A Second Amendment Epiphany

Linoge linked to a couple of articles last week, and one of them – once I finally got around to reading it – tripped one of those switches in my brain that said “Oh! Now I get it!” regarding the deceptively clumsy phrasing of 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. – U.S. Constitution, Amendment II

The relationship between the two clauses, and how or even if they cause the Right to relate to militias, has been debated for at least a century. A popular argument among those who favour gun control – whether outright bans on all guns, or bans of “assault weapons” – is that the 2nd Amendment is preconditioned on membership in a militia, and that the National Guard and/or the advent of professional police forces has superseded the founder’s model of local militias. As a result, they argue, the 2nd Amendment does not apply to ordinary citizens, only to police and National Guard members.

While this argument certainly ignores the fact that the unorganized militia is still embodied in US law, it is flawed on a much more basic level – the 2nd Amendment clearly and specifically assigns that right to the people, not to the militia or members of a militia. This is the classic dependent/independent clause argument – that the reference to a “well regulated militia” explains the necessity of protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms, but does not limit that right to membership in a militia.

But there was a point in reading that article where something else clicked for me, though I can’t point to any one sentence or paragraph and say “this is where I understood”. It’s a surprisingly simple concept.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, so that they may quickly and easily form a militia should the need arise.

When the Right for each and every citizen to own, possess, and carry arms is restricted, a militia cannot be formed without those people first going out and obtaining arms. If the government is allowed to restrict how, when, and if a citizen can purchase firearms – yes, even military weapons – then the government can restrict or prevent the formation of any militias.

But why, you ask, in our modern society, would anyone need to form a militia so quickly that they couldn’t wait for the government to approve it if it truly was needed?

Leaving aside the assumption that the government a) would approve it in the first place, and b) would do so quickly enough to do any good, it also ignores the speed in which bad situations can develop. A perfect modern day example of this is the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992, and the events that took place in Koreatown during those riots.

With the police overwhelmed (and, by all accounts, not terribly motivated to intervene in that neighborhood anyway), it fell to the citizens there to defend their homes, livelihoods, and their lives themselves. They banded together in small groups for their own defense – the very definition of an unorganized militia. Once the riots started, they didn’t have time to go to a store and buy a gun. They didn’t have time to sit through a background check. They were dependent on the guns they had at the time.

Without the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, Koreatown would have been destroyed by the rampaging mobs.

What would have been more effective in Boston last month – unarmed citizens cowering in their homes with the police and National Guard imposing martial law (lite! with only half the jackboots!) while searching house to house, or armed citizens standing watch over their own neighborhoods while directing the police towards any suspicious activity?

I’ll say it again. The Second Amendment Right to keep and bear arms does not depend on membership in a militia, it is what allows us to form militias where and when they are needed.

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Note to self: Avoid the police state of Paragould, Arkansas

They are effectively declaring martial law.*

[Paragould Police Chief] Stovall told the group of almost 40 residents that beginning in 2013, the department would deploy a new street crimes unit to high crime areas on foot to take back the streets.

“[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck,” Stovall said. “If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID.”

[...]

[Mayor] Gaskill backed Stovall’s proposed actions during Thursday’s town hall.

“They may not be doing anything but walking their dog,” he said. “But they’re going to have to prove it.”

The Constitution, you say? Probable Cause, you say? Don’t worry, the police chief has answers for that nonsense!

“To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,” he said. “Well, I’ve got statistical reasons that say I’ve got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you’re doing out. Then when I add that people are scared…then that gives us even more [reason] to ask why are you here and what are you doing in this area.”

See? There’s a lot of crime, so the Rights of non-criminals can be set aside! Easy!

The mayor apparently backed down a little on the severity of this police-state plan, but it looks like he still intends to have police in battle gear out patrolling the streets like some Amerikanized Gestapo unit.

I suggest the subjects of Paragould learn the phrase “Papieren, bitte!” It sounds like you’re going to be hearing it a lot. Your police department has become the standing army our nation’s founders were worried about, and your government is perfectly willing to use them to control you.

To paraphrase a great pearl of wisdom from Battlestar Galactica, “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the police become both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”

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* Note that the linked article is dated December 15, 2012. The town may have abandoned this plan, but I haven’t found anything to indicated that, so I am assuming that the plan is still moving forward.

[Source: Paragould Daily Press article, retrieved 1/9/13]

Quote of the Day – 2012-11-27

From Terry Pratchett’s Discworld character Commander Samuel Vimes.

It always embarrassed Samuel Vimes when civilians tried to speak to him in what they thought was “policeman.”  If it came to that, he hated thinking of them as civilians.  What was a policeman, if not a civilian with a uniform and a badge?  But they tended to use the term these days as a way of describing people who were not policemen.  It was a dangerous habit: once policemen stopped being civilians the only other thing they could be was soldiers.

- Terry Pratchett, Snuff

Emphasis mine. I don’t have much to add, it’s a pretty plain and straightforward warning.

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(h/t Firehand)

Quote of the Week

From Tam.

I’d rather my neighbors smoked a bong every day than run the risk of a dyslexic SWAT team taking a battering ram to my front door at oh-dark-thirty. We need to stop burning the village to save it.

It stands on its own, without commentary. But you should go read the whole thing anyway, because Tam is just that good.

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Cop or Soldier?

You decide.

How did I do?

I’m going to put in a break here so I don’t give away any spoilers, but I do have a couple of comments.

(more…)

Breaking News: An odd and developing situation

In Roanoke, Virginia.

From the WDBJ7 website:

The Roanoke Police Department is monitoring a situation on Wyoming Avenue.

The department’s spokesperson, Aisha Johnson, says there was a report of a man outside of that property with a firearm, and that he has since gone inside his home.

Johnson also says there is no information at this time that he has threatened anyone. [...]

The SWAT team is on site.

and from the Roanoke Times:

Updated 4:30 p.m.

Roanoke police were called to Wyoming Avenue this afternoon after a man was spotted with a gun outside a house, spokeswoman Aisha Johnson said.

When officers arrived, he went back into the house, she said.

The police department’s new SWAT vehicle is now parked in front of a house on Wyoming with its blue lights flashing, and police are using the vehicle’s loudspeaker to communicate with someone inside the house, including providing a phone number for the person to call.

“You gotta call the number or come out with your hands up,” an officer said over the loudspeaker.

If all he did was step outside carrying a firearm, and then go back inside when the police showed up, then he doesn’t appear to have broken any laws. If that’s the case, then this would appear to be a massive overreaction on the part of the police.

It sounds to me like the police have some information they’re not releasing. If not, then the only call the gentleman should be making is to an attorney, because there is no cause for the police to hold him under siege, and no reason to bring out the SWAT toys.

In this case, I trust the police more than the media (and I believe the proper term for that statement is “damning with faint praise”). It will be interesting to see what the real story turns out to be. Is it “SWAT out of control”, or “media idiocy”?

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Update: From WDBJ7.

UPDATED 4:48 p.m.: One person has been taken out of the house.

Police are still on scene trying to get another person to come out of the house.

[Source: WDBJ7 News website, retrieved 11/16/11]
[Source: Roanoke Times website, retrieved 11/16/11]

(Note: Most of the category tags for this post are speculative. I don’t know what’s really going on at this point, and the people who do aren’t talking right now.)

Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

NYPD Could ‘Take Down A Plane’ If Necessary, Commissioner Says

Pelley: “Are you satisfied that you’ve dealt with threats from aircraft, even light planes, model planes, that kind of thing?”

Kelly: “Well, it’s something that’s on our radar screen. I mean in an extreme situation, you would have some means to take down a plane.”

Pelley: “Do you mean to say that the NYPD has the means to take down an aircraft?”

Kelly: “Yes, I prefer not to get into the details but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation.”

Pelley: “You have the equipment and the training.”

Kelly: “Yes.”

A necessary ability in today’s world, or an example of the further militarization of the police?

I don’t know the answer, but that article sent a cold chill down my spine.

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[Source: NPR article, retrieved 9/26/11]

Guerena family sues Pima County

Jose Guerena’s family has filed a lawsuit against Pima County for the raid that resulted in his death.

Jose Guerena, a 26-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran, was killed May 5 when a SWAT team broke into his home a little after 9:30 a.m. According to Guerena’s wife, Vanessa (who was home at he time, along with their 4-year-old son), Guerena thought the police were home invaders. He ushered his family into a closet, then grabbed a rifle. When the police battered down the door, they saw Guerena and his rifle, and opened fire. The SWAT team released 70 rounds. Guerena didn’t fire a shot; the safety of his rifle was still on.

Last week, Arizona attorney Chris Scileppi filed notice of a $20 million lawsuit against Pima County, Ariz., on behalf of Guerena’s family. The lawsuit provides a good opportunity to look back at what has happened since since the morning of May 5.

The linked article gives a good summary of the whole thing, and links to several other good criticisms of the raid. I’ve linked to my posts on this (one of which has video of the raid) above.

I hope the family gets something resembling justice in this. His death was nothing short of state-sanctioned murder.

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[Source: Huffington Post article, retrieved 8/19/11]

(h/t Sipsey Street Irregulars)

New development in the Jose Guerena killing

The Pima Co. Sheriff’s Office is now saying that one of the guns found in Jose Guerena’s home was stolen. There is no information on what kind of gun it was or how he may have gotten it.

Considering how hard (and unsuccessfully) they were trying to smear him earlier, I’m surprised it took them this long to release that information. Given their earlier behaviour, I have to remain suspicious.

[Source: KOLD News website, retrieved 6/30/11]

(h/t Linoge)

More on Jose Guerena’s killing

Confederate Yankee has several posts on the killing of Jose Guerena that I’ve missed. They’re all collected in one archive now, so go check it out.

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