Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Twenty-Eighth Amendment

G'day, readers. Y'know, for the past few weeks, I have been trying to get back into the swing of things, and write a blog post every two days like my unofficial schedule somewhat promises. But, I just keep on getting distracted, having other things to do or - like with my last post - having a really difficult post on my hands that requires more than a two days to write.
It's entirely my fault, but things are happening which don't exactly make it easier, the least of all being that I am trying to write stories in the background here and I don't always have something that I want to blog about.
For instance, the sicko that shot a bunch of girls because he was a misogynist? I don't want to talk about that. I really don't . . . but I'm going to. This isn't just that I want to do a blog post today, because I would gladly skip it. No, I'm going to talk about it for one very simple reason - the reason I blog in the first place - because it matters. I also offer a mild trigger warning, this is mostly concerned with legislation, but I do mention a few details of recent and prominent massacres and mass shootings.
The Word of the Day is: 'AMENDMENT'

Amendment /ə'mendmənt/ n. 1. The act of amending or the state of being amended. 2. An alteration of or addition to a motion, bill, constitution, etc. 3. A change made by correction, addition, or deletion: The editors made few amendments to the manuscript. 4. Horticulture a soil-conditioning substance that promotes plant growth indirectly by improving such soil qualities as porosity, moisture retention, and pH balance.

Y'know, a while ago, I wrote a blog post called "When the Morning Cries" (the title is a reference to a Bee Gees song) and in that post, I spoke about how tragedy in the media doesn't really affect me. Or, at least, I choose not to be affected by it, because it's too much. Because you can't watch all of that constant bad shit that's happening in the world and have empathy for all of it. You can't, because you'd explode.
Sometimes, I deal with it by laughing at the ridiculous nature of it all; sometimes I get angry and rant about it for a few minutes, then get on with my life; at best, I might say 'well, that sucks, I hope it works out', then move on. I don't let it get to me. But this time, it did.

I'm sorry, but I'm not going to talk about the misogyny thing. That's a given, people have already had its back and forth with it, and perhaps you want to join the discussion started by Mara Wilson on Facebook or Tumblr, where people are talking about it, or join the trend of speaking otu abotu it on Twitter with the #UCSB hashtag.
I don't want to talk about misogyny because my feelings are the same as ever: don't do it. If this doesn't prove that masculine entitlement exists, then nothing will. So please join the discussion, because that's a discussion that needs to be had; but that's not what people are talking about. Not in Australia, anyway. No, when we heard about this UCSB shooting, we went down a different path, which can be explained thusly:
"Fuck the NRA"
I don't know what the American Media is focussing on, but in Australia, the conversation has turned to guns, and how America still loves its guns and refuses to fix its messed up relationship with guns, despite the countless deaths that continue to occur because we allow these dangerous people access to guns.

I personally think that these are both important, but, as I said, I am talking about the gun thing because I was upset by it. It's not often that I can be upset by the tragedies in the news - let alone brought to tears - but I was when I saw one man stand up, angry and upset, to make a statement. Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Martinez, asked a simple question:
  "When will this Insanity Stop?"
Now, just from the news, and from what people are saying about this and gun laws and shootings, all that, I have come to understand two things. Firstly, the N.R.A. is evil. That's not an opinion, that's a fact, according to the dictionary definition of the word 'evil': harmful or injurious; characterized by misfortune and suffering; morally wrong; caused by bad conduct or character; etcetera . . .
The second thing I've learned is that people don't know what the word "amendment" means. That's why I've included it as the Word of the Day, so that it can be easily understood by everyone. Also, they don't seem to understand what the Second Amendment means.
See, when it comes to gun laws, many people seem to think that the "right to bear arms" is an American Constitutional right that means that you are allowed to own a gun because you're an American citizen. But that's just wrong. Here's the truth:

For the "Right to Keep and Bear Arms" is not an American thing, it was originally British. In 1689, the British had their own Bill of Rights (preceding the American Bill of Rights of 1789) which included the right:
". . . That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law."
- The [English] Bill of Rights, 1689
As much as this was a right to arms, this was not actually a right to own a gun, this was a right to have arms, as allowed by law. This didn't say "you can have a gun", this was a right not to have your weapons taken away, which is something that King James II did to his Protestant subjects, and thus it was a necessary ruling. This was for the correction of a previous injustice.
That is, this wasn't actually introducing a right, this was taking away the rights of the King to remove his subjects' means of self-defence. Therefore, if you legally owned any armament, and it was suitable for your situation (and you were a Protestant), then the King can't take it away, that's all it meant.

That Bill of Rights later inspired the American Bill of Rights 100 years later. That's not just conjecture, James Madison - the guy that wrote the B.o.R. - claims this law to be his direct inspiration for the Second Amendment.
Because, the Second Amendment does not say "you can own a gun"; it doesn't even say "you have the right to keep and bear arms". Rather, it says:
"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."
- Article the Second,
United States Bill of Rights
, 1789
At first this didn't make much sense to me. But with the context of the above law, it's easier to understand that this isn't granting anyone any more rights than they had before. It's just saying putting down on paper that the right shall not be infringed.
Now, we need to cover something quickly here: what is a Militia?
Basically, it's a body of citizens who are not professional soldiers, but still enrolled in military service (In Australia, we call them the Army Reserve). Now, it can also mean "anyone eligible for army service" and some people believe that means that anyone can own a gun, because we all count as militia, but that's beside the point; I'm not going to get into a big biff over what "militia" means - because I don't have to to prove my point.
Just the same as the British Bill of Rights, in regards to the right to bear arms, this is not providing the right to bear arms, it is denying the Government's right to infringe upon it.
So, to me, the second amendment can only be interpreted in one way:
  "If you already have the right to bear arms (e.g. you're a member of a well regulated Militia) then your right to bear arms shall not be infringed."

The Right to Bear Arms is not a universal right. Do you know how I know that? It's because I know what arms means, because it doesn't mean "guns". It means weapons. Any weapon.
If the right to bear arms was a universal right, then you could catch the subway train, on the NWK–WTC line to Lower Manhattan carrying a grenade and no one could arrest you. If it were an inalienable right, you could make a bomb at home, put it in your backpack and walk down Main Street of Boston, Massachusetts, and no one could stop you. If that were really what the Constitution says, you could catch the school bus in Newtown, Connecticut, carrying a fully loaded assault rifle, and the authorities would have no power to stop you.
But the Constitution does not protect the right to carry a bomb or a grenade any more than it protects your right to carry a gun; and you can be arrested in such cases, because the average citizen doesn't have that right, and you can't take away rights that you don't have.
The only people with the right to bear arms are those that have a lawful gun license. A gun license is your right to bear and keep arms, not the Constitution of the United States. Don't be stupid, the law doesn't exist so that you can shoot at beer cans in your backyard, it exists to stop the government from oppressing the people.

Now, here's the fun part, there's another word I know the meaning of (I'm just rubbing my vocabulary in your face today, aren't I?), and that is infringe. Infringe means, basically, trespass or breach. What it doesn't mean is "change". So many people think that you can't take away peoples' rights to own guns, because that's a violation of the second amendment to the constitution.
But it isn't! It merely says "if you already have the right, we won't breach that right." It doesn't mean they can't change the original rights that people have in the first place, it doesn't mean you can't amend the rules of gun ownership . . .

See what I did there? Taking it right back around to the beginning. Because people keep on harping about your amendment, well, an amendment is just a change, and there's nothing wrong with change, especially when rights are being taken away. Do you know whose rights are being taken away?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
- United States Constitution, 1787

You don't much have the right to Life, or the pursuit of Happiness, when you're dead. And whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends - when there are approximately 9 privately-owned guns per every 10 Americans, yet only 36.5% of Americans claim to own a gun; when the number of homicides committed with a handgun more than double of the number of any other form of homicide & when the number of spree shootings in America are second only to war-torn countries like Iraq. When a dangerous child on the local police watchlist can legally purchase two SIG Sauer P226 model handguns and a Glock 34, and use them to mercilessly gun down three innocent people - it is the Right of the People to alter said government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
And if current laws cannot keep you safe, well, it's not all that hard to add another amendment to that Constitution, you've already done it twenty-seven times.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and although I may not be an American citizen, I know people that are, in particular my Beloved. I just want to know that she can be safe. Is that too much to ask?

5 comments:

  1. The problem is that you're arguing with people who do not employ rational debate to justify the right to own their guns. These people, including the NRA, also have the money to shut down sensible policy and they have done so. I wish it were different, but money carries more weight than concerns for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and semantics in the second amendment. Of course we'll keep fighting and pointing out that guns take away the right to Life for most victims, because that's what we have to do to cause change.

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  2. An interesting read as always, I feel however that the media sensationalism and bias has perhaps influenced your opinion on an emotive level. Whilst I agree with your overall thesis on the second amendment I do not believe implementing systems like we have in Australia (to briefly sum up what the government has done: Create so much red tape and hassle to obtain a gun licence that the vast majority of citizens will be unable to own one) is a good solution.

    To put it in perspective, do you feel safe walking around your inner-city on Saturday night? I don't, it's full of drunken morons that will turn violent for something as simple as having been looked at for too long. If someone is significantly stronger than you or better trained, they have just as much of an advantage over you in a violent situation as an untrained gunman if not more. Removing guns doesn't stop violence. I obviously must concede that fatality is more likely any time a gun is involved and I'm not for a moment suggesting open or concealed carry should be allowed; however the average person could kill as many people with a good knife as a semi-automatic pistol.

    As a responsible adult I think I should have the right to shape my own destiny, and if I want that destiny to involve responsible gun ownership, the government should provide me with the opportunity to reasonably do so. Do I need a gun? No of course not, I have no reason to have a gun other than recreational purposes, nor do I have any reason to own a car. But I do own a car, a particularly fast car as a matter of fact, because that's what I am into. the government has done nothing to stop me from owning this car which statistically speaking is more likely to be the cause of my and others' fatalities than a gun. Should we ban car ownership because some people will inevitably use their cars irresponsibly? I don't believe we should, I would happily have the licencing system changed to make it harder to obtain one because I think it is too easy to get a car licence where I am (As a side note they focus on the wrong things, stupid things that aren't anything to do with driving safely but that's a whole other conversation).

    It's late (or early) and I feel as though I am rambling even though I've tried to condense my thoughts as much as possible. To sum up, America probably needs to address its gun laws but not to the extent Queensland and the rest of the country did. We went too far the other way. I feel like there is a happy medium in between authoritarian and libertarian values that both sides could agree on.

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    Replies
    1. Well, in this post I didn't suggest any actual laws since I don't know the best solution either. After all, I'm a narrator, not a dictator. But I know for a fact that the country with the highest percentile of homicide by handgun is America, and America has the least effective gun laws; whereas the country with the lowest percentile of homicide by handgun is the United Kingdom, where they have the strictest gun laws [not including Ireland, their laws are different], where you can only get a gun license if you can prove to the police that you can store it safely; if you can provide a good reason for owning it (as in, "I need it for work". In the UK, "self defense" is excluded as a reason for owning a gun) & if you can use it safely.

      The difference between a car and a gun is that a car is designed to move you place to place, and killing people is a side effect of using the car differently from its designed purpose. With a gun, it is designed for destruction and (for handguns at least) killing people, and recreation is a side effect of using the gun differently from its designed purpose.

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    2. You're an intelligent man, you know statistics can be fiddled with to show just about anything you want. American has a lot of guns, there are going to be more gun deaths. If you looked at the percentage of people killed by hippopotamus it would be much higher in Africa than Israel. This doesn't mean that Israel has better wildlife control laws it suggests there are less hippopotamus in Israel. By it's very nature the two must coincide (guns and gun crime), a more useful statistic to look at would be percentage of violent crimes compared with violent crimes involving a gun. Based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 4,900,000 violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2008. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders. Of these, about 304,000 or 7% were committed by offenders armed with a gun (1) {p1, p6}.

      We could also compare tighter gun laws being introduced with homicide rates in any country, (Let's use Britain): (2) {p20, p32}. Graph plot of p32 (3) I believe the data suggests that tighter gun laws don't have any impact on homicide rates. They only have an impact on gun homicide rates (which is often what media compare) for obvious reasons; people will use other weapons, it's quite easy to find something to kill another person with. I'm sure there are more than one hundred things in your house you could use.

      As for the cars, I could go on to say that a car used for its intended purpose can still often result in fatality but this would really be semantics to the point. I certainly wouldn't say using a gun for recreation is "using the gun differently from its designed purpose" but I suppose this is more an opinion than a statement of quantifiable fact.

      (1) http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv08.pdf
      (2) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/116483/hosb0212.pdf
      (3) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-DJ-KA2WhhLo/UNZr8agpVqI/AAAAAAAAFH4/ f6rrTVN7q6I/s1600/Screen+Shot+2012-12-22+at++Saturday,+December+22,+9.26+PM.png

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    3. If you need to look at overall statistics, then the statistics prove my point. The overall statistics for murder (at least, from 1976-2004), in America, show that at least 50% (or more than 50%) of their murders were committed with a handgun every single year, twice as much as murder with knives, blunt objects & other methods. And that's not including murders with "other guns" which accounts for about 15% of murder on average by guns such as rifles and shotguns, averaging 60% overall.
      Sure, maybe for violent crime overall, guns are "same old, same old", but they are involved in more murders.
      Surely this means either guns are more efficient at killing; or, perhaps, when people attempt to use guns solely for violent crime (like armed robbery), they're accidentally murdering the people they had hoped to merely hurt. Either way, guns cause more death than any other kind of weapon.

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