Our Second Amendment Rights
After earlier discussing my views on abortion and gay marriage that don't necessarily follow lockstep with conservative orthodoxy, I figured I should complete the trifecta and talk a little about the Second Amendment. Until yesterday, I thought I was a pretty strong 2nd Amendment stalwart, in that I knew that the right to keep and bear arms was a personal right, and I couldn't imagine voting for someone who I thought would actually take away the guns that someone owned (other than those who had committed a felony). Yesterday, however, my wife and I went to a Town Hall Meeting with my Congressman, Rep. Walt Minnick, where our 2nd Amendment rights were discussed -- and I learned that there are a lot of people whose interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is a lot more radical than I would have thought likely outside an actual militia headquarters.
There were about 45 people at the meeting, including fellow Idaho blogger Clayton Cramer (who still doesn't allow comments on his site for some reason). The meeting started with one person from outside the Congressional District reading a long-winded statement wondering why they couldn't get copies of Rep. Minnick's NRA questionnaire that got him a "D+" rating from the NRA -- despite the fact that copies of this questionnaire were available on the back table to all attendees. Most of the rest of the attendees held forth on their belief that the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to (paraphrasing here) allow them to shoot military and/or law enforcement personnel if they feel the need to rebel against the government. Based on this reasoning, I'm assuming that they also believe that all laws against sedition should be unconstitutional. One woman demanded that Minnick say that using guns to defend herself against government tyranny wasn't terrorism; Walt didn't seem to see what she was getting at, so I helpfully translated that "she wants you to say that shooting U.S. military personnel isn't terrorism". She immediately backed off and said that, no, all she wanted to do was "civil disobedience" -- why she needed an AK-47 for that was left unanswered. This led to lots of other people saying that they supported the the military and law enforcement personnel; only Clayton Cramer seemed honest enough to at least imply that, yes, he would regretfully attempt to gun down my old shipmates and my sons (if they join the military) if he felt the need to rise up against "tyranny". I can respect that honesty -- and I was surprised that the rest of the people there couldn't be as honest. Maybe they aren't as committed to their Second Amendment rights as they think they are if they don't admit that their beliefs could involve them in shooting down young American servicepeople. (My personal beliefs? I believe that the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed, and that the government should be able to protect itself against armed insurrection, and that law enforcement officers serving warrants issued by the judicial branch of government shouldn't be shot down in cold blood, and that anyone who shoots at U.S. military personnel should expect that the entire weight of the U.S. military will come down on them. I also believe I'd also take a 20 year old Ranger in a gunfight against Clayton Cramer or the guys at the meeting with really long ponytails.)
There were some fun conspiracy theorists there. The woman mentioned above talked about how the standing up of NORTHCOM in 2002 was proof that the government was going to take all our liberties. (If you're not familiar with this particular conspiracy theory -- which all of us with actual military experience know is just a routine re-alignment -- you should Google "NORTHCOM NAU". It's a hoot.) Another person mentioned this YouTube video of soldiers from an Army Reserve unit doing a march on some drill day that took them through town as apparent proof that martial law is coming. I notice that Clayton Cramer, in his report on the meeting, didn't mention these rather embarrassing anecdotes.
[As a quick aside, my Congressman has now been in office for just over 100 days representing what is arguably the most conservative district to have elected a Democrat in 2008. He's been impressing a lot of people, voting against the bailouts and most of the other most liberal legislation; if fact, he's the Democrat who has voted least often with his party's leadership. This has lost him some "progressive" support, but I have a feeling that for every vote he loses in the extreme left, he's picking up ten from the middle, so I think he's doing a good job.]
Update 0554 20 April: Here's an article in today's Idaho Statesman talking about the shortage of ammunition, primers, and pellets, that also explains why any new restrictions on gun ownership won't pass during this Congress.
Update 1648 23 April: Clayton Cramer responds to my post here. He was also kind enough to provide me a link to an essay he wrote about when he thinks it's OK to take up arms against the government; one example he gives is if there's another Waco. He seems to not like the FBI very much. I think the fact that he hasn't been hassled by the FBI proves to me that we still have quite a bit of freedom here in the good ol' U. S. of A.
Of course, Clayton's theory that a Right to Armed Revolution exists in the 2nd Amendment doesn't go on to say that people can only rebel if they follow Clayton Cramer's precepts. I'm wondering if the people who believe in this right would support a group of Muslim-Americans who decided that the U.S. government was being tyrannical in not implementing sharia law throughout the land. Would these people be justified in waging righteous jihad against the government (especially if the FBI were investigating people who shared their religion and culture)? If they were engaging in constitutionally-protected actions in shooting down policemen and servicepeople, could they even be arrested, let alone prosecuted, for such actions?