Amy’s Salon is meeting tonight, talking about the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2nd amendment in Washington, D.C. I did a bit of reading on the subject, and (regrettably) I agree with Scalia:
“Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”
A piece by Eugene Volokh that made the rounds was also interesting, pointing out other constitutional articles of similar structure, and the ways that they are widely interpreted. But after I read it, I realized that of course this isn’t really a debate about whether or not gun control laws are constitutional (it seems pretty likely that they are). The debate is really about whether the 2nd amendment is a good idea. At the time it was written, maybe it was. Today I think it’s mostly just distracting. Whether or not we’re allowed to have guns in our homes and on our campuses isn’t going to help us escape from a modern tyranny. It’s been pointed out that the insurgents in Iraq operate mainly with small arms… so maybe small arms in combination with improvised explosives aren’t insignificant against a state sponsored army. True enough, but then the 2nd amendment becomes horrifically ironic: meant to protect the rights of those who the government would brand terrorists, so as to enable them to overthrow the government, should the need arise. And that’s exactly what the American Revolution was about (we’re told, with a snicker). But as soon as the US had its own government, it ceased to really be interested in preserving the ability of people to overthrow it. Nevermind the fact that living in a society which is being kept from functioning by thousands of people using small arms and improvised explosives sounds like pure misery. Nevermind that most gun deaths in the US are suicides.
Today the laudable sentiment that underlies the 2nd amendment should be applied to other things, like the government’s ability to locate you at any time using your cell phone, or the big black boxes siphoning interesting packets off of the fiber backbones, or the functional inaccessibility of virtually all supposedly public government information, because it’s not available in a machine readable format. But is any of that present in the political debate? No. We’re still bickering about the Wild West, a century after the frontier closed for business. And I’m just not interested in that debate.
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