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My thoughts cannot help but turn to the issue of gun violence on this weekend when former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords receives the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage award on the one hand, and the NRA gets a new president who believes that government—our elected American democratic republican government—has secret plans to confiscate all guns and lock up Americans en masse in prison camps.  

Let me make this clear right from the start.  I am not against personal ownership of guns.  I have my deceased father’s shotgun and the .22 rifle and shotgun I’ve owned since a very young man.  And I have temporary custody of a sniper rifle, a family heirloom taken during WWII by my father in law who won one of his two Bronze Stars by taking out a German sniper as a scout, alone, with a carbine.  But I have also been personally scarred by guns.  I know the horror of murder of a close friend and grew up with a mother whose family was destroyed by gun violence.

Guns are at the center of American life and history.  Our country’s fate has turned on the proper use and misuse of guns, more than once.  The John F. Kennedy award itself recognizes both, for this President used guns properly to defend our country in a time a war, and was himself slain by a gun wielded by an enemy of and a traitor to democratic self-governance.  And that is the key point in this issue:  there is a proper use of guns, protected by the constitution, and an improper use of guns.  The question is, what is proper use and what is not.  Join me over the fold to explore this.

The constitution permits our elected representatives to define and regulate in order to protect and promote the proper use of guns.  The Supreme Court has so ruled time and again on this.  That same constitution empowers our elected representatives to prohibit and confiscate guns used improperly.  What our constitution does not do is to award individuals the power to resist with force of arms the edicts of a properly elected, democratic (that is, majoritarian) government.  

Let me make that clear:  the Second Amendment does not give individuals the right to proclaim that they alone can decide on the use of force to nullify laws passed by proper democratic procedure.  What it does do is give volunteers the right, under “well-regulated” circumstances, to practice at arms and to personally own weapons that might be used to defend democratic self-governance against its enemies.  It gives Americans the right and duty to band together to defend their democratic form of government.  That is the primary purpose of the Second Amendment.  

That is what the Minutemen did at Concord and Lexington.  These farmers were part of the local volunteer militias that were formed in nearly all communities at the time as a form of defense against many real enemies.  To the north until 1763, the French who were then under a absolutistic monarchy repeatedly made incursions and stirred up natives against colonists.  To the south, the Spanish, then notorious for their cruelty and absolutistic and intolerant religious fanaticism, reigned from Florida, California, New Mexico and Texas to the edge of Antarctica.  The threat of native American raids was very real and deeply feared by early Americans.  I will not get into the right of native Americans to defend their own, often very democratic, tribal governance and their territory in this diary.  That they did so vehemently is the point.  In the 1660s King Phillip’s War killed nearly 10% of the colonial population in New England—a toll far, far higher in relative terms than that suffered during the Civil War (the same war the incoming NRA president calls the war of northern aggression).  The point is that threats to the life and property of whole communities at that time were not the fantasies of fanatics; they were real.  And remember, the professional and armed police charged and armed to defend community lives and property at taxpayer expense as we know them today were not even invented until the mid 19th century.  The police came about by act of democratic government.  They and the American armed forces are the “well-regulated militia” of our day.  

The interpretation of the Second Amendment by the NRA is not just perverse.  It is so opposite of the original intent as to be utterly Satanic in the completeness of its reversal of that intent.  In effect, the NRA is holding this weekend a Black Sabbath Mass while the Profiles in Courage people are holding a proper commemoration of sacrifice to save others—which is, indeed, the point of celebrating the mass.  A militia was not at the time of the writing of the Second Amendment an assembly of the paranoid afraid that democratic government would somehow turn against them; it was an assembly of volunteers willing to give up their time and, if necessary, lay down their lives to defend their community and its democratic self-governance.  They were the volunteer police and army of their day.  When the British marched their mercenary armies to enforce edicts which were aimed at destroying democratic self-governance of the colonies, these men, as was their duty and right, took up arms to defend self-government and the lives and properties of their community.  They did so on the democratic vote of colonial assemblies.  

Those who put loyalty to the king of England above that of loyalty to democratic self-government were regarded as traitors at the time.  Today, those who put loyalty to some imaginary right to take up arms against their fellow citizens who, by properly constituted government, decide by majority vote to institute better regulation of arms, or even to forbid arms to those bent on using them to foment insurrection against democratic government, are no less traitors to the American ideal of majoritarian rule.  I would venture to argue that when 90% of Americans support better and proper regulation of arms, the votes of our “representatives” were not representative votes.  

These so-called representatives have betrayed democratic self-governance with their votes.  However, at Daily Kos, we do not call on each other to take up arms to defend themselves against imaginary grievances against government, even against those who voted against majority wishes, as does the NRA.  We, and courageous people like Gabby Giffords call on voters to inform themselves and march to the polls and vote, democratically, for those who will stand up for us.  

She showed real courage in meeting her voters face to face, armed only with principles and information, the proper weapons of a democracy.  Her attacker was a traitor to such democratic self-governance, bent on using violence to destroy it.  This use of weapons against Representative Giffords was not the right to lay down one’s life for democracy which is the real intent of the Second Amendment.  

We demand that government protect that right to vote democratically.  We demand government properly count those votes and protect that right to vote for representatives who represent us, the living people of American and not the imaginary “persons” of corporations.  And we proclaim, with Ms Giffords, that we will hold our elected representatives accountable at the polls, not at arms.  Our threat is the use of ballots, not bullets, for the threat to use bullets against majority rule is anti-American, indeed, it is betrayal of our very history and the legacy passed down to us by our forebears.

While Ted Nugent and the poor deluded so-called self-imagined “patriots” of the NRA celebrate their servitude to the corporate gun lobby and make speeches defending their imaginary right to use weapons against all and sundry, we honor a true patriot defender of self-government today—Gabby Giffords—and we remember all those, including my grandfather and close friend, taken from us by the abuse of the right to bear arms in defense of democratic governance.

Originally posted to monkeybrainpolitics on Sat May 04, 2013 at 04:49 PM PDT.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA) and Shut Down the NRA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for Gabby and Profiles in (Real) Courage (12+ / 0-)

    *Note of personal disclosure.  I studied for my Ph.D. under Leonard W. Levy, author of the Pulitizer Prize winning Origins of the Fifth Amendment, and worked for two years under him as copy editor for the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, a massive and comprehensive work by numerous scholars on all aspects of the constitution.  I've lived the past 25 years in Hong Kong, and have become known here for research on constitutional reform and the democratic development of Hong Kong (and the rise of public opinion as a force on government in both Hong Kong and China).  My family's history in America stems from a founding ancestor on my father's side who took up arms in his 70s, along with is sons, as a Minuteman and militia member.  They fought at Saratoga.  My mother's side was Quebecois and native American, coming to the US in 1913.  My murdered grandfather fought in WWI for the US, and was killed by a drunken farmer for crossing his fenceline to retrieve a duck he had brought down while hunting to feed his family.  My mother was subsequently raised by her grandmother until she died, then her grandfather, after her mother abandoned her in deep agony and mental distress over her husband's murder.  I also have family buried at Vicksburg, killed while fighting to defend the Union under Grant.  This is not a rant against guns or the NRA based on shallow feelings and less knowledge.  After all, the NRA was originally founded as a way to better train defenders of the Union after they suffered defeat after defeat by the far better marksmen and gunmen of the Confederacy.  This organization, like the Republican Party, have truly become a Satanic perversion of their original intent.  Lincoln must truly be rolling in his grave.

    America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

    by monkeybrainpolitics on Sat May 04, 2013 at 04:48:49 PM PDT

  •  Could not agree more. (6+ / 0-)
    Today, those who put loyalty to some imaginary right to take up arms against their fellow citizens who, by properly constituted government, decide by majority vote to institute better regulation of arms, or even to forbid arms to those bent on using them to foment insurrection against democratic government, are no less traitors to the American ideal of majoritarian rule.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Sat May 04, 2013 at 04:56:11 PM PDT

  •  The tide has turned. (5+ / 0-)

    The majority of Americans who demand reasonable and sober regulation of firearms will not be ignored indefinitely.  The noisy minority of Americans who demand unfettered access to increasingly dangerous weaponry will become more and more insignificant.  The argument for gun regulation ended in the classrooms of Sandy Hook and the theatre in Aurora.  The NRA has had its say and its way, and we have seen the fruit of their vision.  Now the American people will be heard, and the nation will prosper more because of it.

    "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you"

    by TheFern on Sat May 04, 2013 at 05:11:48 PM PDT

    •  I sincerely hope so, across all of America (4+ / 0-)

      I think you are right in many places, even some surprising ones like N Carolina and Louisiana.  But the poisonous lies pushed by the NRA and Fox and such ilk that somehow democratic government is a threat to the average person, is hard to turn back in many places like Kansas once known for their progressivism.  Democratic government is truly a threat to some, a threat to the untrammeled power and limitless wealth Murdoch, Koch and the like seek.  They hate the power of majorities to tax them or forbid them a concentration of control over the media and over government.  And they will stop at nothing, even the turning of Americans against each other with lies and deceit, in their pursuit of unwarranted wealth and power.  They want us to kill each other rather than have a majority persuaded that unlimited power and wealth is the source of unlimited corruption and misery.  These are the true enemies of the democracy bought with our ancestor's sacrifices.  They are the ones who want weapons multiplied and turned on each other so they can profit.  The NRA is truly engaged in murder for hire.  This kind of betrayal of American ideals and history should be noted as truly being the only constitutionally capital crime, treason against democratic government, for they are seeking to undermine elected government that is responsive to the people.  If this is not treason, then what is?  If a majority support the enforcement of "a well regulated militia" as originally intended, no minority has a "right" to appeal to armed rebellion as a means to resist such democratic government.  In a democracy, as Martin Luther King noted, only non-violent resistance and civil disobedience are permissible.  In a democracy we appeal to conscience and self-interest, and we assemble a majority by our principles and our performance.  And this, in a democracy, is how minority rights are protected as well, not by force of arms.

      America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

      by monkeybrainpolitics on Sat May 04, 2013 at 05:48:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The gun lobby is used to getting its way. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        monkeybrainpolitics, a2nite

        And they are a noisy bunch.  Like many things, though, the louder they yell about their constitutional right to an assault rifle,  their trees of liberty,  and whatnot, the more credibility they lose with Americans who hadn't been paying attention how the gun culture has been behaving.  Now, there are mass shootings happening at a regular pace.  There are vigilantes shooting up shopping malls and temples and police cars, and people are shocked that all of these people acquired their firearms legally, and there really is no mechanism in place to prevent this kind of thing.  They look at the NRA and LaPierre basically says: This is the way we like it,  and we won't budge one inch.   All the vocal gun enthusiasts nod their head in agreement, and everyone was supposed to let it drop.  Except, here we are eighteen months later;  its not going away, and the NRA is sounding crazier than ever.  This may be a messy process, but it is quickly moving in the right direction.

        "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you"

        by TheFern on Sat May 04, 2013 at 06:15:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I truly hope so (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ahumbleopinion, TheFern

          I just fear the Republicans will sucker President Obama into "attacking" Social Security the same way they used the reforms to Medicare that actually saved money and actually did make it more viable to beat us to death in 2010.  If so, we will have a repeat of 2010 and lose the Senate on top of losing the House again.  We must focus on the gun issue and the other craziness of the Republicans, and NOT let them change the issue to "the President" being to blame for the sequester and reductions in Social Security, simply because he wrong-headedly tried to find a way to force a compromise (with the sequester) or fell for Republican arguments that Social Security is somehow in need of cutting rather than protecting by raising the income cap.  We cannot get too sanguine about guns as though it gives us the magic bullet to win 2014.  It doesn't, unless we work very hard to make guns and out of control corporate lobbying and political funding THE issue for the 2014 election.

          America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

          by monkeybrainpolitics on Sat May 04, 2013 at 06:25:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I don't agree that guns are (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Smoh, Gooserock, Joy of Fishes, TheFern, a2nite
    "at the center of American life"
    I think the gun lobby would like us to believe they are though.

    Guns never fare highly on polls of issues that concern Americans. The usual things do .. jobs, health, education, economy.

    Guns are a noisy sideshow, as much used to divide America as to unite it. The gun-lobby is braodly a white, male institution, that seeks to maintain a position of power on this, and every other issue.

    Recommended for a thoughtful contribution

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Sat May 04, 2013 at 05:35:16 PM PDT

    •  Unfortunately the Dividing is Winning by Leaps and (4+ / 0-)

      bounds.

      At this point the oligarchy is able to advance now against a 90% occupant consensus. It can hold the house despite a 10+% loss and they have plans to implement that margin for the White House.

      The NRA is as much about encouraging political activism by the oligarchs as it is about dividing the occupants.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat May 04, 2013 at 05:57:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for your comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, Joy of Fishes, CwV

      Please do continue the sentence I wrote "at the center of American life and history"  This was not a statement of principle, but of fact.  Guns have deeply affected many, if not most, of us, for good or ill.  I know this very personally.  When more people die by gun than die in traffic accidents, we cannot describe our culture as a "car culture" and not also describe it as a "gun culture".  Whether guns should be at the center--that is, deeply affecting us all for good or ill--is another issue.  And there I strongly agree with you.  Guns should NOT be a the center of American life, and I certainly hope that in history going forward we can achieve a Gene Roddenberry Star Trek type transformation of our society toward non-violence.  I wish and sincerely hope we can remove them from affecting our behavior.  Having lived for 25 years in a city where only the police have guns and where hunting or other uses of guns are strictly controlled (none are permitted to be held in homes, only controlled access places in Hong Kong, I have become acutely aware of the effect of guns on my behavior when I visit the US on leave.  Here, my wife can go out at night safely and alone.  In the US, I would never consider it and neither would she.  When guns affect us this way, every day, in our simple daily behaviors, they are at the center of our life, whether we will it or not.  And like you, I hope very much to change that terrible fact of life in America.  And we must change that if we wish to continue to enjoy democracy.

      America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

      by monkeybrainpolitics on Sat May 04, 2013 at 05:57:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The number of gun-owning households (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        monkeybrainpolitics, a2nite

        has been in steady decline for a long time.

        I'm not even convinced they were ever "central", even in history. At times of conflict sure, and for hunters (who are not threatened now).

        I'm not disputing the thrust of your Diary, which is why I tipped and recc'd it, but there seems to be a conventional wisdom that guns in America are rather more important to people than the facts suggest.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Sat May 04, 2013 at 06:01:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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