April 19, 2007

Constitutional Dipshit

In today's Star-Tribune Letters to the Editor, there's this gem:

Fix our gun policy

It's high time for the United States to join the civilized nations of the world with respect to firearm regulation.

Like in Japan, for example, with some of the strictest gun laws on the planet, where a mayor was gunned down on Tuesdeay?

Why is ours an insane policy patchwork? In part, it is the result of the recency of our pioneer past -- merely a century or two behind us.

What's a couple hundred years? Just a drop in the bucket, really.

But in addition, entities such as the National Rifle Association have deliberately misread the Second Amendment and frightened politicians into doing the same.

Misread it? Really? Please, do tell.

They focus on "The right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged" and ignore "for the purpose of maintaining a strong militia."

Okay, dipshit, now I'm going to rip you one, because you're trying to apparently rewrite the Constitution. This is what the Constitution says *ahem*:

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 was written over 200 years ago, mind you, a time when commas were very deliberately chosen, and you capitalized "People," to make a very pointed point. The 2nd Amendment is clearly saying, because a well regulated militia is required to secure a country, the People, too, have the right to arm themselves to protect against that militia if the need arises. Those bright, revolutionary men, having just thrown off the shackles of Britsh rule through an ARMED revolution, recognized, if the need for revolution were to arise again, the People would have at least a fighting chance if they were ARMED, so the People's right to bear arms should not be infringed. It's really not that damned hard to understand. We can quibble about the liklihood of an armed revolution when our well-regulated militia of today is equipped with Tomahawk missiles and nukes, but I'd rather have some firepower handy than not in such a scenario.

A wise man recently observed that those who want the privilege should be required to form up once per month for a 50-mile march, carrying the firearm and a 50-pound pack.


In other words, Ray Warner of Edina is a proponent of military personnel only having the right to be armed, and a populace stripped of its right to protect itself. That's a real wise man you got speaking for you, Ray. You dipshit.

UPDATE: Having just viewed the actual Bill of Rights via a Google image search, I have to admit the "P" in PEOPLE is not, in fact, capitalized. Not sure why I thought it was. Nevertheless, I stand by the interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Posted by Ryan at April 19, 2007 02:53 PM | TrackBack

Oh, poppycock.

Not the thing about the 2nd Amendment-- I basically agree with you there. But the suggestion that your reading of the 2nd Amendment is obvious and that this guy's a dipshit for not agreeing with you-- that part's just bullshit.

Any reasonable speaker of contemporary American English would look at the 2nd Amendment and judge that the second clause is dependent on the first clause and therefore regards the right of the people to keep and bear arms in a militia. And there's a substantial amount of linguistic data to suggest that the phrase "to bear arms" does, in fact, imply military service pretty much exclusively.

As it happens, there's a fair amount of evidence suggesting that the Framers really did mean, "Anyone who wants a gun can have one." But it's hardly obvious-- and it's also not one of those rights that necessarily make sense in a modern context. It's not like there's nothing in the original constitution that we might want to repudiate. Three fifths law, anyone?

I mean, here's another obvious interpretation for you: the amendment says "keep and bear arms". Not handguns. Not rifles. Arms. Weapons. Now, that open-ended statement, on its face, would cover everything from blackjacks to tactical nuclear weapons. Does the Constitution guarantee the right of private citizens to keep and bear tactical nuclear weapons? Of course not. But one could be forgiven for reading it that way.

Try a little forgiveness, Ryan. It's good for you.

Posted by: Joshua at April 19, 2007 07:32 PM

Once I construct a tactical nuke in my basement, you'll be singing a different tune.

Posted by: Ryan at April 19, 2007 08:05 PM

(alright, I'll raise my hand.)

I'll go along with a certain constitutional modernization, such as the following:
…the right of certain people to keep and bear certain arms, shall not be infringed too much, unless the press turns extremely rare incidents into common everday occurences.

As long as I can own some kind of a gun, and am given a fighting chance…fine.

However, I have no idea how abortion fits in here: …to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…

Unless, of course by effects our founding fathers meant the killing of unborn citizens. I'm not shaking my head either way on abortion here—just saying it's a huge stretch to say it's a constitutional right.

Posted by: seed at April 19, 2007 08:55 PM

Unless, of course by effects our founding fathers meant the killing of unborn citizens. I'm not shaking my head either way on abortion here

"Killing of unborn citizens"? But you're not shaking your head either way on abortion?

Cute. Though just as a point of order, a citizen isn't a citizen until they're born here. Until then they're just potential citizens, whose right to life is no more guaranteed by our laws than the rights of, say, an Iraqi.

That issue aside, I actually have my own defense for abortion rights that's rooted in common law rather than the Constitution. I've generally felt it to be morally and logically superior to the stock Constitutional defense, but it's never really caught on so I must be mistaken. Still. It works for me.

Posted by: Joshua at April 19, 2007 11:14 PM

gun control, abortion, good god, next you'll be discussing religion, politics, and who really shot JFK.....
shit I've missed ya'lls debates!

Posted by: donna at April 20, 2007 12:04 AM

You are technically correct about the born v. unborn. But the only reason we're having the discussion is because the unborn will be citizens if they're born in the US. So, I see them as covered.

Call it W's culture that encourages life or whatever. The Fed does all sorts of things to encourage procreation and the development of future generations either in tax breaks, or education programs. The US's birth rate is currently at replacement levels, or just above 2 kids per couple. So, I don't think we have an issue of under population that requires Federal intervention—Uncle Sam doesn't need our babies.

That being said, there's an interesting aside that points to Mark Steyn's latest piece. Among alot of other things, he points out that Europe is significantly below 2 kids per couple, and specifically, Spain and Italy are about 1.2 kids per couple. Sure, that trend can change, but in the short term those countries will be halving themselves every generation. Steyn also suggests that whomever moves in to take up the slack will have a significant effect on the politics of Europe. States that encourage life, or whatever, tend to do better.

That leads me to think that if abortion is going to be outlawed, in an effort to preserve the State, then there had better be a damn good plan for what to do with all the clearly unwanted kids. I'm not sure that the Fed is the best implementor. My best guess is that the community should make those decisions. Abortion should not rise any higher than the state level. I don't think the Fed should decide on this issue any more than that of marriage.

As far as my cuteness, I was being overly dramatic. For me and my wife, we would fall on the side of the fence in favor of abortion. My wife is hopped up on enough meds for RA that any accidental child would most likely be a veg. That being said, I don't have a problem with some oversight in the matter, such as parental consent, and frequent flier programs.

Posted by: seed at April 20, 2007 07:59 AM

The parental consent issue always puzzles me a little. A lot of otherwise perfectly reasonable people seem to think that requiring parental consent for a minor to get an abortion makes obvious sense. As near as I can tell the argument in favor of this position seems to boil down to, "I'd hate it if my kid snuck off and had an abortion without telling me because I'd be worried about them."

Which is a nice sentiment. "If my kid's having unprotected sex and getting pregnant, I should know about it so I can help her make better choices." But the thing is, a consent law would make it possible for parents to basically force their daughter to have a baby she doesn't want.

I suppose the reason this seems totally fucking horrifying to me is that I have a slightly unusual perspective on the role parents play in their children's lives. I think about all the alcoholic abusive chain-smoking white trash parents I've known in my life-- the kind who get their kids hooked on cigarettes and alcohol, or beat their kids, or sign their kids over to state care when they're teenagers because they just don't feel like being parents anymore --and I think about a kid from that background getting pregnant and having to ask her fucked-up drama-queen horror-show parents for permission to get an abortion, and it seems pretty fucking obvious to me that a parental consent law is the last fucking thing we need when it comes to the abortion question.

Posted by: Joshua at April 20, 2007 08:48 AM

I may not have a great answer for that. For me, the primary goal of the parental consent is one of consequence. Basically, the Fed says if you want to have an abortion, and you are a minor, you need an adult to approve. That may cause some parents, like those mentioned above, to force their child to have a child that is unwanted. Fine.

My guess is that the child will probably have a pretty good idea that is the policy. So the consent acts as deterent. If you know your mom is a bible-thumping crack whore, you might take extra care when you go out at night. By no means is that a great scenario. But the Fed cannot regulate parental skills. What they can do is through up a red flag when things get drastically out of hand, like when a minor is pregnant.

Incidentally, my doc wife isn't here right now. Correct me if I am wrong, don't minors need parental consent for any other major procedures, outside of ER-type visits?

Posted by: seed at April 21, 2007 10:40 AM

Oh yeah, replace Fed with state—no need to involve Uncle Sam on this.

Posted by: seed at April 21, 2007 10:41 AM

That may cause some parents, like those mentioned above, to force their child to have a child that is unwanted. Fine.

No, it's not fine.

I wonder if you have the foggiest notion what's actually involved in carrying a child to term and giving birth. Because that is, specifically, the thing most women are trying to avoid when they have an abortion. If it's just a question of not being ready to have a baby, a woman can easily give a healthy baby up for adoption.

The process of giving birth is physically traumatic on a massive scale, it can last for days, and there's a substantial health risk to the mother. Furthermore, there's a particular intimacy to the act that makes being forced do to it uniquely traumatic; there's a reason that the crime of rape isn't just another form of assault. The right to personal control over those parts of our bodies is very closely tied to our sense of self. Having that control taken away by anyone for any reason can be psychologically devastating.

Most anti-choice beliefs are predicated on the assumption that when a woman willingly engages in sex, she consents to the possibility of pregnancy and birth. That's bullshit, and it's bullshit of a very familiar sort. Moral conservatives have a long history of punishing behavior they don't approve of by tacitly allowing horrible things to happen to the people who engage in that behavior. They do it to religious minorities, they do it to sexual minorities, and they do it to women; women who wear tight clothing, women who pierce their ears, women who have sex.

The thing is, it's simply not true. And, contrary to a weirdly unexamined popular belief, it's never been true: women have been terminating unwanted pregnancies for as long as humans have been having sex for fun. There's a millennia-old tradition of herbal remedies and self-sterilizing roots that have been used to "root out" embryos.

However, like a lot of pre-industrial technology, the traditional methods are fairly dangerous. So modern medicine steps in and that's where something that used to be handled privately suddenly becomes everybody's fucking business. But making safe legal abortions harder to get doesn't stop them from happening-- it just makes them more dangerous.

All that said:

My guess is that the child will probably have a pretty good idea that is the policy. So the consent acts as deterent.

So, let me see if I'm following your thinking here.

Most girls will try to use adequate protection in order to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs (which, it should be remembered, are potentially lethal in our day and age). But some girls are too stupid or too inexperience to do that math, so they engage in risky behavior. So your premise here is that the threat of having to get parental consent for an abortion will be a deterrent to girls who are too stupid to worry about pregnancy and the possibility of several slow, painful, fatal wasting illnesses-- and that such a deterrent will be effective enough to justify the awful shit that will happen to girls who did use protection and just had an accident.

Is that about the shape of your reasoning on this issue? Because if so, I have to say I don't think much of it.

Posted by: Joshua at April 21, 2007 11:41 AM

So your premise here is that the threat of having to get parental consent for an abortion will be a deterrent to girls who are too stupid to worry about pregnancy …

Wrong. My premise is that an abortion, like any other medical procedure, requires a responsible party's consent. That consent may deter overall teen pregnancies and, according to the CDC, it does.

Teen pregnancies are down by about 25% since 1990, which is about the same time most states adopted parental consent / involvement laws.

I see your point about that background. But if legislation is to aim for the middle of the argument, it may be that it is hitting the mark. Unfortunately, other than personal experiences such as yours, I am not sure there is a way to quantify the number of forced pregnancies that occur due to parental involvement.

Posted by: seed at April 21, 2007 08:09 PM

I will agree with Joshua that the only people allowed guns would be the militia

TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 311

Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

So, by US LAW, the militia includes all citizens of the US and therefore, according to the 2nd Amendment, are allowed to have guns.

Posted by: rob@L&R at April 23, 2007 03:53 PM
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