As we mentioned yesterday, the Framers of the Constitution (which included most of the Founding Fathers, plus Ronald Reagan, Jesus, Moses and a utility infielder picked up on waivers from the Cleveland Indians), realized almost immediately after the Constitution was adopted that they had forgotten to put in a lot of stuff. Thus, they came up with the Bill of Rights, which is what they named the first 10 amendments.
In their defense, it is understandable that they forgot this stuff because, hey, have you ever looked at the Constitution? It’s like illegible! They wrote this thing long hand on brown butcher paper and the substituted f’s for t’s and vice versa. I ain’t naming names but someone should have been held back in penmanship class!
Anyway, today we’re going to talk about the Second Amendment which is one of the most fun and controversial of all the amendments! Let’s goooooo!
The Second Amendment 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.
Scholars and crackpots have long debated the meaning of each word in this seemingly simple sentence. For example, what does the term “well regulated” mean? Does it mean a militia that has is carefully regulated by laws? Does it mean a militia that eats prunes daily and is thus “regular”? And what does “free State” mean? Or how about “militia”? These are hard questions!
After 235 years of debate, careful consideration and thoughtful discussion, the Republican Party, in its guise as the National Rifle Organization, believes this sentence means, “It’s perfectly OK for total nutjobs to have unlimited access to automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of belted ammunition because who knows when the Democrats or minorities are going to break into your home and deny you your freedom and liberty? Huh?”
Democrats, on the other hand, believe that most people should not be able to carry guns. This, of course, would include felons, crazy people and fringe elements who are quite likely to abide docilely by gun control laws. Let’s just say there’s disagreement.
There is also lots of sloganeering. For example, gun advocates say, “Guns don’t kill people.” I agree! Guns don’t kill people! Hunks of lead shot at incredibly high rates of speed kill people! Duh!
And as former NRA head Charlton Heston, whom we met as Moses earlier in this series, used to say, “You’ll have to pry my gun from my cold dead fingers!” But wait! He was cremated and thus deprived us of that very opportunity.
It is also interesting to consider the historical context of the Second Amendment. When the Amendment was written in 1789, the weapon of choice was the flintlock musket. This single-shot weapon was seven feet long, weighed about 30 pounds, took about two minutes to load* and was wildly inaccurate beyond 15 yards. The Founding Fathers were probably pretty confident that even a drunken crazy man couldn’t hold an entire junior high school hostage with a flintlock.
Since then, weapons have become more sophisticated. Why? Because criminals and liberals have become more sophisticated. As our society has changed, so have the weapons needs of our citizenry. If not for the unflinching grit of men like Charlton Heston, American patriots would have no doubt been denied access to weapons like this folding machine gun (keep yourself safe when you walk the dog after dark!) or this fine weapon that will come in handy in case you need to protect your home and family against an intruder a mile and a half away.
Tomorrow: I’ve decided we’ll skip the Third Amendment, since it deals with Protection from forced quartering of troops, although the friend of mine who found his 17 year old daughter in bed with a guy home on leave might want to ask a lawyer about this. Instead, we’ll skip ahead to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Should be a laugh riot!
* From Wikipedia:
In the 18th century, as typified by the English Brown Bess musket, loading and firing was done in the following way:
- Upon the command “prime and load”, the soldier would make a quarter turn to the right at the same time bringing the musket to the priming position. The pan would be open following the discharge of the previous shot, meaning that the frizzen would be tilted forward. IF the musket was not being reloaded after a previous shot, the soldiers would be ordered to “Open Pan”.
- Upon the command “Handle cartridge”, the soldier would draw a cartridge from the cartridge box worn on the soldier’s right hip or on a belt in front of the soldier’s belly. Cartridges consisted of a spherical lead ball wrapped in a paper cartridge which also held the gunpowder propellant. The end of the cartridge opposite from the ball would be sealed by a mere twist of the paper. The soldier then tore off the twisted end of the cartridge with the teeth and spat it out, and continued to hold the now open cartridge in his right hand.
- Upon the command “prime”, the soldier then pulled the hammer back to half-cock, and poured a small amount of powder from the cartridge into the priming pan. He then closed the frizzen so that the priming powder was trapped.
- Upon the command “about”, the butt of the musket was then lowered and moved to a position against the soldier’s left calf, and held so that the soldier could then access the muzzle of the musket barrel. The soldier then poured the rest of the powder from the cartridge down the muzzle. The cartridge was then reversed, and the end of the cartridge holding the musket ball was inserted into the muzzle, with the remaining paper shoved into the muzzle above the musket ball. This paper acted as wadding to stop the ball and powder from falling out if the muzzle was lowered.
- Upon the command “draw ramrods”, the soldier drew the ramrod from the musket. The ramrod was grasped and reversed when removed, and the large end was inserted about one inch into the muzzle.
- Upon the command “ram down cartridge”, the soldier then used the ramrod to firmly ram the wadding, bullet, and powder down to the breech of the barrel. The ramrod was then removed, reversed, and returned to half way in the musket by inserting it into the first and second ramrod pipes. The soldier’s hand then grasped the top of the ramrod.
- Upon the command “return rammers”, the soldier would quickly push the rammer the remaining amount to completely return it to its normal position. Once the ramrod was properly replaced, the soldier’s right arm would be held parallel to the ground at shoulder level, with the right fingertips touching the bayonet lug, and lightly pressing the musket to the soldier’s left shoulder. The soldier’s left hand still supported the musket.
- Upon the command “Make Ready”. The musket was brought straight up, perpendicular to the ground, with the left hand on the swell of the musket stock, the lock turned toward the soldier’s face, and the soldier’s right hand pulled the lock to full cock, and grasped the wrist of the musket.
- Upon the command “present”, the butt of the musket was brought to the soldier’s right shoulder, while at the same time the soldier lowered the muzzle to firing position, parallel to the ground, and sighting (if the soldier had been trained to fire at “marks”) along the barrel at the enemy.
- Upon the command of “fire”, the soldier pulled the trigger, and the musket (hopefully) fired. A full second was allowed to pass, and the musket was then quickly lowered to the loading position, butt against the soldier’s right hip, muzzle held off center to the left at about a forty-five degree angle, and the soldier would look down at his open pan to determine if the prime had been ignited.