Archive for December, 2012
Whenever I have a discussion with someone over the Second Amendment and gun ownership in this country, it is seriously like a walk down idiot lane with a bunch of unreasonable, ignorant, paranoid, right wing, the-zombie-apocalypse-is-upon-us-and-we-need-to-protect-ourselves-from-liberals morons who could not logically argue the need for water for life on this planet.
I feel like they need to be taken aside and educated since the arguments as to why ordinary citizens just direly need to own tools of mass murder always center around the same uninformed, ignorant notions and baseless strawmans rooted in myth and paranoia.
People who adamantly champion for ordinary, private citizens to own guns often have very little understanding of either the Second Amendment, the history behind it and why it was set in motion and they cannot even really intelligently articulate as to why their right in 2012 to own tools of murder should supersede the right of people to safety and most importantly life. I keep hearing the same lame and weak excuses over and over again and it is tiring having to repeat oneself. This really is idiot nation when it comes to guns. Well, not just guns but you get the picture.
So, here I compiled an FAQ in response to the typical “arguments” that are often thrown in the way of gun control in this country. I may add to the list because stupidity is bountiful and I am sure someone will come up with some colorful, creative reason trying to justify why we, as a civilized people, need an arsenal of guns at our disposal.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution says that citizens have the right to bear arms. Wouldn’t putting limits and regulations on such a thing violate the Second Amendment?
As stated in the Second Amendment “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.”
So the patriots are correct, gun ownership is in the Constitution – if you’re in a well-regulated militia. Ordinary citizens are not part of the militia.
The militia at the time of the framing of the Constitution was all able bodied citizens. There was no official militia at the time and it should be noted that the National Guard wasn’t formed until 1903 with the Militia act of that year. So the framers of the Constitution were clearly referring to “the people” meaning all citizens as a source to draw upon in case of military need.
If the Constitution were written in today’s English, the justification and operative portions of the Second Amendment would likely read something along the lines of “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed because they may be called upon for military service to secure the state“.
What is a “well regulated militia” anyway?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a MILITIA as
a : a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency
b : a body of citizens organized for military service
: the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service
Or as Alexander Hamilton stated about the militia:
A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss.
Why was the Second Amendment put into the Constitution?
Remember that at the time the US Constitution was framed, we were still a young nation having just freed ourselves from the yokes of the British Empire. The original intent of the Second Amendment, which calls for a well regulated Militia of the citizenry, was, therefore, to defend against the superpower Great Britain in case it chose to exercise its property rights as “owner” and seize back the newly created United States.
Up until then and codified in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the King and ruling bodies had the authority to disarm their subjects and especially opponents. For the populace not being able to bear arms was, therefore, a very serious issue since – as a result – they were also not able to stand up to a tyrannous state that oppressed them. The text of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 includes language protecting the right of Protestants against disarmament by the Crown.
The need to have arms for self-defense, which is what the proponent of the second Amendment strongly stress, was not really in question. Peoples all around the world since time immemorial had armed themselves for the protection of themselves and others.
However, as organized nations began to appear these arrangements had been extended to the protection of the state. Without a regular army and police force (which in England was not established until 1829), it had been the duty of certain men to keep watch and ward at night and to confront and capture suspicious persons. Every subject had an obligation to protect the king’s peace and assist in the suppression of riots.
A foundation of American political thought during the Revolutionary period was the well justified concern about political corruption and governmental tyranny. Even the federalists, fending off their opponents who accused them of creating an oppressive regime, were careful to acknowledge the risks of tyranny. Against that backdrop, the framers saw the personal right to bear arms as a potential check against tyranny.
The framers thought the personal right to bear arms to be a paramount right by which other rights could be protected. Therefore, writing after the ratification of the Constitution, but before the election of the first Congress, James Monroe included “the right to keep and bear arms” in a list of basic “human rights”, which he proposed to be added to the Constitution.
The advocates of guns who claim patriotism and the rights of the 2nd Amendment – are they in well-regulated militias? For the vast majority – the answer is no.
I am a patriot but how do I protect myself against the tyranny of the government?
True patriots support the Constitution adamantly and wholly. They have faith in the Constitution of the United States and the Rule of Law. Since we no longer find ourselves in the 17th Century where citizens had to fight for and stand up to oppressive monarchies, the use of arms in this country to protect against the government no longer applies. To think that the United States will suddenly turn to France circa 1659 or to Nazi Germany circa 1933 and come after people is laughable. To think that one could stand up to such acts, if they were to really happen, by owning guns is beyond ridiculous.
But are you expecting me to just have blind faith in the government?
One should always question the actions and policies of one’s government and leaders demanding transparency and oversight But armed revolt? With guns? One cannot keep lawmakers in check by owning assault rifles. One cannot get the Supreme Court to enact policies by pointing a gun at them. Such an approach to “civil” discourse goes directly against the very principles this nation was founded upon where people are to resolve their problems and dissatisfaction through civil society and democratic means, such as grassroots, organizing and lobbying instead of by shooting opponents.
Our government has been corrupted and stolen and the forces of evil are at play, planning to take over this nation. We need to fight back and take a stand. How can you be against that?
I agree. There are evil forces at play. To fully quote Jason Alexander who said it better than I could: I call [such evil forces] corporatists. I call them absolutists. I call them the kind of ideologues from both sides, but mostly from the far right who swear allegiance to unelected officials that regardless of national need or global conditions, are never to levy a tax. That they are never to compromise or seek solutions with the other side. That are to obstruct every possible act of governance, even the ones they support or initiate. Whose political and social goal is to marginalize the other side, vilify and isolate them with the hope that they will surrender, go away or die out.
These people believe that the US government is eventually going to go street by street and enslave our citizens. Now as long as that is only happening to liberals, racial minorities, atheists, homosexuals and democrats – no problem. But if they try it with anyone else – it’s going to be arms-ageddon and these committed, God-fearing, Jesus loving brave souls will then use their military-esque arsenal to show the forces of our corrupt government whats-what. These people think they meet the definition of a “militia”. They don’t. At least not the constitutional one.
And, if it should actually come to such an unthinkable reality, these people believe they would win. That’s why they have to “take our country back”. From who? From anyone who doesn’t think like them or see the world like them. They hold the only truth, everyone else is dangerous. Ever meet a terrorist that doesn’t believe that?
But I am still worried about the tyrannous government. I need to arm up to protect myself.
If you live in fear than any day the government will come after you like this was Afghanistan or Orwell’s 1984, I suggest undergoing full psychological evaluation and seeking aide in that regard. Not arming up. In fact, arming up is the last thing a doomsday paranoid individual with a nervous trigger finger should be doing.
Then how do I protect my family against intruders or muggers?
A simple hand gun should suffice for that purpose, after you have undergone a certain minimum hours of training in order to gain the experience needed to utilize the gun in case you need to to protect your life while in immediate danger. Not assault rifles that can shoot 30 rounds without reloading per minute. The only use for such guns is combat.
Why is it bad for a civilized society if everyone were armed? In fact, wouldn’t we be a safer society if everyone carried guns to protect themselves?
Using a weapon to protect oneself in cases when one’s life is in danger – such as someone breaking into one’s home – is very different than resorting to some form of vigilante justice as a matter of public discourse and in lieu of a criminal justice system. Unless you want the country to fall into chaos under martial law, you will not advocate for unlimited and unhindered gun ownership and extensive usage by ordinary, untrained civilians not accountable to anyone – unlike the police, national guard and members of the armed forces.
We have the Constitution, the separation of powers and the rule of law for a reason. You have the right to own a gun to defend yourself but that is where its usage stops. To defend your life. Not take revenge or take justice into your own hands and become judge, jury and executioner at once. This is not how the social contract works. In fact these are not the principles this country was founded on.
What about places like Chicago that are gun free zones but where gun crimes still occur? And for that matter what about criminals who use guns and for whom such gun control laws will have little to no consequences?
Yes there will always be crime, but that doesn’t mean we will forgo law enforcement or stop prosecuting and punishing criminal. Similarly, there will always be people who get their hands at guns and other tools of murder if they want to. But that doesn’t mean we can stop trying to regulate guns.
The difference between 200,000 guns or 2 million lying around is 1,800,000 less guns. The issue is of access and availability. A society in which its citizens are armed to the teeth is not a safer one. People are irrational, they react in the heat of the moment. Having a gun ready to point and shoot at others is not what we should build towards. People cannot be entrusted with such tools unregulated and unhindered and call it their right.
People have first and foremost the right to life. If owning guns seriously jeopardizes that right, then they are no longer entitled to it.
Wait a darn minute here. People kill people, not guns. Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes. In fact, drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?
A gun is a tool solely designed to kill. Nothing else. Tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing.What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality. Hardly the primary purpose of tomatoes and sports cars. And, more to the point, by that line of reasoning, one’s hands should be banned since a human hand can be a tool for murder as well.
So people kill? Fine. Let them kill each other with tomatoes. Let them bring baseball bats, knives, even machetes — a mob can deal with that but with assault rifles that just point and shoot high velocity bullets into the flesh of people in a matter of seconds?
If the Sandy Hook Elementary principal had guns and if people in Colorado during the viewing of The Dark Knight had guns, couldn’t these shooters have been stopped?
A crowd of untrained people firing away in a chaotic arena with moving targets but without planning produces even more victims. Remember that the Principal of that school is not a trained peace officer. In fact, police and members of the National Guard and armed forces undergo hundreds of hours of training and real-time exercises to be able to master such situations. It is neither the job nor the obligation of regular layman and unarmed private citizens to possess the skills, training and expertise of SWAT teams and counter insurgency operators.
But people like Lanza and the Colorado shooter would get these weapons even if they were regulated
That is true. However, in case of strict regulation, the Colorado shooter, for example, wouldn’t have strolled down the road to Walmart and picked up guns and ammo with his pot roast and a gallon of milk. Regulated, such people would have had to go to illegal sources – sources that could possibly be traced, watched, overseen. Or they would have to go deeper online and those transactions could be monitored. “Hm, some guy in Aurora is buying guns, tons of ammo and kevlar – plus bomb-making ingredients and tear gas. Maybe we should check that out.” But that won’t happen as long as all that activity is legal and unrestricted.
Again, it is about accessibility. When guns are easily available, more of them float and lie around in society. Remember than Lanza’s mother obtained those assault rifles legally. Had she have to get them illegally, she probably would not even needed them because why would a citizen go through the trouble of getting assault rifles illegally if she wasn’t planning something?
The more of something is just there and available, the easier it is for people to get their hands on it and live out their impulses and pathologies.
But why can’t I own an assault rifle? What is so wrong with assault rifles in the hands of ordinary citizens anyway?
Guns are tools designed solely to kill. Assault rifles especially are designed to kill a large number of people in a short amount of time, due to their higher payload.
The AR-15 – which is a very popular and also preferred weapon of gun owners as well as the weapon the Newton shooter Adam Lanza used, is an assault rifle. An assault style weapon is used to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away in order to achieve maximum lethality. Why do American citizens believe that they need to own such weapons of mass murder – unregulated and unhindered no less? Weapons obviously designed for combat because they do take down a large number of people in a short amount of time without having to reload. The AR-15 was the same rifle that James E. Holmes used in the carnage in Colorado.
Semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15, the civilian version of the military’s M-16 and M-4, are a logical choice for anyone whose goal is to kill a lot of people in a short time because of their ability to rapidly fire multiple high-velocity rounds. As a la abiding citizen there is no need for such weapons. In fact, those have no place in the hands of ordinary citizens in a civilized society. A single hand gun is enough to protect oneself. It should not be easier to own a gun than it is to own a car.
In order to hold a licence and own car one needs to take tests, meet health requirements, get insurance and renew the paperwork and registration every year.
How come tools designed to kill do not and should not require such measures? It is truly indefensible.
Military weapons belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don’t agree with them. These are the weapons that murderers acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.
What about the Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), where the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia?
Remember, this is the same ill informed court that ruled that corporations are people allowing unlimited political expenditures by corporations, thus effectively resulting in the creation of Super Pacs so that now corporations and those with money can influence the outcome of elections.
Don’t trsut everything the Court says unquestioned and as if it were populated by infallible beings.
As citizens of a democratic republic, we are required to critically assess the actions of the people making decisions on our behalf, which includes being critical about the decisions of law makers and legislators and not just accept everything at face value and without examining the evidence and other pertinent information in order to arrive at the right conclusion – whether that be agreeing with or disagreeing with a piece of legislation.
Also remember that faith in the Constitution is not the same thing as blindly trusting decision makers, including the Supreme Court, no questions asked.
In other words, the Supreme Court’s decision in this regard, much like Citizens United, is wrong, misguided and flawed. Remember the Supreme Court also once ruled that Jim Crow laws were perfectly legal.
A look at history shows us that none of the Christmas traditions observed have anything, whatsoever, to do with Jesus or Christianity.
In fact, Bible forbids the decoration of trees (see Jeremiah 10). That is the case because around the time the old testament was written, people knew that some cultures and traditions already did worship trees and vegetation and decorated them as part of their religious rituals.
Centuries before the Christ was allegedly born, many cultures – in response to the changes in the natural world such as the changing of the seasons – brought evergreen trees into their homes for decoration in the month of December to celebrate the beginning of winter.
Much like the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween, originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain. The original spelling of the Celtic festival of Samhain was Samuin. Samuin was the name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels and celts in the British Isles and the name itself is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. This was a time for stock-taking and preparing for the cold winter ahead; cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and livestock were slaughtered. In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them.
Samhain was seen as a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into our world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes on Samhain. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. However, harmful spirits and fairies were also thought to be active at Samhain. People took steps to allay or ward-off these harmful spirits/fairies, which is thought to have influenced today’s Halloween customs, such as placing fire inside a Pumpkin or originally turnips to thwart off those bad spirits.
I have always found the connection and fusion of the natural and human world and the integration of the former into human customs and traditions very fascinating. In response to the movement and rotation of the Earth in relation to the sun and with it the creation of the seasons – from the fruit full, warm and long days of the spring and summer months to the dead, frigid cold and dark season of the winter – a myriad of traditions and practices have developed, especially when it comes to observing the changes of the seasons. All Hallows Eve, a festival to bid farewell to the light part of the year in order to welcome the dark is one example of such pagan tradition and why we celebrate Halloween.
The other is Christmas.
Evergreens were used in ancient pagan celebration of the Winter solstice as a reminder of the green plants that would return with the resurgence of the sun god. The practice continued in various forms throughout the ages.
The ancient Egyptians honored their son god Ra with palm leaves and evergreens.
The early Romans decorated their homes and temples with evergreen as part of the Saturnalia festival – the festival of Saturn, the god of agriculture.
The Vikings of Scandinavia believed that evergreens were the special plant of their god Baldur and they burned yule logs in feast until the last amber burned out.
The actual Christian tradition involving Christmas trees appeared in Germany in the 16th century while Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols throughout the US until the 1840s.
The Winter solstice accounts for the selection of Christmas day as December 25th. People noticed that in late December the days became noticeably shorter and the sun ceased its movement to the south. So the Winter solstice was celebrated for the birth of the sun. The US did not even make Christmas day a national Holiday until June 26, 1870.
The exchanges of gifts is also pagan in origin stemming back to the festival of Saturnalia and originally banned for that reason by the catholic church in the middle ages.
Christmas carols trace back to the middle ages as well, however, not as religious songs, but as common folk songs sung during harvest festivals. They were only later integrated into worship by religious figures like Martin Luther.
The mistletoe is a happy Christmas tradition but few consider that the mistletoe was once considered a mysterious and magical plant by the Druids and the Greeks and the pagan symbol of life and fertility. In Scandinavia mistletoe was considered the plant of peace under which enemies could declare a truce.
Christianity Has Nothing To Do With it
When Christianity began being forced on people and took over other religious and spiritual beliefs, especially the pagan traditions of above, those traditions were often preserved and carried over but now they were celebrated in the name of the new God, Jesus Christ. In a way Christians fused the old pagan traditions with Christianity, with the “desired” effect of getting more converts that way. That they picked Christmas to fulfill their religiosity and not All Hallow’s Eve is completely arbitrary as both are pagan traditions celebrating the transition of the seasons.
I’m a fan of Christmas. I enjoy time with family and friends, time off work, the light display, decorating, the sounds and smells of the season, snowmen, toy stores and Christmas markets. However, I celebrate the season understanding that none of it is related to Jesus Christ or Christianity and that the customs found in Christmas are strongly rooted in pagan folklore and traditions, which, in turn, find their origins in the natural world around us – celestial bodies and the position of the planets and with them the resulting seasons, summer and winter, life and death.
If you think about the importance of Solstice for our ancestors who lived without the convenience of electricity, gas heat and stored food, Solstice would have been the first light at the end of the tunnel during the cold half of the year. That’s what it is really about. All the religiosity around it is 100% and completely man made, much like religion itself.
It is also sad, in a way, to see people turn generous, loving and giving for around one month of the year, just so they can go back and behave in the same greedy, self serving, assholish ways for the rest of the year lobbying for the poor to get less benefits and showing up at rallies for universal health care with guns seriously holding the view that if you do not have access to health care services and thus cannot pay for them, you deserve to get sick and subsequently die. The thing is, if you are a Christian, Christmas should be everyday, not just one day a year because let me remind all those pious people of what their very own savior, in the very book they believe to be the truth once said “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40)
Given the history of Christmas and the facts surrounding its existence, it feels almost surreal to me that anyone would draw a connection between the two and decidedly make Christmas a Christian holiday with all the Christian symbols and talk thrown in, including that charlatan the Pope. When people then get upset that there is a war on Christmas and thus indirectly on Christianity, the surrealism and absurdity of it all takes on a whole new level. Much as it is the case with all religion, it is as if these people created a hell of their own making and now whine that they are being persecuted.
In other words, much like their religion, the notion that Christmas is about Christianity is all in the head of religious people who set all these artificial rules around it and then complain they are not being adhered to by everyone and even whine that they are being allegedly persecuted for insisting that Christmas is about Christianity and Jesus, instead of a pagan holiday that has been co-opted by religious nut jobs to get more converts and thus push their nonsensical, religious agenda.
When I have time some time I will write an extended entry as to why passionate dissatisfaction with things does not equal hostility, which is what people mean they describe atheists as angry. They really mean hostile and meanness where in reality there is displeasure, irritation and fury.
The short answer is that stupidity – which is what all religion and religious thinking is – pisses me off. If that offends people, too bad.
That said, let me add that accusing an atheist of anger is nothing but an ad hominem attack trying to distract from the actual substance of the debate. By just dismissing the atheist altogether as angry, the atheist is automatically invalidated and their position weakened. After all, who would want to deal with an angry asshole, as atheists have often been made out to be.
Given the vile crap that emanates from religion and religious thinking, I cannot imagine anyone being anything but angry at the way things are going. Frankly, if you are not “angry”, i.e. if what is happening in the name of religion doesn’t bother you, I seriously question your judgment, intelligence and character – or lack thereof.
The truth is that anytime someone says something that goes against the status quo, thus criticizing and often invalidating the world view of those being criticized, they are dismissed as angry, bitter scrooges who are just unhappy assholes. That is where the “angry atheist” idea comes in.
As Mark Twain once said, “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majortiy, it is time to pause and reflect.” Religious people rarely ever pause when caught up in the zealotry of their religious thinking – with decorum of course because as Mitt Romney taught us after his 47% speech, the problem was that things weren’t “elegantly stated’ – and they most certainly never reflect other than the usual “god’s way” and “god has a plan for all of us” platitudes.
Religion intrudes into non-religious peoples’ lives in insidious ways. I could not care less what someone believes in their personal realm. It only becomes a problem when I am somehow being forced to believe in those superstitions and direct as well as lead my life according to someone else’s beliefs. This is ultimately a question of autonomy. Religion takes away that autonomy.
Religious thinking is rarely confined to one’s personal realm as clearly evidenced by the myriad of policies religious people push for. Take stem cell research, marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, education, science and pretty much all sectors of life where religious people have stuck their dirty little paws.
This past election cycle alone, the Catholic church spent $2 million dollars of its tax exempt money to fight marriage equality efforts in the four states where marriage equality was on the ballot this fall. They didn’t spend that money to help out the needy, hungry and uninsured. No, they spent it on hatred, one tax exempt dollar at a time.
That makes me angry.
It should make you angry too.
If you do not understand religion’s role in war, murder, slavery, misogyny, exploitation and torment, then you have not studied history or religion and thus are willfully ignorant to the facts laid out in both.
It is not the intangible atheists detest, but the tangible effects of religion. Turning a blind eye to that is not heroic or cute or a fountain of inspiration, it just makes you part of the problem.
Religion, we learn, is the art of being close-minded; it is a realm for the unimaginative. It is a method of finding personal realization in the ignorance of bronze age and first century charlatans. That is sad. Religion is simple, intellectually devoid, and emotionally rewarding. People want to find such simplicity in atheism, which atheism, by definition, cannot do. Rationality and inquisitiveness, logic and knowledge based on fact instead of myths, anecdotes and fairy tales do not producthe simplicity religious people seek.
Another reason atheists may show anger is because they are persecuted and marginalized. And I have to ask why it is that the attacks on rational people and science are so personal and extreme. Since the United States Constitution grants all Americans religious freedom, why do religiopaths believe themselves ordained to subvert the rights of those who do not share their superstitions?
Finally, when it comes to the question of anger, often language, tone and inflection are implied. Directness is mistaken for anger even though there really is no polite way of telling someone that their entire world view is based on myths and fairy tales. So, don’t be fooled by the false decorum and politeness of religious people. Look at the policies and callous notions their views – disguised under such decorum and kind words like Jesus, love and god and savior – perpetuate.