“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.”
That is it – the complete text of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was part of the first Ten Amendments, which became known as our “Bill of Rights”, which were finally (and collectively) ratified by 1792. However, the great question currently at issue is “What did it mean then – and what does it mean now”.
There is, of course, the current tendency toward a simplistic and literal approach, that – “It means exactly what it says – without qualification or modification – then, now and forever – and nothing can change that absolute truth.”
And yet, when it came to other Amendments of that Bill of Rights, members of the Supreme Court of the United States were not always quite so absolute. With regard to the First Amendment, for example, Oliver Wendell Holmes memorably remarked,
“The Right of Free Speech, is not the right to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater!”
What exactly did Justice Holmes mean, when he expressed that thought? The answer is simple. In law – as in life – there are no “absolutes”. There are valid circumstances – there are valid moments in the human condition, when “absolute” concepts must yield to absolute “reality”. Why? Because human lives may depend upon the exercise of that understanding.
In the case of the Second Amendment, the vast majority of people have failed to take note of the absolute differences between today’s world and the world in which our Second Amendment was given birth. That absolute difference is called “technology”. In 1792 it took a man a full minute to load a rifle or a pistol – for a single shot – or two, if it had more than one barrel. Time that “one minute” for yourself, on your own watch, and reflect on how long a killer could stand there, before being jumped by everyone around him.
Compare that reality with that of today’s technologically advanced weapons. In 1792 Colt’s revolver wouldn’t even have come into existence for another 40 years. Yet today, not only can one squeeze off two rounds every second, but that weapon can hold up to 100 rounds – to kill or maim 100 people – before reloading. And the reloading itself can then be accomplished in only a matter of seconds, itself.
In comparison to today’s technological reality, the Second Amendment might have been written on a different planet. How long will it take before this “absolute reality” sinks into the public consciousness? Until this happens, the hell that this nation has been allowed to endure, under the current political leadership, will continue – and will likely expand, even beyond human imagination.
But the NRA, and their clutch of gun-manufacturing backers, don’t actually give a damn about the subtleties of law, or about Civil Rights, or even about the absolute realities of the human condition. Their motivation can be summed up in a single word – “money”. And the money they make from the unconstrained sale of guns is then used to buy the politicians – politicians who are far more concerned about the people who fill their campaign coffers than they are about the people who’s votes actually grant them the power of office. The least of their concerns, these politicians, seems to be the lives and well-being of the public – of American citizens – and of their children.
The ultimate unfortunate reality is that our streets will continue to run red, until we get money out of politics, and the politicians out of office who care more for their financial backers than for the lives of their constituents. Wake up America, and remember this in November.