The 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution is interpreted by the National Rifle Association to mean that every American is guaranteed the right to own and carry firearms anywhere, at any time, in any context s/he wishes. Common sense is not part of their position. Guns should be at the zoo, at Starbucks, at your kid’s playground, even in your child’s school. Guns should be everywhere because the Constitution says so!
Except the Constitution doesn’t say that, Instead the full text of the 2nd Amendment is:
“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.”
14th century Italian militias.
Now as I talked about three years ago on Yahoo Voices and reposted a year ago, the idea of the militia has a specific historical context grounded in Anglo-Saxon tradition. It is, at its core, a feudal institution pre-dating professional armies where local men and women responded to local emergencies by arming themselves and protecting their towns and villages. Mercenaries (soldiers for hire) were for centuries rather unreliable folks with rape/pillage habits — something American colonists experienced with the Hessian mercenaries hired by the Crown. Before the emergence of completely professional national armies, soldiers for hire had the habit of abusing the local population, of taking what they wanted. So locals tended to maintain their militias to protect themselves against such abuse.
Times have changed in the United States and United Kingdom. Professional soldiers are hometown heroes and heroines — not threats to the safety of civilian populations. Invasions from foreign powers on home soil is essentially unknown to most Americans and British — the main modern exceptions to that happened during the 2nd World War. Our armies have professionalized and this is a good thing. Because since the beginning of professional soldiering, the professionals have always possessed superior skills, protection, and weapons compared to their civilian counterparts.
And that is what a militia is: civilians responding to emergencies. It’s volunteer police, volunteer fire department, and neighourhood watch organizations. I’ve seen arguments for including USA state national guard units under this umbrella — except those are trained and equipped much more similarly to the full time army, navy, and so forth — and they are paid to do so!
Two London constables on duty.
So what then does the 2nd Amendment actually guarantee Americans? If you treat the word “militia” properly, what is the 2nd Amendment actually protecting? In my analysis as a historian, the 2nd Amendment guarantees us POLICE FORCES and FIRE DEPARTMENTS which do the same job that our militias once did. Police forces/constabularies and fire departments protect local populations from danger — from within our localities and from outside threats. When a riot breaks out, it’s the police — not a Federal soldier — that is sent in to deal with it. When Federal soldiers ARE sent in to deal with riots we habitually treat this much as our ancestors did with mercenary soldiers — and perhaps rightly.
In the Autumn of 2001 New York Penn Station was protected with Federal soldiers carrying high power weapons through the station to police it, a response to 9/11. Believe me, that terrified me as I walked through the station to catch or depart from my New Jersey Transit trains! A regular NYPD officer in regular uniform with regular equipment felt safe to be around. But Federal troops? Utterly terrifying!
We need our police officers and constables. We need this modern form of our ancient militias. We need to honour and respect the work our officers and constables do and trust them to do their job — rather than delude ourselves into thinking we can do their jobs better than they can and therefore arming ourselves.
Gun are not the solution. As a matter of fact, they aggravate our problems. A woman is 500x more likely to be shot/killed during a domestic dispute when firearms are kept in the home than she is when family firearms are kept in a neutral location such as a gun club. There is a reason why the murder rate in the United Kingdom is so much lower than in the United States. This twisting of the 2nd Amendment is why.
Some of you are likely to attack me for writing this. That is fine with me. Be my guest. Because as a woman who was hurt in a gun “accident” as a child, I fiercely uphold that the gun laws in the United Kingdom are the best way to go. I’ve seen what guns everywhere all the time can do and it disgusts me and terrify me.
Leave the guns to the police and the constables. Leave them to the real modern militias. And please, in the name of sanity, stop thinking that having a gun around makes you safer! IT DOESN’T!