23 July 2012

The 2nd Amendment Settles It - Just Like the 6th Commandment

"Thou shalt not kill."

This 6th commandment seems to be terribly clear. It comes with no caveats, no clarifications, no exceptions, no parenthetical asides. But “Thou shalt not kill” quickly breaks down in a world where people argue about whether the definition of killing should include self-defense, warfare, abortion, capital punishment, or turning animals into meat. If you wanted to be sure not to offend God, it is probably safest to assume the most extreme interpretation, and outlaw all of the above. Or you could use some judgment.

"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."

The NRA focuses on the last clause in this 2nd amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Their  interpretation is akin to that of the pacifist, vegetarian, anti-abortion, anti-capital punishment advocates who argue that there are no exceptions to the 6th commandment. For them the amendment is simple.

But of course there is an exception, even beyond the normal caveats that thinking people are likely to add. The exception is articulated in the first clause, linking this right to bear arms to the security of a free state and a well regulated militia. But somehow the NRA has rewritten that first clause in the public imagination to make the second amendment read, 

"An unregulated individual being more important than the security of the state, the right of any person to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  

And they've gotten away with it. Each year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns but still legislators are afraid to regulate America's free-lance militias of one.

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