas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry:

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United States Senator Ted Cruz:

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United States Senator John Cornyn:

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Texas State Senator and Republican Lt. Governor Candidate Dan Patrick:

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Texas Representative and Republican Candidate for Texas Senate Steve Toth:

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United States Representative Steve Stockman:

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But before we chastise these elected officials (and we aren’t even counting Louie Gohmert), let’s consider some of their constituents:

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Now I understand.

 

 

 

 

 

My Confession

I have a confession to make. It’s not one I’m proud of, especially given my small participation in trying to reduce gun violence in America. On May 23rd, in Santa Barbara, a gunman killed six people and then himself on a college campus. On June 5th, in Seattle, a gunman killed one person on a college campus. On June 8th, in Las Vegas, a couple killed three people, including two police officers and then themselves. And yesterday, in Troutdale, Oregon, a student killed another student and then himself. Oh, and on June 3rd, in New Brunswick, Canada, a gunman killed three police officers. Nineteen days have passed since the murders in Santa Barbara. Eighteen people died in those 5 incidents.

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, 86 people are killed by gun violence in America every day (33 are murdered and another 50 kill themselves). Every day another 205 are shot and survive (including 148 shot during an assault, 10 suicide attempts and 45 “accidents”). To annualize those numbers is to understand the magnitude of our psychosis. 31,346 people are killed due to gun violence every year. Another 74,835 are injured, but survive. That amounts to over 100,000 Americans victims of gun violence every year.

In the 543 days since 20 six- and seven-year olds were murdered along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, there have been 74 school shootings. Seventy four! If the chart below of school shootings doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, you have liquid nitrogen running through your veins.

Yesterday, President Obama said, “The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted, in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me.” Ah, but all of these people must be crazy, whispered the 2A “patriots.” To wit, the president said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.”

The United States has a gun homicide rate 20 times higher than other developed countries. Surely, we are not to believe that we have 20 times more mentally troubled people than these other developed countries. Their reply, “It’s the person not the gun. A gun is an inanimate object. If it weren’t for the gun, they would find another method.” To wit, I would refer you to author Steven King’s response in his book Guns:

 “I read a jaw-dropping online defense of these weapons from a California woman recently. Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty school kids with a fucking spoon.”

There are over 300,000,000 guns in America. If having a gun made people safer, America would be the safest country on the planet. We’re not. Not even close.

The White House tweeted the following comment from the president yesterday:

So, my question to you is this: What will it take? The slaughter of 20 school children didn’t do it. Eighty six deaths and 205 injuries a day hasn’t done it.  Seriously, what will it take for us to say, “Enough”?  Is there a number? Is there a victim? Are we content with this and numb to the stories? Have we swallowed the “good guy” line from the NRA and now consider these deaths and injuries collateral damage and friendly fire in order for us to “exercise” our “God given” Second Amendment right? Or are we ready to insist on change? Will we demand a better, safer future for our children? As one of the millions who work every day to bring about change I believe we deserve, I hope so, because here is my confession: I have muddled the most recent shootings. I can’t keep them straight in my head. I feel horrible for the victims, family members and friends of the victims, because they deserve to be remembered. I just can’t keep them straight anymore. I demand better of myself and my country. What about you?

Ideology

Ideology, like religion, demands one abandon critical reasoning and doubt. By another name, faith leads one to the comfortable conclusion that one’s position is unalterably correct, thus removing the prickly questioning normally associated with sentient thought. However, this relinquishment of critical analysis leads to ever more epistemic closure in a death spiral toward absolutism. In fact, absolutes invariably vanish the closer one gets to the issue. There is no “pure evil” just as there is no “pure good.” Humans comprise both ends and all intermediate places on the spectrum. To assume otherwise is to deny one’s own personality while subjecting others to an unnatural status. If the “devil is in the details,” then, by definition, any god is too far removed from the issue to offer alms.

Ideology, in its most rabid form, invariably leads to hatred, racism, subjugation or war. Consider the fundamentalists associated with White Pride or Black Power, xenophobia or nationalism, misogyny or homophobia. These “phobias” are, of course, mislabeled. They do not indicate a “fear of,” but rather a “hatred of” someone different than oneself. Simplistic by design, anyone with an opposing view is deemed ignorant or irrational and easily dismissed. Living in a black or white world (I mean this in terms of absolutism and not race) may be reassuring but it is most certainly delusional.

Current events supply two readily available examples of this: Ted Cruz’s 21-hour temper tantrum on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and those exorcised individuals “defending” the Second Amendment over the past nine months since Newtown.

Senator Cruz’s marathon speech, performed for no discernible purpose but to garner personal attention, was presumably conducted in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), although that possibility was only ever a Tea Party fantasy. Along party lines, the ACA was passed by both Houses of Congress in 2009 and signed by this Democratic president. Subsequent judicial challenges have validated the legality of the law. Whatever your thoughts are on our two party system, just like the odd sibling out in a family of three children, two against one will almost always prevail. Thus, for better or worse, a Republican controlled House will typically lose out to a Democratic controlled Senate and White House. This is not always the case, but in our ever increasingly polarized, and by extension, paralyzed Congress, petty party politics triumph where wisdom and governance is required. Ted Cruz personifies Tea Party doctrine and Washington grandstanding over negotiation and solutions.

In contrast to most gun control activists who feel obligated to include a blanket caveat of supporting the Second Amendment in every discussion, gun rights activists convey an ideology so absolute it crosses into militantism. Hatred and dogma preclude any discussion or negotiation. Their circular logic of I-need-my-gun-because-I’m-a-good-guy-and-the-guy-next-to-me-might-be-a-bad-guy (with no explanation of how we are to know he is a good guy other than faith) is the precursor to Hammurabi’s code, but in this case America is left with bullet riddled school children and paranoid gunslingers rather than someone simply losing an eye or a tooth.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that most gun rights activists are also members of the Tea Party. Nothing says “America” like an Austrian Glock and Chinese oolong.

Perhaps…

Perhaps the Republican Party will reflect on this election loss and consider its implications on their future.

Perhaps the religious right will no longer be the centerpiece of the Republican Party.  America largely ignored Romney’s Mormonism as an issue.  Perhaps Republicans can learn to ignore everybody else’s religion (or lack thereof).  As America becomes increasingly secular, perhaps we can dispense with the politically correct insipidness that it is alright for anybody to believe in creationism after they have attained the age of two and played with a toy dinosaur.  Perhaps the fanaticism employed by the right in their attempts to include God in every discussion should be left to the Islamic fanatics of the Middle East.  Perhaps the frenzied somnambulist’s nightmare of sharia law infiltrating American jurisprudence can be left to the conspiracy theorists.  Surely we can agree that while American’s rejected Romney’s attempt to return the United States to the social constructs of the year 1950, are there any circumstances under which we would accept a return to the Islamic laws of the year 632?  Someone once said that one conspiracy theorist is a schizophrenic, whereas a group of them is a Republican convention.  Perhaps it is time to change that.

Perhaps the right wing will clear themselves of their paranoid miasma of a national “confiscation day,” where President Obama personally goes door-to-door collecting every gun from the self-proclaimed “sane,” 2nd amendment loving, NRA financing, gun lovers.  Perhaps we can have a rational discussion on gun control and agree that ordinary citizens probably do not need a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100 round clip in order to defend themselves from a burglar, unless the burglar is China, in which case we have an exceedingly well armored military.

Perhaps Republicans can agree that rape is not a topic on which there can be two rational sides.

Perhaps Republicans will see women’s rights and control over their own bodies as sacrosanct and not fodder for white men to debate.

Perhaps marriage equality will extend its foothold in the less religiously rigid states and plant the seeds for a national discussion devoid of homosexuality being considered a moral abomination and “curable.”

Perhaps Republicans will see Latino’s not as a monolithic Democratic voting block consisting of “wetbacks” and illegal (I hate this term) aliens, but rather Americans.  A look at any of the maps used by the networks in last night’s election coverage shows that America, beyond Tim Russert’s Red State/Blue State analogy is really about urban versus suburban, white versus everybody else (captured as that all-encompassing and grossly misrepresentative term “ethnic”).  For example,  white suburban Virginia versus the “ethnic” northern part of the state, white suburban Ohio versus the “ethnic,” blue-collared northern part of the state, white suburban western Pennsylvania versus the “ethnic” Philadelphia region.  See a pattern?  White’s comprise huge swaths of territory, but with few inhabitants versus the “ethnic” and densely populated cities.  The Red State/Blue State paradigm is flawed.  Perhaps, it should be county based, or perhaps it is time for white Americans to stop trying to return America to the “good old days” of segregation and oppressive “white power” and embrace their place in the prismatic colors that are America’s skin tones.

Perhaps Republicans will take this opportunity to unite with Democrats and engage in meaningful arguments about the cataclysmic topics facing America, represent their constituents without abandoning the greater good and moving the needle on America’s march into an energy independent future.  Perhaps we can dispense with the banal name calling and talentless idolatry rampant in America and engender personal responsibility as a manifesto for our children.

Perhaps Donald Trump will donate his $5 million to a charity of his choice and sit down.

Perhaps, but probably not.

How Big the American Penis

When did the morality of the United States go from entering World War II because it was the “right” thing to do to invading Iraq because we could?  We won the Cold War and promptly anointed ourselves the world’s policeman and obligatory parent.  We went from a Vietnam-era public untrusting of our government and pleading for peace to a public untrusting of our government and spoiling for a fight with it and everybody else.  We wrap ourselves in two diametrically opposed swatches of moral cloth; the second amendment and the bible.  We believe our government has become tyrannical and thus we must arm ourselves with all manner of weaponry.  We dismiss gun control with vitriolic fervor, siting the legislative ineffectiveness of established laws, while ignoring the fact that those same laws had been eviscerated by NRA-backed politicians.  “See, they don’t work,” say the gun lovers.  A cynical person might see this as a self-fulfilling prophecy purposely set up by the NRA to prove that gun laws don’t work, hiding the fact that the laws were programmed to fail as written.  Fitted with a 30-second sound bite mentality, we espouse our philosophy in fortune cookie slogans.  “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  “If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”  “Should we outlaw the spoon to prevent obesity?”  “Should we outlaw the car to prevent automobile deaths?”  No, we should use some common sense and prevent 100,000 Americans from being shot every year.  Duh.  The problem, of course, is that common sense isn’t common anymore.

We must arm ourselves with concealed weapons because the boogeyman is going to attack us in our homes, while at the same time we profess to follow the teachings of Jesus.  “Keep Christ in Christmas,” reads the bumper sticker on the left side of the bumper of the twelve foot high pickup truck under which I can drive my Camry and not get wet from the rain.  The right side of the bumper has another sticker which reads, “Gun Control means using BOTH hands.”  If only someone in the audience in Aurora had been packing…

Yes, American machismo is alive and well, even without any requisite reasoning.  The top selling vehicle in 2000 was the Ford F-150 pickup truck.  In the years that have followed (living in the post September 11 world of war, our “desire” to move away from an oil based economy  and the birth of “green” technology), the best-selling vehicle through June of this year is the Ford F-150 pickup truck.  My, what we have learned!  True, gas mileage has increased over those ten years.  The 2000 F-150 only got 15 miles per gallon.  The 2012 model got 17.   And why do they have to be jacked up so high that in driving in my lowly hybrid sedan I can’t see past the steel wall in front of me.  Having them behind me is no bargain either.  Their headlights are so high that they pass directly into my rear view mirror!  And when did we begin to believe that pickup trucks must be driven like NASCAR vehicles?

Of course, there is a path back to reason that doesn’t have to pass through “Who is John Galt” egoism.  The 2008 Supreme Court decision referenced, championed and waived like a flag by the gun loving public (D.C. v. Heller) contains language that makes sensible legislation possible.  Two words, actually.  Paragraph number two specifically states:

The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

sensitive places.”  Further define “sensitive places” and the problem is solved.  Add movie theatres, churches, and anyplace else that I, my wife or children might wander and I’ll be happy.

The second option is to legislate around the second amendment’s archaic premise.  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D- N.Y.) suggested on November 4, 1993 that while the United States had a 200 year supply of guns, we only had a four year supply of ammunition.  Turning the oft-quoted phrase noted above on its ear, he was quoted as saying before the senate, “Guns don’t kill people; bullets do.” He proposed legislation adding a tax on ammunition.  A 10,000% tax!  Translated, that means that a $24 box of 20 Black Talon cartridges would cost $1,500.  The Black Talon was a 9-millimeter hollow-tipped cartridge with a bullet advertised as expanding “to expose razor-sharp reinforced jacket petals.  Advertisements for these bullets are quoted as saying, “These cut tissues in the wake of the penetrating core,” and “penetrates soft tissue like a throwing star — very nasty; very effective; a real improvement in handgun ammo.”  Sounds like a great product!  Alas, despite his being the chairman of the Finance Committee, the bill went nowhere.  In an odd endorsement, the comedian Chris Rock, speaking years later as part of his routine, said:

You don’t need no gun control, you know what you need? We need some bullet control. Men, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost five thousand dollars… five thousand dollars per bullet… You know why? Cause if a bullet cost five thousand dollars there would be no more innocent bystanders.

Yeah! Every time somebody get shot we’d say, ‘Damn, he must have done something … Shit, he’s got fifty thousand dollars’ worth of bullets in his ass.’

And people would think before they killed somebody if a bullet cost five thousand dollars. ‘Man I would blow your (f*@#ing) head off…if I could afford it.’ ‘I’m gonna get me another job, I’m going to start saving some money, and you’re a dead man. You’d better hope I can’t get no bullets on layaway.’

So even if you get shot by a stray bullet, you wouldn’t have to go to no doctor to get it taken out. Whoever shot you would take their bullet back, like “I believe you got my property.”

In his 1870 work My Summer in a Garden, Charles Dudley Warner wrote, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”  Never was this truer than an agreement between Senator Moynihan and Chris Rock!

The macho American male dismisses “rational” discussion on these topics as the ranting of bleeding-heart liberals.  Tree hugging, global-warming-believing, socialists.  We won, you lost, discussion over.  Deal with it.  My gun is bigger than yours; my truck is bigger than yours. My penis is bigger than yours.  Now sit down and shut up before I hit you with either of them.

An Interview with James Madison

Published July 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thanks to Doc Brown, Marty McFly and time travel, James Madison was cryogenically preserved when he died in June of 1836 at the age of 84.  He was the last surviving Founding Father, considered the Father of the Constitution and author of the Bill of Rights.  Today, healthy and alive, he celebrates his first “second” birthday, having been reborn on July 4, 2011.  We sat down at the Off the Record bar in the Hay-Adams Hotel here in Washington to discuss what he thinks of the political experiment he helped craft over 220 years ago.

ThoughtsAtLarge:

First of all Mr. President, let me thank you for taking the time to meet with me and to wish you a very happy first birthday.

Madison:

Thank you, although I must say, I feel rather like the 261 year old I really am!

ThoughtsAtLarge:

Well, I can only hope to look as good as you at 261, if you don’t mind my saying so, Mr. President.

Madison:                  

Very kind of you to say.

ThoughtsAtLarge:          

Mr. President, as one of the original architects of the American democracy, how do you think it has performed?  And as a follow-up, is it what you had envisioned it maturing into?

Madison:          

Let me first qualify your statement.  Yes, I was one of the people involved in the formation of the government, although, you must understand two things straight away. First, most of us were very young and the times were very uncertain.  I, myself, was only 26!  Second, we consciously created a republic, not a democracy.  The distinction is worth noting.  But to answer your question, I am generally pleased with how it has withstood time, although, it was intended to be more fluid than it has been interpreted.  For example, the three-fifths compromise as written in the Constitution seems both offensive and silly today.

ThoughtsAtLarge:

You are talking about Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 which states:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

Madison:

Yes, that was a compromise between the northern and southern states regarding slavery.
But the 13th and 14th Amendments rendered that clause moot, thankfully!

ThoughtsAtLarge:

You were originally a Federalist, or a proponent of a strong central government, but ended up changing to a Democratic-Republican, in favor of strong state’s rights.  Why the change?

Madison:               

Well, you have to understand that, at the time, there was no sense in having strong state’s rights without a strong central government.  However, once that was achieved, we could turn our attention to assuring the ability of individual states to control their own destiny.  Certain concepts lend themselves better to an overarching unanimity, while others can be subject to a more regional interpretation. 

ThoughtsAtLarge:

It is ironic that as the chief author of the Bill of Rights, you were originally against having them at all!

Madison:  

That’s correct!  I didn’t think they were necessary.  I also worried that by delineating specific rights, others, not delineated would not be protected.

ThoughtsAtLarge: 

There are now 27 ratified amendments to the Constitution.  Doesn’t that speak to your desire to have the government’s framework remain fluid?

Madison:     

To a degree, yes, although it was not our intention to have future Supreme Courts attempt
to opine on our intentions in 1789 without taking into consideration society today.

ThoughtsAtLarge:

Can you give us an example?

Madison:         

Of course, the First Amendment never foresaw radio, television, the internet, and iPhones, Fox News, MSNBC or CNN.  The Second Amendment never foresaw any firearm more powerful than a single shot musket or the rise of the United States military to be the most powerful in the history of mankind. 

ThoughtsAtLarge:

It’s ironic you should mention the Second Amendment.  You were a strong proponent of protecting the citizenry’s ability to bear arms.

Madison:                     

Yes, I was, but, again, times were very different.  Our concerns revolved around foreign invasion and insurrection rather than a federal government evolving into a tyrannical dictator.  After all, it was the government we created!  We certainly never foresaw the awesome firepower now available to our citizens.  Remember, it was within the confines of a well-regulated militia that this amendment was conceived.  Today, it has been interpreted to mean that virtually any and all manner of firearm is available to our citizens.  I have read the gruesome accounts of mass murder committed by citizens with access to unbelievably powerful weapons.  Indeed, every day there are firearm murders, suicides and accidents committed under the auspices of my amendment.  This sickens
me!  Our government has evolved over time.  So too, must the Constitution, including the Amendments!  Common sense!  Where is the common sense?

ThoughtsAtLarge:   

So you would be open to changing the Amendment?

Madison:                    

Times change, sir, and so too must law.

ThoughtsAtLarge:   

I see our time has expired, Mr. President.  I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with me to discuss your unique perspective on our government.  May I ask what your upcoming plans are?  Given the changes to which you must be adapting, I am curious to hear your plans.

Madison:        

I have relatives, descendants really, that live out west, far beyond what I knew as “west”!  I am traveling on my first airplane later this month and meeting with them.  I am also fascinated by the cinema.  My, let’s see if I can get this correct, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter wants to see the new Batman movie.  I am very much looking forward to it!

ThoughtsAtLarge:   

That’s lovely.  Where does she live?

Madison:           

Aurora, Colorado.

Heroes

When I was growing up, Pete Rose was my hero.  I loved the way he played the game.  He gave 100%, every game, every day.  You can denigrate him for betting on baseball.  It was wrong.  You can say he was a Hot Dog.  But Charlie Hustle earned his name.  Likewise, I loved watching Jack Klugman’s Quincy.  He, too, ran as fast as he could into whatever brick wall stood in his way.  If I could distill their personalities into one word, it would be passion.  It is passion that I have always hoped to impress upon my children.  Find whatever you love and pursue it relentlessly. 

However, today’s heroes can no longer be recognized for their passion, but rather their popularity.  Seriously, can anybody tell me what Paris Hilton or any Kardashian, brings to society, other than manufactured drama?  P.T. Barnum said, “Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing.”  Lady Gaga is the new Madonna, a master publicist with limited talent.  Talent and hard work has given way to reality TV, American Idol and an instant gratification mentality.  However, as alarming as this development is, there is another that is far more damning.

There is an Irish proverb that states, “If you want an audience, start a fight.”  This type of publicity is best represented by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.  Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called Glenn Beck, “Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother.”  Why?  Let’s review a few quotes from Mr. Beck:

“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.”

“Can you let your son’s body become the same temperature as your son’s head before you turn this into a political campaign against the president? Could you do that?”    (This to Judea Pearl following his son Daniel’s beheading at the hands of Pakistani militants)

“Not a single time have we gotten a right from Congress or from the President. We get them from God.”    (Really? Makes you wonder about the Second Amendment, doesn’t it?)

“The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be President would be, ‘What the hell you mean we’re out of missiles?’”

Mr. Limbaugh also has a litany of available quotes, but this is a blog and not a thesis.  Ironically, the Information Age has sparked a new Dark Age.  The endless availability of information has resulted in people seeking out only the information with which they agree.  If you’re a conservative, you watch Fox.  If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC.  CNN, probably the most balanced of these three, is suffering in the ratings because of this phenomenon.  Debate is non-existent.  Compromise a sign of weakness.

Nowhere is this chasm in conversation more evident than on the issue of guns.  Debate has been reduced to bumper sticker sound bites.  “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.” 

The NRA is the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers cloaked behind a bastardized interpretation of the Second Amendment and followed by a Kool-Aid drinking public.  Fact and common sense have no place in the conversation anymore.  Fact, the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but owns 50% of the world’s guns.  Look at this graphic from CNN.  Does anything stand out as being apart from the norm?

And yet, we can’t get Washington to approach gun control because of the fear politicians have of the NRA.  Where does it end for the NRA, .50 caliber sniper rifles to greet the mailman? Fissile material on eBay?  This paranoid mentality instilled on their flock is scary.  They believe that the Day of Confiscation is imminent, that the government is about to turn on them and subjugate them, that fascism and socialism are the new American order.  For people so concerned about the Second Amendment, they show no faith in a government that created it.  Every armory-owning yahoo is now a Constitutional scholar.  However, as the NRA was their teacher, they reduce the Amendment to an unimpeachable, fortune cookie-like “right to bear arms,” selectively forgetting the “well regulated militia” part.

It is frustrating.  Discussion dissolves into name calling and with the high ground (if not the moral high ground), the gun-owning majority dismisses a rational minority.  Congress is deadlocked on every issue, mirroring a public paralyzed by institutionally fed convictions.  We can be passionate about our convictions and open to discussion.  We are better than this.  Where are our heroes?

Happiness is a Warm Gun

I get it.  I finally understand the NRA and the Second Amendment.  Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  No gun has ever lifted up and fired itself and the only species with an opposable thumb capable of that kind of muscle control is the human.  Damn humans.  Of course, it’s only the crazies that ever cause any problems.  In fact, since there are 100,000 people shot in America every year, that’s a lot of crazies.  There’s clearly a problem with the mental health system in this country. 

The second amendment 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.”  I’m in.  Where’s the militia into which I can enroll? Oh, it’s not that formal anymore?  Cool!  Where’s my musket?  Oh, you have to provide your own?  Fine.  OK, only one problem.  I can’t find any muskets for sale.  Oh, it doesn’t have to be as musket?  Great!  Any “Arm” will do?  Wonderful!

I just bought a Defendthehomestead AR-15 manufactured by Lookatmeimapatriot, Inc.  It’s a newer model.  The old model was banned under that stupid Assault Weapons Ban, you know, the one that was part of that fornicating Clinton’s liberal agenda under H.R.3355, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  It stated under Section 110102:

`(30) The term `semiautomatic assault weapon’ means–

`(A) any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as–

`(i) Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models);

`(ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;

`(iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC-70);

`(iv) Colt AR-15;

`(v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC;

`(vi) SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9, and M-12;

`(vii) Steyr AUG;

`(viii) INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and

`(ix) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;

`(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of–

`(i) a folding or telescoping stock;

`(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;

`(iii) a bayonet mount;

`(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and

`(v) a grenade launcher;

`(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of–

`(i) an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip;

`(ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;

`(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned;

`(iv) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; and

`(v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm; and

`(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of–

`(i) a folding or telescoping stock;

`(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;

`(iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds; and

`(iv) an ability to accept a detachable magazine.’.

Thankfully, that piece of eastern, intellectual, elitist, liberal, socialism was allowed to expire in 2004.  Who knew laws had expiration dates!  Mine was not on the list because the manufacturer changed the color of my Defendthehomestead from “Black” to “Slightly Darker Black,” thus getting around the law.  I was also able to buy (actually, they were giving it away as part of a sales promotion) a large capacity magazine capable of holding 6 million rounds, a flash suppressor, pistol grip and grenade launcher.  It’s a little heavy, but I dare anyone to break into my house now!  I keep it under my bed (which is now 4 feet off the ground), loaded and with the safety off.  Safeties are for sissies.  The little kids want to play with it, but I grunt and scratch and they run back to playing God of War II and watching Scarface.  “Just hit ‘reset’, Johnny!”

I also recently bought a tank for the front yard and missile defense system for the backyard (which might explain the lack of birds at the birdfeeder. I’ll have to talk with the Audubon society about that.  Clearly there are some birds with mental problems too.)  We have a small lake behind our house and I’ve asked the home owner’s association if it would be alright for me to tie-up my battleship there.  I wanted a submarine, but the deterrent factor wasn’t the same.  I’m sure the Socialist Party (some still call it the Democratic Party) will have a problem with it, but I belong to Republican, Inc., the newly formed conglomeration of the old Republican Party, big business and lobbyists, now acting as the political wing of my beloved NRA, so they’ll have to come pry my battleship from my cold, dead, opposable thumb capable hands. 

I know everything about everything, and I’d like to discuss loosening the python-like grip of constricting gun laws in this country, but I’ve been told to believe by my NRA leadership (who must have much bigger weapons than me), that the “events” in Colorado are still too raw to allow a discussion on gun control.  That’s politics and, God knows, talking can be deadly.  God Bless the U.S. of (NR)A.

 

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