Tag Archive | safety

The US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment: Police, Not Guns in Every Home

American gun patrioticThe 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.

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.

gun murder

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.

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!

gun murder 2We 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!

Witch in the City: Seven Tips for Adapting Polytheism to Urban Environments

April 21st, 2012Beltane altar in downtown Brooklyn

 

Many earth-centric religious traditions, including Wicca, help us connect deeply with nature with outdoor worship. But where green spaces are sparse or sometimes inconvenient to reach, how does a Wiccan or other polytheist find the balance? Here are things I’ve done over the years:

  1. Use less fire and more water: instead of burning specific herbs, candles, or essential oils, mix them with water and disperse by libation or through a small spray bottle such as a travel sized pump bottle.
  2. Barbecue grills at parks are your friend: when you do need to burn something for a prayer or ritual, consider travelling to a public park that offers a barbecue grill and light your fire in the grill space. This greatly reduces your fire risk and makes it easier to control your fire.
  3. Use ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams for food sacrifices: one of my favorite rituals for holiday worship is to cast a libation of food and drink (non-alcoholic) into a pond or lake as a gift of thanksgiving to the deity/deities associated with the holiday. This is not only very historically accurate to what many cultures have done for millennia, but your gift is often greatly appreciated by the area wildlife.
  4. Keep incense lighting to indoor contexts: when you light incense outside, you risk not only fire that can more easily get out of hand, but mis-interpretation by passersby. Also recognize that many parks have strict rules against any sort of burning outside of fire pits/grills; you can get into a lot of trouble over fire-even incense!
  5. Replace bonfires with symbolic fires: when a ritual or custom calls for a bonfire, consider using lit or un-lit candles and incense.
  6. Embrace plant life: all life is connected. Connect to it-and deity–with your touch. Caressing a plant is a wonderful way to remind yourself of the beauty, wonder, and divinity around you.
  7. No matter what you practice or believe, prioritize safety over ritual. Accidents happen, especially when working around fire. Invest in those little aids like snuffers and water vessels that make you safer!