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Mariah's avatar

How relevant is the second amendment now to its original intentions?

Asked by Mariah (19072 points ) December 24th, 2012

Please note that by asking this question I am not proclaiming I am for removing the second amendment. I am not.

The second amendment (right to bear arms) was created with the idea in mind that citizens should be able to fight back against the government if it ever goes rogue.

Guns may have been useful against the government of the 18th century. The government of today has tanks and nukes and our guns would not be terribly effective, I think.

Is the second amendment still relevant?

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16 Answers

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

No. There is no way people could stop the government unless we had the right to own tanks and nukes ourselves. And all we’re doing with guns is killing each other.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, if the government came to round me up like they did in Nazi Germany, I would be happy to fire a few bullets to defend myself. They always say if it can happen in Germany it can happen anywhere. Certainly in America there has been recent history where local government has been horrific. Imagine if all the black people had been armed with guns? Might have escalated everything, more people dead, but at least they would have been dead on both sides.

I actually fundamentally antigun, not that I mean that I think it should be illegal in America to own a gun, but I prefer to live in a place without guns. In a community that does not enjoy guns and feel they need guns.

CWOTUS's avatar

People who think that “we need tanks and nukes” to overthrow our government when (not “if”) it becomes too oppressive have no understanding of history – or our own military.

When our government gets to the point of being too oppressive (which is a near certainty), it is unlikely to the most extreme degree that our own military will mobilize tanks, air power and nukes against us. No. We’ll overthrow our government (when the time comes that we need to) pretty much the same way the Egyptians did this year. It may be that guns won’t be required in any major sense, but having the option tends to slow the pace of that oppression.

filmfann's avatar

The Second Amendment is the most misunderstood part of a very complex document.
Its original intention was to prevent the need for a standing army.
The framers could not agree on what they wanted. Some felt we should all have the right to own weapons. Some were worried the US would attempt to have an army at all times, and were afraid that would allow us to go to war too quickly, without negotiations. Some felt it to be a good idea that everyone could have a familiarity with guns before being asked to quickly form an army to react to some foreign aggression.
The framers needed to be united behind this amendment, so they worded it in a way to support both sides of the argument, hoping that, years down the path, more intelligent minds would embrace the proper side of the argument. That didn’t happen.
Once the US created a standing army, the 2nd Amendment could have been excised from the document, but it wasn’t, because the framers weren’t clear on their intent.
I support the right to bear arms, but I don’t think we need to have semi-automatics with 30 round clips. Something small enough to defend my home would be fine with me.

glacial's avatar

Not even remotely.

DrBill's avatar

Since everyone involved in writing it has been dead well over a hundred years, we can only guess what the original intention was.

gasman's avatar

Warren Burger, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 1969–1986, had this to say:

If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment… This has been one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word fraud—on the American people, by special interest groups, that I have seen in my lifetime.

…though I have to admit @filmfann‘s explanation is the most reasonable explanation I’ve seen of the mystery of the 2nd A. wording.

submariner's avatar

The Framers didn’t want the federal gov’t to have a monopoly on force, and, as stated above, they were concerned about a standing federal army. But the alternative to a standing federal army that they had in mind was not individual citizens but state militias —which every able-bodied adult male was supposed to belong to, and was supposed to provide his own weapons for as well (so the question of whether the right to keep and bear arms was an individual or collective right was a false dilemma in the 18th century).

submariner's avatar

Harry Truman wanted every man to go through basic training (with the National Guard, I think, if they didn’t join another service). Maybe that’s not a bad idea. Maybe we could limit the right to own firearms, or at least the more powerful ones, to those who have been properly trained and have proven themselves willing to defend the country. Basic training could also be a chance to identify those who are mentally unstable.

ETpro's avatar

As I wade into this, I have the distinct feeling of being a stranger in a strange land. I don’t tend to deal a lot with perfections, rather with realities. I hear arguments regarding guns from the left and the right, and both raise some valid points. Sadly, both sides drag in emotional, irrational arguments and trivialize the correct statements of the other side. Will we ever sort this mess out properly? I can’t imagine how.

First, the Constitution. The “Conservative” (which now seems to mean far right-wing) justices that read the 2nd amendment most liberally (because they are “conservative”) claim they are “Originalists.” In some areas, perhaps that is true. But how on earth can we take the writings of men familiar primarily with muskets, and translate them to the automatic fire rifles of today? The Founders only knew of single shot, muzzle loading weapons lacking rifling and with a relatively poor fit on the ammunition. They were not accurate beyond 80 yards. Muzzle velocity was around 700 MPH (the military AR-15 today is over 4,000 MPH) and the state-of-the art rate of fire was 7 rounds a minute. Most available muskets could not fire 1 round a minute. To claim that the Founders foresaw AK-48s and AR-15s with 90 round clips and receivers easily modified for burst or continuous fire is as Originalist as claiming the first cart-wright had in his head the plans for the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport with a top speed of 267 MPH.

Now to the realities.

A well armed citizenry would be no match for the US military. If some region such as the deep red South were to rebel simply because they didn’t get their way at the ballot box, they would rapidly be subdued by the military. Those who delude themselves into believing that Posse Comitatus would prohibit use of Federal Troops to enforce the rule of law have a Topsy Turvy idea of what the law states. Those who think the US Military would turn against their oath to support far-right rebellion spend way too much time in the echo chamber talking only to others just like themselves. For their own survival, they need to broaden their horizons.

That said, if an insurrection were triggered by a power grab aimed at the destruction of democracy, and anathema to the Constitution our Military are sworn to uphold, then you would see armed insurrection with the support and guidance of the Military. Numerous Middle Eastern Strong Men have recently discovered that they cannot stand against such force.

Likewise, if our Military fails to defend us at some point in the future, with nearly as many guns as people in the US and nearly half its households being armed, we would be an incredibly fractious lot to attempt to subdue. Even in countries where most civilians are not armed, a determined resistance has shown how effective asymmetric warfare can be at repelling better armed invaders.

Now to the bottom line.

Do guns make us safer or more vulnerable. The clear answer to that is, “It depends.” If you live in an isolated rural setting, and you awake to the sound of someone prying open a window or door, a call to 911 will bring help in time to perform the autopsies and search for the killers. I totally get why someone in that setting might want to be armed.

If you live in an urban setting, and have housekeepers, contractors and friends routinely moving freely about in your domicile, a gun may be a threat to your safety. If some of your family are fractious and hostile toward you, or if you sometimes fall into depression and harbor suicidal thoughts, a gun is the last thing you want within reach. 911 will bring help in minutes if there is a threat. Leave it to the professionals.

oratio's avatar

I personally find this to be more of a cultural issue rather than about personal security or fundamental democratic right. The US is the only country in the west to claim constitutional support for civilians to bear arms, and as far as I can tell regarding countries in Europe, general arguments for arming oneself for self protection is just not there. It’s seems directly reflected into the statistics of guns per capita, where the US in unrivaled by far.

I think that arguments to own and carry guns for self protection, imply a very unsafe society, where people not only do not trust each other or the government, but are afraid of each other. I don’t think that is really true, and I think that it adds to the polarized complexity that makes out the US, which at times can be difficult to understand.

filmfann's avatar

About 18 years ago, we had a gang renting the house next door. One Saturday night, a huge fight broke out on the street. The participants began tearing pickets off the picket fence I had just built, and fighting with them. I walked out to the gate, and stood straight and crossed my arms, hoping my awesome presence would stop them from destroying my fence.
A moment later, a couple of gun shots went off to my right, then a couple more to my left. I turned around, and looked at a friend, who was standing in my doorway, and laughed as I said “I’m standing in the middle of a gunfight!” He was wildly motioning me to get back in the house.
When I got inside, my friend was on the phone with 911. I took the receiver and told the dispatcher what was happening, and they told me that the police were in the area, but they would not come onto my street until the shooting had stopped, and the bad guys were gone.
That taught me a valuable lesson: Don’t count on the police to protect you. I don’t have a gun, but I will when I move to my place up North.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

@CWOTUS Couldn’t resist taking a shot at something I said huh? True (cl)ass I tell ya

JLeslie's avatar

@oratio You don’t think it is really true people are afraid of each other?

oratio's avatar

@JLeslie From an outside view, with people claiming the need to arm themselves to protect America and themselves from the next door neighbor, it can seem like America is plagued by fear of each other, resembling the situation of a failing state. All very dystopian.

I am sure people are afraid from time to time, more so in certain parts and areas of the US, and I can imagine that there is a difference between peoples trust in society between Newark, NJ, and Burlington, VT.

All countries in the west have to a varying degree problems with crime and violence, but US citizens are the only ones that arm themselves to this level.

I would be very surprised to hear a German or Scandinavian planning to get a hand gun to protect his family from home invasion. Oder, willst du es doch auch, Ragingloli? I think that person might be seen as hyperbole and quite likely unsafe to be around.

What I mean is that I don’t think that the US is such an unsafe country in general to motivate such a different attitude towards private gun ownership. I don’t think that Americans need guns to protect themselves, as much as they just like them and use the constitution to undermine any serious discussion.

In comparison, one might think that Israeli citizens in general would be heavily armed considering the possibility to be overrun by hostile surrounding states. According to what I’ve read, privately owned small firearms are quite rare. Zensky could correct me on that.

But what do I know. I live on a house boat in the Baltic Sea.

CWOTUS's avatar

Here’s something for you, in that case, @oratio.

As for myself, I’ve lived 59 years, mostly in the USA, and always unarmed. When I lived in the country, in fact, but still with nearby neighbors, I was pleased to know that they were armed – and friendly – so that I could be “comfortably unarmed”.

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