Amendment Two

I have spent the past two years studying the American Revolution, the still-radical philosophies of Jefferson, the keen and sober codifying of those philosophies by Madison, the framing of the Constitution, and the arguments surrounding the Bill of Rights.

I am convinced that the Revolutionary era remains the most profound moment in the history of human freedom. We have yet to live up to everything it meant.

I have made the First and Second Amendments the particular focus of my study of the Bill of Rights. Philosophically speaking, without them the entire structure of American republicanism falls apart. And when rights are being picked apart in courts and legislatures, philosophy matters.

Jefferson’s knowledge of classical political philosophy was deep and broad. But he was also taking part in a rebellion––living it––so his application of philosophy was immediate, useful, and a matter of life and death.

Jefferson and others wrote of and believed in natural law. The idea was that there are certain rights that come before governments and other institutions. A person, simply by being born, has a right to believe what she wants. She has a right to say what she wants. She does not need the permission of a state. Similarly, a person, simply by being born, has a right to defend himself and his property. He needs no permission to do so, and the idea that he would need permission is nonsensical. These rights are not given to us, nor can they be. They belong to us as human beings.

We often speak of taxation and representation as the major issues that started the war. They were certainly key, but they were also issues most Americans believed could be solved without separation. It was the issues that eventually became our First and Second Amendments that ignited the fires of revolution. Public meetings––the rights to speak and peaceably assemble––were outlawed. And when Gage came to break up an illegal meeting in Salem, 3000 Americans, all armed, were ready to meet him. The British retreated, and then began enacting policies that aimed to disarm Americans. Let slip the dogs of war.

As David Kopel put it: “Derived from political and legal philosophers such as John Locke, Hugo Grotius, and Edward Coke, the ideology underlying all forms of American resistance was explicitly premised on the right of self-defense of all inalienable rights; from the self-defense foundation was constructed a political theory in which the people were the masters and government the servant, so that the people have the right to remove a disobedient servant.”

It wasn’t just self-defense and protection of property for which one needed a gun. If the people were to rise up against an oppressor, they all needed guns. They needed to be able to form militias. (There was no standing army––nor did they intend to have one since a standing army is typically a tool of the state.) Private ownership of guns made this possible. The Second Amendment exists as a statement to the government that it cannot infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms, and, by extension, it cannot inhibit the ability to form militias. Those militias––”well regulated” meaning well organized––are formed by individuals who own their own guns.

A quick note about militias: The claim that the Second Amendment gives militias the right to bear arms, but not individuals, is fallacious. Are we to believe that the enumerated rights in the constitution are all individual rights except where the Second Amendment is concerned? Of course not. All natural rights are individual rights. Imagine if someone insisted you only had a right to free speech if you joined a group. That would be ridiculous. Individuals have an individual right to peaceably assemble with others who have that individual right. In the same way, individuals have an individual right to keep and bear arms and to form militias with others who have an individual right to keep and bear arms.

And what about the arms themselves? The rifle had undergone a technological advancement around the time of the Revolutionary War. The new rifles made a difference in winning and losing battles. When the Second Amendment was debated and adopted, the Americans knew well the importance of having the latest rifle. The idea that they didn’t think we’d ever evolve past the musket is simply wrong. They had watched the musket become obsolete during the war which they had just fought.

Today you have a right to own weapons, just as they did in the revolutionary era––just as, philosophically, all humans always have. That right is foundational to human freedom. Far from being barbarous, it is a mark of civility and civilization. It is not about flag waving or patriotism. It is about life, liberty, and property.

The recent events in Florida are horrific. I too want solutions. I understand the outrage and the emotion. I feel it. Even as gun violence is in decline, these incidents must be considered seriously and, to the extent that it is possible, dispassionately. Our emotions, while certainly understandable and warranted, will not solve the problem of children being shot at school. Nor will taking away the right to bear arms, or foolishly further limiting that right.

While we cannot guarantee a country free of atrocities, I believe we can work to make atrocities less frequent and less likely.

Perhaps the most obvious way is to defend what we value. We defend major institutions, public and private, and yet out of some twisted, oddly Victorian sense of propriety, we refuse to defend our schools. Declaring a school a gun-free zone is perhaps the worst example of magical thinking in the current era.

But it’s the intangibles that will make the real difference, and that’s why this is so hard. You cannot legislate intangibles, so addressing them doesn’t feel like “doing something.” But I believe they are the actual answer. In short, we have to love each other.

This is, without question, the greatest time to be alive on this planet. By nearly every measure, things are getting better. And yet we feel the opposite. Most people believe things are getting worse. In fact, the media assures us daily that things are getting worse. We are more anxious and more insecure than ever, though we have the least reason to be so. Our anxiety is infectious. It breeds suspicion. We refuse to listen to each other. We believe that if someone disagrees with us that they must be out to get us. We’ve created an online culture of constant self-righteous fighting and bickering. To articulate an idea or belief is to put your entire future on the line. This undermines feelings of esteem and security in ourselves and our children.

Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that the culture we’ve created is in part responsible for the disengaging of our children––particularly our young men? We see performance levels, graduation rates, and college acceptance rates leaving young men behind, but we are not allowed to ask why they are disengaging. Might a few of these disengaged young men––these highly impressionable young men––turn to violence? We’re not allowed to ask. To do so is to be accused of wanting to halt the progress of our young women. What nonsense.

We can either do the work of cultivating a culture of love, and a culture of understanding each other and our children in this still-new digital age, or we can continue the absurd fight against windmills. After all, it’s much easier to blame the weapon than to look in the mirror.

The solution to school shootings does not lie in taking away a natural right. It lies in getting down to the truth about who we, the adults, have become.

As unimaginably horrible as it is that children––sometimes very small children––have been murdered while at school, it is both right and rational to stand up for the Second Amendment. States, not individuals, have been the greatest mass murderers in history.

Writing for the Washington Post a few months ago, Charles C.W. Cooke put it this way:

“Then, as now, [the Founders’] logic was clear: It makes no sense to allow the representatives of a free people to disarm their masters. Reacting to this argument, we often hear advocates of gun control propose that the Founders’ observations are irrelevant because they could “not have imagined the modern world.” I agree with the latter assertion: They couldn’t have. As well-read in world history as they were, there is no way that they could have foreseen just how prescient they were in insisting on harsh limitations of government power. In their time, “tyranny” was comparatively soft––their complaints focused on under-representation and the capricious restriction of ancient rights. In the past century, by contrast, tyranny involved the systematic execution of entire groups and the enslavement of whole countries. The notion that if James Madison had foreseen the 20th century he would have concluded that the Bill of Rights was too generous is laughable.”

It is cool-headed wisdom to insist on the right to keep and bear arms. It is action to love each other and pay attention to what is happening to our young people.

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Notes

1. The AR-15 is simply a modern rifle. It is a semi-automatic rifle, meaning it shoots one bullet each time you pull the trigger. It is not an assault rifle. “AR” stands for ArmaLite Rifle, because ArmaLite was the name of the company that made them. “AR” does not stand for assault rifle. An assault rifle is a machine gun, only available to military personnel and civilians with a very difficult to obtain permit. The term “assault weapon” is a political term given to guns like the AR-15 for no other reason than that they look like a machine gun. (http://www.assaultweapon.info/)

2. The NRA does not buy senators or representatives, and it doesn’t vastly outspend other organizations. According to the left-leaning Politifact, the NRA spends an average of just over 11 million each year. That includes donations, lobbying, and ads for themselves. Planned Parenthood spends about 10 million each year. The NRA does spend significantly more during presidential election years (54 million in 2016). Compare that to America’s labor unions who spent nearly 2 billion in 2016.

But the NRA is not buying politicians with this money. Some of the money is donated to politicians who already support the Second Amendment. Would you believe someone who told you that politicians change from being pro-life to pro-abortion when Planned Parenthood gives them enough money? Of course not. And they can’t simply donate however much they want anyway. Politicians are not bought by lobbyists as your favorite Netflix show would have you believe. Gun control advocates simply find it unbelievable that people support the Second Amendment, and so some powerful bogeyman must be buying them off. In reality, politicians are bought by favors from other politicians. They are bought with pork projects (your tax dollars) and positions. If you want to read about how this works, google “Obamacare New Louisiana Purchase.”

3. I keep seeing mindless comparisons between Second Amendment rights and vehicle regulations. Second Amendment: fundamental natural right. Car: not.

The Pope and His Love of Perpetual Poverty

Pope Francis’ recent warning about the evils of libertarianism is full of the usual ignorant misrepresentations (selfish, antisocial, etc.). In it, he warns of the dangers of individualism and freedom. He worries, “[Libertarian individualism] minimizes the common good, that is the idea of ‘living well’ or the ‘good life’ in the communitarian framework.”

Let’s talk about that communitarian framework for a moment. I am neither surprised nor disturbed by the Pope’s commitment to the collective. Organized religion, by its very nature, is collectivist. Human beings need communities. We need family, friends, neighbors, etc. And religion does a great job of both nurturing and fortifying those important communities. Churches are better at this than secular or government busybodies.

Why? Because a church is chosen. Government, on the other hand, is forced. Collectivism can be beautiful right up until the moment it is mandated. When it is mandated, it loses its true purpose. It becomes a force for decay and, yes, even evil. The good power in collectivism is derived from the fact that it is freely chosen by the individual. A community is only as strong as its individuals are free. Religious collectivism works because it is voluntary. Government collectivism fails because it is forced.

One good way to think of the separation of church and state is that collectivism is the territory of the church and individualism is the territory of the government. In the Constitution, all the enumerated rights are individual rights.

The Pope doesn’t seem to understand this. He thinks that because collectivism works well in churches, it must then be good policy for states. He ignores history, which has repeatedly demonstrated the folly of this point of view. If he insists on ignoring history, then let him look to today’s Venezuela. The socialist policies he applauds don’t just stagnate economies, they harm people. Mandated collectivism harms individuals.

So, yes, when it comes to the policies of state, we libertarians focus on the individual. And those of us who are Christians––including Catholics––look to Christ as an example of that focus.

One last thing: The Pope likes to disparage capitalism. I would remind him that in the past thirty years, free market capitalism has been primarily responsible for the cutting in half of extreme poverty in the world. That is the greatest accomplishment in human history. No church or state has even come close to that kind of poverty relief. Only freedom. Only free individuals.

Dear Francis, when Jesus said that the poor will always be with us, it wasn’t a mandate.

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John Kerry: Radical Air Conditioning on the Rise

Speaking in Vienna to a group of bureaucrats with a collective carbon footprint so large you could sell burro rides into its vast depths, Secretary of State John Kerry warned of the rise of radical air conditioning:

As we were working together on the challenge of [ISIS] and terrorism, It’s hard for some people to grasp it, but what we–you–are doing here right now is of equal importance because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself. The use of hydrofluorocarbons is unfortunately growing. Already, the HFCs use in refrigerators, air conditioners, and other items are emitting an entire gigaton of carbon dioxide-equivalent pollution into the atmosphere annually.

Kerry went on to say that the use of air conditioners and refrigerators has been on the rise throughout the world for the past three decades. And it turns out he’s right. As free markets have paved the way for fossil-fuel-based cheap energy in developing countries, the people of those countries have been able to escape harsh weather and preserve their food longer. This has led to a rise in overall health. It has also made the quotidian survival burden lighter, allowing many to focus on business and education, which has led to innovation––innovation which has led to a cleaner environment and still cheaper energy.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it must be stopped.

Here in the US, the major concern is over radical air conditioning sleeper cells. Just last year in Garryowen, Montana, a local baseball coach and his wife found themselves in an intense firefight after catching their air conditioner in the act of beheading a journalist.

Many concerned citizens are signing this petition, in the hope that Secretary Kerry will lead the way by ridding the State Department of all air conditioning units.

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Beyoncé Rocks Met Gala in Dress Made from the Skins of 101 Pimply White Kids

All eyes were on Beyoncé during this year’s Met Gala as she rocked a Ty Hunter dress made from the skins of 101 pimply white kids.

“When the idea came to me, my first question was where are we going to get the skin,” said Hunter. “Since Beyoncé is a good friend of the President and the First Lady, I knew it would be a little controversial to use American kids. Luckily, my contacts in London introduced me to two cockney thugs named Jasper and Horace. Apparently the smokey streets of old London are full of little urchins and chimney sweeps begging for farthings.”

Planned Parenthood to Celebrate Passover by Killing Firstborn Sons

Planned Parenthood announced today that they will go forward with their plans to celebrate the final evening of Passover by killing the firstborn sons of any who fail to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood.

“We encourage all to go ahead and mark their doors,” said Deputy Mark Clifton, of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. “While we’re not positive that the threat is real, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Authorities say to keep your first born sons close as Planned Parenthood could strike at any moment. “If you’re not with your child and you hear a “crushing-the-specimen”–like sound, it might be too late,” said Clifton.

Though federally qualified health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood 20 – 1, and many of those, unlike Planned Parenthood, are free of charge, it is believed that Planned Parenthood continues to wield power over Hebrews and Gentiles alike because of name recognition.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said that their plans have been taken totally out of context by pro-life zealots, and that this evening’s killing spree will only represent 3% of their Passover celebration.

Shalom.

Obama to Test Ideas Behind Leftist Gun Policies on Animals: Declares Florida Coastline a Shark-Free Zone

The Obama administration announced Friday that it will move forward with plans to test ideas behind leftist gun policies on animals. To that end, the president signed an executive order making the entire Florida coastline a “shark free zone.”

“We don’t usually advocate for testing on animals,” the president said, “but I can’t spend my entire presidency waiting for congress to act. Not only will this make Florida beaches safer, it will also make all shark attacks illegal.”

Relieved Florida residents immediately headed to the beach.

“It’s amazing to me that we’re just now doing this,” said Jennifer Blankhead. “It makes me sick to think of the many innocent people who have been needlessly torn from their surfboards. It’s a new day for Florida swimmers.”

Right wing critics who lack common sense and are clearly paid off by special interest groups expressed doubt about the measure.

“Sharks don’t decide against an attack because of ‘shark free zones’ or anti-shark-attack laws,” said Jack Thorne, stupidly and callously.

Australian officials spent the weekend wondering why they didn’t think of this first.

 

America’s Best and Brightest Exercise Their First Amendment Rights by Protesting Against Free Speech

Controversy visited the campus of Michigan State University recently, when it was announced that conservative columnist George Will had been invited to give a commencement address.

When advocacy group UltraViolet caught wind of the invitation, they started a petition which has already been signed by thousands of champions of free expression.

A statement from the group reads in part:

We are outraged that a university of all places would subject young people to something approaching a marketplace of ideas. Who will be there to comfort them when their precious and delicate world views are challenged?

According to Bloomberg, one of the brighter protesters, Emily Kollaritsch, made her point loud and clear when she said, “We refuse to be silent. We’re going to have our voices heard.” She then put a piece of tape over her mouth and protested in silence. Without her voice.

Another protester, when confronted with the irony that she was exercising her first amendment rights to deprive George Will of his, paused for a moment of deep contemplation. She then put her fingers into her ears, wagged her head, and yelled repeatedly, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I can’t hear you.”

But MSU students aren’t the only enlightened undergraduates in the country. Take these sages for example. They strategized a brilliant plan to shout down a speaker who, among other things, planned to talk about the importance of protest. Or these promising scholars who felt a sculpture opposing racism was just too racist.

Relax, America. Your future is in good hands.

Rioters and Looters Express Profound Sense of Serenity and Accomplishment While Watching Their Neighborhood Burn

Rioters and looters in Ferguson, Missouri expressed a profound sense of serenity as they watched their neighborhood burn this past week.

“It’s difficult to describe. These things in my head: they’re not thoughts, per se,” said Jacob Bailey. “They’re more what Beckett called ‘profounds of mind.'”

Others nodded in agreement as they tried to articulate what can only be described as the ineffable.

Peter Winston, the philosophical alpha of the group, describe his experience with a subtle panache: “I held signs with the protesters for a while, but that lead to a kind of existential dread––a deeply pressing ennui. So I decided instead to destroy a café owned and operated by a family of Filipino immigrants. When I kicked in that window and watched the old lady run screaming to the back of the store, that’s when I knew I’d struck at the heart of institutional racism. And that’s when the euphoria kicked in.”

“Indeed,” agreed Michael Baird. “I mean––and these guys will rib me for days for the way I bring Aristotle into everything––but there isn’t a better, more cathartic check to capitalism than brushing shards of safety glass off of the new HD TV you just stole from an already struggling appliance store.”

When asked how the rioting and looting related to the shooting of Michael Brown, Baird continued: “This free smart phone is my hand reaching into the ether and bringing back a piece of Michael Brown. This stolen camera is my unstoppable Übermensch facing the militarized police. These complex problems can only be solved with theft, vandalism, and violence.”

Jason Carter put it like this: “What better way to express your ownership of something than to destroy it? When we throw that Molotov cocktail, we’re saying these burning streets belong to us; these ruined businesses belong to us; these destroyed livelihoods belong to us; this depressed economy belongs to us. You must have rubble before you can have Derrida digging through your rubble.”

“Well, there certainly is something post-structural about it,” joked Winston, sending his compatriots into brontosonic belly laughter.

“Seriously though, it’s as if we’ve reverse engineered the essential gestalt of the community,” said Bailey. “I’ve come to call it neo-neroism.”

RELATED STORY: Bloomberg Calls for Gun Confiscations to Make Streets Safer for Looters.