After Orlando, should we repeal the second amendment?

Summary: Orlando, as usual for a crisis in America, brings forth calls to rip another strip from the Constitution. But the Second Amendment worked well for us for two centuries, until conservatives decided America needed more guns in more hands. Orlando is another example of the results. But there are solutions that do not require another amputation on the Constitution. Celebrate Flag Day by remembering the Constitution, and defending it.

Repeal the Second Amendment.”
— Reaction to the Orlando shootings by Erik Loomis (Asst Prof History, U RI).

Constitution & guns

The rule of crises in America is that our elites exploit them to strip away pieces from the Bill of Rights. Both Left and Right are complicit in this. They are a tag-team working against us. Each has their favorite amendments and those they seek to erase.

After generations of this, its amendments have been pruned like the withered branches of an ancient oak tree. Most of the Bill of Rights remain de jure in force but are de facto void.  They attack it to fight “crime” (the 6th largely void for those who fall into our misnamed criminal justice system) and “terrorism” (the 4th being their latest victim). Amendments 7, 8, and 9 are almost dead letters. The third is obsolete.

Now it’s the Left against the second amendment. Not only is this an attack on the Constitution, it’s bad political tactics, self-marginalizing by the Left. See “Why It’s Time to Repeal the Second Amendment” by David S. Cohen in Rolling Stone.

A few more generations it will become a totem, like Magna Carta, or poetry like the Declaration of Independence. (For more about this see Forecast: Death of the Constitution.)

What about Orlando?

Update: a commenter noted that even strict gun-control laws are unlikely to prevent a licensed security guard from getting some form of gun.

We learned to control guns in America, adequately if not as well as have other nations. It kept the rate of mass killings at a high but tolerable level. This system worked for two centuries. It allowed local diversity of laws to suit regional cultures. While we slept, right-wing ideologues — backed by the unassailable might of money — have taken this from us.

Relentless pressure by conservatives at State and local levels have eroded away their gun laws. In 2008 the national legal regime changed with the activist conservative judges on the Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (conservatives overthrow State’s rights when convenient).

Now we’re going backwards, seeing behaviors unknown in developed nations for many generations — such as open carry of guns. And lots of mass shootings. How many? Life is cheap in America, so the government tracks thousands of kinds of financial activity. But it doesn’t track mass shootings — there are several definitions — just as it does not accurately track shootings by police.

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Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution

Summary:  An oddity of the New America is how we stumble when dealing with problems solved not just by our peers in other developed nations, but in our past.  Gun control is but one example. Other nations, our peers in the developed world, have accomplished what we’re told is impossible for Americans: reducing gun ownership.  In our past we were able to regulate guns without cries that we shredded the Constitution (the subject of today’s post).   In brief, we see ignorance and amnesia — what conservative leaders consider ideal qualities for citizens.

Sign on main street of Dodge City, 1878:
“The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Forbidden”

Dodge City, 1879As shown in Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West, the untamed late 19th century West was relatively peaceful — except for institutional violence (eg, against Indians, small farmers and ranchers, unions). Laws regulating gun possession helped make it so. The people who opened the frontier were not dumb, and didn’t want their streets running with blood. Nor were the citizens of Americans during the following century, in which many areas had strict gun controls.

This history has been erased from the minds of millions through the power of propaganda on a willing audience.  It’s become lost history, joining so much of our 19th century in the amnesic clouds of the American mass mind.

But the truth is out there, as in these two excerpts, if only we have the will to grasp it.

(1) Did the Wild West Have More Gun Control Than We Do Today?“, Adam Winkler (Prof Law, UCLA; author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America), Huffington Post, 9 September 2011 — Excerpt:

While people were allowed to have guns at home for self-protection, frontier towns usually barred anyone but law enforcement from carrying guns in public.

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Do guns make us more safe, or less? Let’s look at the research.

Summary:  The incidence of apparent murders justified under the “stand your ground” laws raises questions about the vast number of claimed “self-defense” gun use.  How many of these were justifications of improper use, not legitimate (and socially prestigious) self-defense? Fortunately there is research on the issue.  Here we look at samples of this research, most of which ruins the narrative created by the NRA.



  1. What stories about guns reveal about us
  2. Do guns in the home make you safer?
  3. How are guns used?
  4. How are guns used by California teenagers?
  5. About studies showing massive rates of self-defense gun use?
  6. Other posts about guns in America

(1)  The big picture:  What stories about guns reveal about us

This essence of The New America, what divides us from the America-That-Once-Was, is our willingness to believe what we’re told — no matter what the evidence — if it suits our prejudices. There’s no longer a reality-based community in this mad superpower.  We’ve examined this in a hundred posts on the FM website, looking at both Left and Right.  Recently we’ve examined inconvenient material about guns and climate, things partisans refuse to see least it ruin their beloved narratives.

When we open our eyes, returning to the skepticism and iconoclasm of our forefathers, then reform will again become possible in America.  How to make that happens might be the greatest challenge of our age for America.  Until then we remain pawns of our leaders, easily manipulated by our fears.

(2) Do guns in the home make you safer?

Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home“, David Hemenway, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, November/December 2011 — Abstract:

This article summarizes the scientific literature on the health risks and benefits of having a gun in the home for the gun owner and his/her family. For most contemporary Americans, scientific studies indicate that the health risk of a gun in the home is greater than the benefit.

The evidence is overwhelming for the fact that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes.

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Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America)

Summary:  People with superpowers are running a multi-generational project to reshape America. They have the greatest of superpowers: money, which they’ve used to enlist experts to produce a large volume of research supporting their interests — overwhelming experts with different (ie, mainstream) viewpoints.  Here we see two examples of their success.



(1) Investing in America’s youth

What Do Campus Conservatives Reveal About the Modern-Day GOP?“, Elbert Ventura, The New Republic, 16 January 2013

As Binder and Wood detail, a well-established professional network nurtures these upstart advocates. Funded by tens of millions of dollars from familiar names — Koch, Bradley, Olin — organizations such as the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the Leadership Institute, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute nurse the new guard with resources and an intensity that have no equal on the left.

One student at Western told the authors that the Leadership Institute called him to offer unsolicited financial support for his conservative newspaper. … The organizations also offer a wide array of activities, from training sessions and speaking programs to conferences and funding, to further bolster the young conservatives.

(2)  Then there are larger projects under way

In previous chapters in this series about guns, we saw the array of falsehoods defending the conservatives’ views.  False data, false quotations, false history. This article discusses another dimension: false scholarship:  “To Keep and Bear Arms“, Garry Wills (Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern), New York Review of Books, 21 September 1995 — Excerpt:

Over the last decade, an industrious band of lawyers, historians, and criminologists has created a vast outpouring of articles justifying individual gun ownership on the basis 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.”

This body of commentary, much of it published in refereed law journals, has changed attitudes toward the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association’s lobbyists distribute it to legislators. Journalists like Michael Kinsley and George Will disseminate this school’s views. Members of it now claim, on the basis of their work’s quantity and what they believe is its quality, that scholarship on this subject is now all theirs—so that even to hold an opposing view is enough to “discredit its supporters,” according to the historian Joyce Lee Malcolm (source).

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Let’s look at the Second Amendment, cutting through the myths and spin

Summary:  It’s the great oddity of the US that we order our society based on exegesis of an 18th century document, written in grammar no longer used with words whose meaning has often radically changed.  Instead of justice or logic, our judges have become like the mandarins of Imperial China — parsing the meaning of a document that no longer lives in any other meaningful sense.  In the 6th chapter of this series, we wade into the thickets to understand how this plays out over the corpse of the Constitution with respect to the second amendment.

Studying the Constiution
Studying the Constitution

Section I, article 8 (see analysis by the Congressional Research Service):

The Congress shall have power …

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Second Amendment (see analysis by the Congressional Research Service):

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.

A quick history of the Second Amendment

From “Guns and Grammar: the Linguistics of the Second Amendment“, Dennis Baron (Prof Linguistics, U IL at Urbana-Champaign):

English common law had long acknowledged the importance of effective arms control, and the meaning of the Second Amendment seemed clear to the framers and their contemporaries: that the people have a right to possess arms when serving in the militia. Over the years, this “collective rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment was upheld in 3 Supreme Court decisions, in 1876, 1886, and most recently, in 1939 (Bogus 2000).

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Guns do not make us safer. Why is this not obvious?

Summary:  Public policy in America has become a debate about myths, as our broken OODA loops degrade our ability to see and reason — and we become more easily influenced by propaganda. That’s a natural response by our elites; a sensible person doesn’t attempt to reason with sheep.  We see all these factors at work in the debate about gun control. Here we briefly look at two myths, the 5th chapter in this series.

Their mad vision for American society.
Their mad vision for American society: one where each family must worry about defending themselves. Photo by Oleg Volk.



  1. Myth: An armed society is a safe society
  2. Myth: protecting yourself with guns
  3. Other posts about guns and gun control
  4. For more information

The two powerful photos on the right are by Oleg Volk, from his website Volk Studio.

(1)  Myth: An armed society is a safe society

This is widely believed.

It’s daft, and has little factual support.

In fact widespread gun ownership is associated with dangerous, lawless societies — both today and the in past, in the US and around the world. Reductions in the number of people carrying of guns leads to less violence.

One of the amazing things about America is the large numbers who believe astonishing things.  This and disbelief in evolution are high on the lists of things future historians find marvelous about us.  Here are a few snippets from the large body of evidence on this subject. Of course, no matter how large it will change no minds.

(a)  Do more guns reduce crime?

  1. Do Armed Civilians Stop Mass Shooters? Actually, No.“, Mark Follman, Mother Jones, 19 December 2012 — “Five cases commonly cited as a rationale for arming Americans don’t stand up to scrutiny.”
  2. The Impact of Right-To-Carry Laws and the NRC Report: Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy“, Abhay Aneja et al, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2012 — “Overall, the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from both the state and county panel data models conducted over the entire 1977-2006 period with and without state trends and using three different specifications is that aggravated assault rises when Right To Carry laws are adopted. For every other crime category, there is little or no indication of any consistent RTC impact on crime

(b)  More guns = more unintentional firearm deaths, studies by the Harvard School of Public Health:

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But Hitler confiscated guns, leaving Germans helpless!

Summary: When Americans demand accuracy from their reliable sources, reform will become possible for America. The Left cannot correct the Right on this flaw, nor vice versa. So long as we (Left and Right) accept lies from our friends and fellow partisans, then our leaders will lead us by lies. So long as we remain sheep, they will treat us like sheep. Here we have yet more examples.


Adolph Hitler said:

This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!

Like so many quotations circulated by the Right in America, it’s fake. In fact, the “Hitler confiscated guns” story is largely fake. For details, Chase Mader refers us to this great paper: “On the NRA, Adolph Hitler, Gun Registration, and the Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Culture Wars”, Bernard E. Harcourt (Prof Law, U Chicago), Fordam Law Review, November 2004 (pdf of draft here; image of final here). Also, Hitler was quite popular in Germany until he lost the war.

For a history of this fake quote, for those of you who want the non-scholarly version, see this entry at The Straight Dope.

More wonderful pro-gun quotes: fake advice from the Founders

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