The 2nd Amendment and Killing Kids

From the Archive: The comedy team Key and Peele cut through the Right’s Second Amendment madness best in a bit in which Peele travels back in time with Uzis to confront its authors over their careless wording. But there is nothing funny about piles of dead kids, victims of bad history, as Robert Parry wrote a year ago.

By Robert Parry (Originally published on Dec. 15, 2012, a day after the Newtown massacre)

The American Right is fond of putting itself inside the minds of America’s Founders and intuiting what was their “original intent” in writing the U.S. Constitution and its early additions, like the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.” But, surely, James Madison and the others weren’t envisioning people with modern weapons mowing down children in a movie theater or a shopping mall or now an elementary school.

Indeed, when the Second Amendment was passed in the First Congress as part of the Bill of Rights, firearms were single-shot mechanisms that took time to load and reload. It was also clear that Madison and the others viewed the “right to bear arms” in the context of “a well-regulated militia” to defend communities from massacres, not as a means to enable such massacres.

The Second Amendment reads: “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.” Thus, the point of the Second Amendment is to ensure “security,” not undermine it.

The massacre of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, which followed other gun massacres in towns and cities across the country, represents the opposite of “security.” And it is time that Americans of all political persuasions recognize that protecting this kind of mass killing was not what the Founders had in mind.

However, over the past several decades, self-interested right-wing “scholarship” has sought to reinvent the Framers as free-market, government-hating ideologues, though the key authors of the U.S. Constitution people like James Madison and George Washington could best be described as pragmatic nationalists who favored effective governance.

In 1787, led by Madison and Washington, the Constitutional Convention scrapped the Articles of Confederation, which had enshrined the states as “sovereign” and had made the federal government a “league of friendship” with few powers.

What happened behind closed doors in Philadelphia was a reversal of the system that governed the United States from 1777 to 1787. The laws of the federal government were made supreme and its powers were dramatically strengthened, so much so that a movement of Anti-Federalists fought bitterly to block ratification.

In the political maneuvering to assure approval of the new system, Madison and other Federalists agreed to add a Bill of Rights to ease some of the fears about what Anti-Federalists regarded as the unbridled powers of the central government. [For details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Madison had considered a Bill of Rights unnecessary because the Constitution, like all constitutions, set limits on the government’s power and it contained no provisions allowing the government to infringe on basic liberties of the people. But he assented to spell out those rights in the first 10 amendments, which were passed by the First Congress and ratified in 1791.

The intent of the Second Amendment was clarified during the Second Congress when the U.S. government enacted the Militia Acts, which mandated that all white males of military age obtain a musket, shot and other equipment for service in militias.

The idea was to enable the young country to resist aggression from European powers, to confront Native American tribes on the frontier and to put down internal rebellions, including slave revolts. There was nothing particularly idealistic in this provision; the goal was the “security” of the young nation.

However, the modern American Right and today’s arms industry have devoted enormous resources to twisting the Framers into extremist ideologues who put “liberties” like individual gun ownership ahead of all practical concerns about “security.”

This propaganda has proved so successful that many politicians who favor common-sense gun control are deemed violators of the Framers’ original intent, as essentially un-American, and face defeat in elections. The current right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has even overturned longstanding precedents and reinterpreted the Second Amendment as granting rights of individual gun ownership.

But does anyone really believe that Madison and like-minded Framers would have stood by and let deranged killers mow down civilians, including children, by using guns vastly more lethal than any that existed in the Revolutionary era? If someone had wielded a single-shot musket or pistol in 1791, the person might get off one volley but would then have to reload. No one had repeat-firing revolvers, let alone assault rifles with large magazines of bullets.

Any serious scholarship on the Framers would conclude that they were, first and foremost, pragmatists determined to protect the hard-won independence of the United States. When the states’-rights Articles of Confederation wasn’t doing the job, they scrapped it. When compromises were needed even on the vile practice of slavery the Framers cut the deals.

While the Framers cared about liberty (at least for white men), they focused in the Constitution on practicality, creating a flexible system that would advance the “general Welfare” of “We the People.”

It is madness to think that the Framers would have mutely accepted the slaughter of six- and seven-year-olds (or the thousands of other American victims of gun violence). Such bloody insecurity was definitely not their “original intent.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

To watch the Key and Peele comedy segment, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZLnUb5-A6A




The NRA’s War on America

One year ago, 20 first-graders went off to school in Newtown, Connecticut, some surely thinking about the upcoming Christmas holidays. But they never came home, becoming along with six of their educators collateral damage in the NRA’s big-dollar war to boost gun sales, as Beverly Bandler noted last March.

By Beverly Bandler (Originally published on March 4, 2013)

The issue of the NRA vs. America is not only about the nation’s horrific gun violence epidemic. Americans have to decide whether the National Rifle Association and the gun industry should continue to corrupt our political system, whether the NRA with an estimated 3 million members and a management dominated by firearms manufacturers should control politicians and determine public policy for 315 million.

Or as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said, “The NRA is only powerful if you and I let them be powerful.”

The NRA has morphed from a group that represented ordinary gun owners into a front group for the firearms industry, whose profits are increasingly dependent on the sale of military-bred weapons like assault rifles.

Today’s NRA also stands astride some of the ugliest currents in our politics, combining the “Astroturf” activism of the Tea Party, the unlimited and undisclosed “dark money” of groups like Crossroads GPS, and the sham legislating of groups like the American Legislative Council.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, is in the business of selling the American public a “Hellish World” in order to frighten them into buying into the idea that their survival requires them to buy more guns, join the NRA and organize opposition to gun control measures. The NRA has been called a “cynical, mercenary political cult” by a former employee.

And the extremism is escalating. In May 1999, LaPierre said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period.”

However, in December 2012, after 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, were murdered by a gunman wielding a semi-automatic assault rifle, LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He proposed that armed, NRA-trained vigilantes patrol each of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools, discarding the gun-free zones he once championed.

But the NRA is not only out of touch with mainstream America’s desire for common-sense gun laws; it is also out of touch with its own members. NRA members are much more sensible about gun safety than the management of the non-democratic, top-down, hierarchical NRA.

A May 2012 poll revealed moderation: three out of four NRA members believed that background checks should be completed before every gun purchase. Nearly two-thirds supported a requirement that gun owners alert police when their firearms are lost or stolen.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, noted that it is just the intensity of the NRA leadership’s extremism that intimidates politicians: “It only takes political courage because the NRA makes people toe the line against the majority view of the country. It’s time the majority stood up and said enough already. And the majority should have a motive because any of us could be a victim tomorrow.”

But the gap between the public’s desire for gun sanity and the NRA’s insistence on gun madness is best explained by following the money. NRA’s corporate patrons include 22 firearms manufacturers, 12 of which are makers of assault weapons with household names like Beretta and Ruger. Donors from the industry and other dark reaches of the corporate world have funneled some $52 million to the NRA in recent years.

LaPierre serves at the pleasure of a 76-member board that is stocked with industry brass, and which is all but self-perpetuating. Only one-third of the board’s membership is up for re-election in any given year. Voting is limited to the NRA’s honored “lifetime” members and to dues-payers with at least five consecutive years of being in good standing. One of the NRA’s 10-member nominating committee is the CEO of Freedom Group which manufactures the Bushmaster semiautomatic that Adam Lanza used to slaughter the 20 children and six teachers in Newtown.

The NRA’s political contributions totaled $2,850,033 between 2003 and 2012, 74 percent of which went to Republicans, according to Follow the Money.org. In the 2012 political races, the total percentage of contributions that went to the GOP: 88 percent.

The NRA’s traditional, regulated PAC is as strong as ever. It spent $16.6 million in national political races in 2012. It was joined by a newly empowered NRAILA, which kicked in an additional $7.4 million from undisclosed sources, making the NRA the eighth-largest dark-money group in the country. [Primary Source: Tim Dickinson: “The NRA vs. America,” RollingStone.]

The consequences of the NRA’s long-running assault on gun-safety laws have been devastating to American citizens. “Since 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in all the wars of the nation’s history: 1.2 million died in wars (from the Revolutionary War though the Iraq War); 1.4 million died in firearm deaths,” according to Politifact.

Author Tom Diaz has written that “In the four decades between 1969 and 2009, a total of 5,586 people were killed in terrorist attacks against the United States or its interests. By comparison, more than 30,000 people were killed by guns in the United States every single year between 1986 and 2010, with the exception of the four years in which the number of deaths fell slightly below 30,000,1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004.

“In other words, the number of people killed every year in the United States by guns is about five times the grand total of Americans killed in terrorist attacks anywhere in the world since 1969.”

But this death toll is of little concern to the NRA. It uses inflamed rhetoric about protecting America’s “freedom” and “civil rights,” but its real purpose is the selling of more and more guns and the expansion of the corporate power of the multi-billion-dollar gun industry.

“The NRA wins because Americans lose focus,” writes Tim Dickinson.

So, the only way to counter the NRA’s power is for American citizens to stay focused, committed and consistent, and to understand that this issue is not only about gun violence. It is also part of the struggle between America and right-wing extremism.

Beverly Bandler’s public affairs career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico.

In the News: “The Showdown Over Gun Laws From Coast to Coast” by Gavin Aronsen, Mother Jones, 2012-03-01. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/03/maryland-assault-weapons-gun-laws

See also Mother Jones’s special report  “America Under the Gun.” http://www.motherjones.com/special-reports/2012/12/guns-in-america-mass-shootings

Resources:

How Many People Have been killed by guns since Newtown? 2,396 or more since Newtown as of March 1, 2013. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html
A Snapshot of State Gun laws. Washington Post.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-snapshot-of-state-gun-laws/2012/07/24/gJQAsfJp7W_graphic.html
11 Facts About the NRA. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/11-facts-about-the-nra/2012/07/24/gJQAJSNKrc_gallery.html#photo=1
Gun Control Facts By James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith. Just Facts, September 13, 2010. Revised 2/11/13. http://justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp
Follow the Money.org  https://www.google.com/search?q=followthemoney&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=fflb
Open Secrets.org  Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/

Suggested Reading:

Achenbach, Joel, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz. “How NRA’s true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby.” The Washington Post, 2013-01-12. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-12/politics/36311919_1_nra-leaders-nra-officers-mighty-gun-lobby
Diaz, Tom.  The Last Gun. The Last Gun: Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It. The New Press, (March 26, 2013).
Dickinson, Tim.  “The NRA vs. America.” How the country’s biggest gun-rights group thwarts regulation and helps put military-grade weapons in the hands of killers. Rolling Stone, 2013-01-31. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-nra-vs-america-20130131
Feldman, Richard.  Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist. John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (October 26, 2007).
Follow the Money. http://www.followthemoney.org/database/topcontributor.phtml?u=1854&y=0&incs=0&ince=0&incf=0&incy=0&so2=a&p2=1
Harkinson, Josh. “Does the NRA Really Have 4 Million Members?” MotherJones, 2013-01-14.
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/01/nra-membership-numbers
Hsieh, Steven.  “Meet the NRA’s Top 10 Enemies.” 1. Doctors, 2. Poets, 3. Women, 4. 90s Boy Bands, 5. Greeting Card Companies, 6. Churches, 7. Pro Football Teams, 8. Actors, 9. CEOs, 10.Interior Designers. Alternet, 2013-02-01. http://www.alternet.org/print/tea-party-and-right/meet-nras-top-10-enemies
Hickey, Walter.  “How the NRA Became the Most Powerful Special Interest in Washington.” BusinessInsider, 2012-12-18. http://www.businessinsider.com/nra-lobbying-money-national-rifle-association-washington-2012-12
Kessler, Glenn. “Does the NRA really have more than 4.5 million members?”  Washington Post, 2013-02-08. http://tinyurl.com/ah8r4j6
Lepore, Jill.  “Battleground America.” One nation, under the gun.” New Yorker, 2012-04-23. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/23/120423fa_fact_lepore
Moyers, Bill and Michael Winship.  “The Madness of the NRA.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-01-06. https://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/06/the-madness-of-the-nra/
Open Secrets.org   http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?cycle=2012&id=D000000082
Perlstein, Rick.  “How the NRA Became an Organization for Aspiring Vigilantes.” (Part 1). The Nation, 2013-01-09
http://www.thenation.com/blog/172100/how-nra-became-organization-aspiring-vigilantes-part-1#
Perlstein, Rick.  “How the NRA Became an Organization for Vigilantes (Part 2). The Nation, 2013-01-10. http://www.thenation.com/blog/172125/how-nra-became-organization-aspiring-vigilantes-part-2
Politifact.com 2013-01-18. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jan/18/mark-shields/pbs-commentator-mark-shields-says-more-killed-guns/
_______http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jul/23/facebook-posts/do-people-get-shot-every-year-facebook-post-says/
Reeve, Elspeth.  “The Executive Order the NRA Should Fear the Most.” Atlantic Wire, 2015-01-14. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/01/executive-order-nra-should-fear-most/61004/
Rosenfeld, Steven.  “How the NRA Went From Best Friend of the Nation’s Police to Harsh Enemy of Law Enforcement.” AlterNet, 2013-01-24. http://www.alternet.org/how-nra-went-best-friend-nations-police-harsh-enemy-law-enforcement
Rosenfeld, Steven.  “The NRA once supported gun control.” It may seem hard to believe, but for decades the organization helped write federal laws restricting gun use. Salon, 2013-01-14. http://www.salon.com/2013/01/14/the_nra_once_supported_gun_control/
Schecter, Cliff.   “5 Issues That Divide Gun Owners and NRA Leadership.” The NRA’s membership agrees with most Americans that our gun laws should protect our families, not the financial interests of a clique of elites. Alternet, 2012-07-22.
http://www.alternet.org/story/156416/5_issues_that_divide_gun_owners_and_nra_leadership/
Seitz-Wald, Alex.  “The NRA won’t support Arizona’s new gun bill. A new Arizona bill is trying to make it a crime to enforce federal gun laws. Even the NRA wants no part of this. Salon, 2013-01-22. http://www.salon.com/2013/01/22/even_the_nra_wont_support_arizonas_new_gun_bill/
_______“The Hitler gun control lie.” Gun rights activists who cite the dictator as a reason against gun control have their history dangerously wrong. Salon, 2013-01-11.  http://www.salon.com/2013/01/11/stop_talking_about_hitler/
_______“The NRA is the enabler of mass murders.” In the wake of today’s shootings, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler says we need to wage “war” on the gun lobby. Salon, 2012-12-14.  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/14/the_nra_is_the_enabler_of_mass_murderers/
_______“Why the NRA’s plan won’t work. Science and history show that the NRA’s plan to flood schools with arms is ineffective,and would be disastrous. Salon, 2012-12-21. http://www.salon.com/2012/12/21/why_the_nras_plan_wont_work/
_______ “The NRA’s war on gun science.” In addition to fighting gun laws, the gun lobby has spent the past 20 years fighting research into gun safety. Salon, 2012-07-25. http://www.salon.com/2012/07/25/the_nras_war_on_gun_science/
Smyth, Frank.  “How the NRA became the fringe.” MSNBC, 2013-01-28. http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/01/28/how-the-nra-became-the-fringe/
Stein, Sam and Paul Blumenthal.  “Why the NRA Is the Baddest Force in Politics.” The HuffingtonPost, 2012-12-17. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/gun-lobby-nra_n_2317885.html
Sugarmann, John. National Rifle Association: Money, Firepower & Fear. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 19, 2010).
Violence Policy Center. Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA. April 13, 2011. http://www.vpc.org/press/1104blood.htm
Waldman, Paul.  “Democratic Fear Inflates Myth of N.R.A. Power.” New York Times, 2012-12-17. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/17/is-the-gun-lobby-invincible/democratic-fear-inflates-myth-of-nra-power
Webster, Daniel.  “N.R.A. Members Vs. N.R.A. Leaders.” New York Times, 2012-12-17.  http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/17/is-the-gun-lobby-invincible/nra-members-vs-nra-leaders
Weigel, David. “The Nightmare Vision of Wayne LaPierre.” Slate, 2013-02-13. http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/02/13/the_nightmare_vision_of_wayne_lapierre.html
_______ “The Nightmare Vision of Wayne LaPierre.” Slate, 2013-02-13. http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/02/13 the_nightmare_vision_of_wayne_lapierre.html
_______The NRA Is ‘Winning’ The Gun Control Battle if It Loses, or Something.’” Slate, 2013-01-18. http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/01/18/the_nra_is_winning_the_gun_control_battle_if_it_loses_or_something.html
_______  “How the NRA Defeats National Tragedies.” First it scares people into thinking the government is coming for their guns. Then it quietly asks the public to pray for the victims of the next rampage. Slate, 2012-12-17. http://tinyurl.com/cl4xrap
Wilkie, Christina.  Wayne LaPierre: “More Guns Needed For ‘Hellish World’ Filled With Hurricanes, Kidnappers, Drug Gangs.” The Huffington Post, 2013-02-13.
Americans for Responsible Solutions  http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/    Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence   http://www.bradycampaign.org/   Children’s Defense Fund  http://www.childrensdefense.org/    Coalition to Stop Gun Violence  http://www.csgv.org/
The Joyce Foundation Gun Violence Prevention  http://www.joycefdn.org/    League of Women Voters   http://www.lwv.org/  Legal Community Against Violence  http://www.lcav.org/   Mayors Against Illegal Guns  http://mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/demandaplan.html  National Gun Victims Action Council   http://gunvictimsaction.org/   National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence  http://lepartnership.org/  One Million Moms for Gun Control   1mmoms4guncontrol@gmail.com  Sandy Hook Promise   http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/   Stop Handgun Violence  http://www.stophandgunviolence.org/  Violence Policy Center   http://www.vpc.org/aboutvpc.htm

 




How Fake 2nd Amendment History Kills

Exclusive: Another mass shooting has stunned America, although the sentiment is now more numbness and hopelessness than outrage and resolve. The gun carnage will probably never end unless the Right’s bogus history of the Second Amendment is exploded and the real intent of the Framers is explained, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

False history can kill, as the American people have seen again in the slaughter of 12 people working at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. on Monday, when an emotionally disturbed gunman gained access to the military facility and opened fire, adding the site to a long list of mass-murder scenes across the United States.

Though the focus after the latest rampage has been on the need for better mental health detection and for better security at bases, the underlying story is again how easy it is for people in the United States, like the troubled Aaron Alexis, to obtain lethal weaponry and how hard it is to keep guns away from dangerous individuals.

In that sense, the Navy Yard narrative is just one more bloody patch in the grim tapestry that stretches from Virginia Tech to Aurora to Newtown to hundreds of other locations where thousands upon thousands of innocent lives have been taken by gun violence in America.

But a key reason why the nation is frozen in a shocking paralysis, unable to protect even little children, is that the American Right has sold much of the country on a false history regarding the Second Amendment. Right-wingers and other gun-rights advocates insist that the carnage can’t be stopped because it is part of what the Framers designed.

Yet that is not and never was the actual history. When the First Congress passed the Second Amendment in 1789, the goal was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order in a time of political violence, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers.

The amendment was never intended as a blank check for some unstable person to massacre fellow Americans. Indeed, it defined its purpose as achieving “security” against disruptions to the country’s new republican form of government. The Second Amendment read:

“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.” In other words, if read in context, you would see that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed disorder.

In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of “bearing” arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn’t mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.

No Anarchists

And, the Framers of the Constitution were not some anarchists who wanted an armed population so people could overthrow the government if they weren’t happy with something. Indeed, one of the crises that led to the Constitution was the inability of the old system under the Articles of Confederation to put down the Shays’s Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-87.

The Framers people like George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris were the Establishment of the day. They also recognized how fragile the nation’s independence was and how novel was the idea of a constitutional republic with democratic elections. They were seeking a system that took political action that reflected the will of the people, yet within a framework that constrained the passions of democracy.

The whole idea of the Constitution with its mix of voting, elected representatives and checks and balances was to create a political structure that made violence unnecessary. As the Preamble states, two key goals were to “promote the general Welfare” and to “insure domestic Tranquility.”

So, the Framers weren’t encouraging violent uprisings against the republic that they were founding. To the contrary, they characterized violence against the constitutional system as “treason” in Article III, Section 3. They also committed the federal government to protect each state from “domestic Violence,” in Article IV, Section 4.

And one of the first uses of the new state militias formed under the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts was for President Washington to lead a federalized force of militiamen against the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt, in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

Though it’s true that many Americans owned a musket or rifle in those early years especially on the frontier, regulations on munitions were still common in cities where storing of gunpowder, for instance, represented a threat to the public safety. As the nation spread westward, so did common-sense restrictions on gun violence. Sheriffs in some of the wildest of Wild West towns enforced gun bans that today would prompt a recall election financed by the National Rifle Association.

This history was well understood both by citizens and courts. For generations, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right, allowing Americans to participate in a “well-regulated Militia,” not as an individual right to buy the latest weaponry at a gun show or stockpile a military-style arsenal in the basement.

False Narrative

However, in recent decades understanding the power of narrative on the human imagination a resurgent American Right rewrote the history of the Founding era, dispatching “researchers” to cherry-pick or fabricate quotes from Revolutionary War leaders to create politically convenient illusions. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of apocryphal gun quotes.]

Among the false narratives was the one about the Second Amendment, which the Right (and some on the Left) transformed into a supposed device by which the Framers authorized armed rebellion against the constitutional Republic. Rather than people who believed in the rule of law and social order, the Framers were contorted into mad radicals who wanted citizens to be empowered to shoot police, soldiers, elected representatives and government officials.

These “scholars” love to cite provocative comments by Thomas Jefferson, who was not even a participant in drafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because he was the U.S. representative in France at the time. But these revisionists still will quote Jefferson in a 1787 letter criticizing the Constitution for its commander-in-chief provisions. Jefferson argued that violence, like the Shays’s Rebellion, was to be welcomed. He declared that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”

It is ironic, however, that Jefferson was never willing to risk his own blood as that “natural manure.” During the Revolutionary War when traitor Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia’s governor, declined to rally the state militia in defense of the capital but rather fled for his life. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.

Despite his personal cowardice, Jefferson had a lust when it came to others shedding blood. He also was eager for Virginia to have a state militia of armed whites to crush possible black slave rebellions, another prospect that terrified him.

As a slaveholder and a pseudo-scientific racist, Jefferson surely did not envision blacks as having any individual right to own guns themselves or to fight for their own liberty. Reflecting on blacks who fought bravely in the Revolution, Jefferson concluded that their courage was an illusion resulting from their intellectual inability to recognize danger.

Yet, whatever one thinks of Jefferson’s racism and cowardice, it’s a historical error to cite Jefferson in any way as speaking definitively about what the Framers intended with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was not directly involved in either.

Still, this false history was advanced by the American Right in the last half of the Twentieth Century as a kind of neo-Confederate call to arms, with the goal of rallying whites into a near-insurrectionary fury particularly in the South but also in rural areas of the North and West. Many fancied themselves an armed resistance against the tyrannical federal government.

Southern whites brandished guns and engaged in violence to resist the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when the federal government finally stepped in to end Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. In the 1990s, “citizens militias” began to pop up in reaction to the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1994.

Winning the Court

While designed primarily for the weak-minded, the Right’s faux Founding history also had an impact on right-wing “intellectuals” including Republican lawyers who worked their way up through the federal judiciary under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

By 2008, these right-wing jurists held a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and could thus overturn generations of legal precedents and declare that the Second Amendment established an individual right for Americans to own guns. Though even these five right-wing justices accepted society’s right to protect the general welfare of the population through some gun control, the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively “validated” the Right’s made-up history.

The ruling created a political dynamic in which even liberals in national politics, the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, had to genuflect to the supposed Second Amendment right of Americans to parade around in public with guns on their hips and high-powered semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

As guns-right activists struck down gun regulations in Congress and in statehouses across the nation, their dominant argument was that the Second Amendment offered no leeway for restrictions on gun ownership; it’s what the Framers wanted.

So, pretty much any unstable person could load up with a vast killing capacity and slouch off to a bar, a work place, a church or a school even an elementary school and treat fellow Americans as targets in a violent video game. Somehow, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was overtaken by the “right” to own an AR-15 with a 30-or-100-bullet magazine.

When right-wing politicians talk about the Second Amendment now, they don’t even bother to include the preamble that explains the point of the amendment. The entire amendment is only 26 words. But the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, apparently find the preamble inconvenient because it would undercut the false storyline that they foist on uneducated Americans. So they just lop off the first 12 words.

Nor do Cruz and his fellow Tea Partiers explain to their followers what the Framers meant by “bear arms.” The phrase reflected the reasoning in the preamble that the whole point was to create “well-regulated” state militias to maintain “security,” not to free up anybody with a beef to kill government representatives.

This bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano

After last December’s massacre of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

The clear message from the Right has been that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) especially if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions.

Which brings us back to the Navy Yard massacre in Washington D.C. It has quickly and quietly taken its place among the other mass slaughters that can’t be stopped because the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted it this way.

These modern “revolutionaries” have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.” But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.




The Lure of Violent Revolution

It’s become trendy in some circles mostly on the Right since the election of the first African-American president but also a bit on the Left to talk breezily of armed revolution. But bloodshed is wrongheaded and reckless when political space remains for democratic change, say Bill Moyers and Michael Winship.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

We were struck this week by one response to our broadcast last week on gun violence and the Newtown school killings. A visitor to the website wrote, “It is interesting to me that Bill Moyers, who every week describes the massive levels of corruption in our government [and] the advocates for gun control, don’t understand that we who own guns in part own them to be sure that when our government becomes so corrupt we have guns to do something about it.”

About the same time that man’s post showed up on the web, we saw the startling survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind polling organization, the one finding that nearly three in ten registered voters agree with the statement, “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” Three out of 10! That includes 44 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats.

That poll also noted that a quarter of Americans think that the facts about the Newtown shootings “are being hidden” and an additional 11 percent “are unsure.”

As Sahil Kapur wrote at the website Talking Points Memo, “The eye-opening findings serve as a reminder that Americans’ deeply held beliefs about gun rights have a tendency to cross over into outright conspiracy theories about a nefarious government seeking to trample their constitutional rights — paranoia that pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association have at times helped stoke.”

Paranoia and just plain meanness. On May 8, Christina Wilkie in The Huffington Post reported that Connecticut Carry, a pro-gun lobbying group, had issued a press release detailing the arrest record and financial difficulties of Neil Heslin, father of one of the children murdered at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Connecticut Carry accused him of “profiting off of the tragedy.”

Their release read, in part, “Mr. Heslin has found the employment he has needed for so long lobbying against the rights of the citizens of Connecticut and the rest of the country,” and the group implied that he had received payment from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which adamantly denies anything of the sort. Similar smears have been attempted against other Newtown parents.

This hate in our country egged on by fervid ideologues and profiteering fearmongers is palpable, stirred by years of irresponsible invective against public officials and agencies. Gun sales are going through the roof. In a sense, so much anger and so much disillusionment are understandable in a country where the gap between rich and poor is so vast that an environment is created in which brooding resentment is easily hatched.

Sure, there is corruption in government and business crony capitalism is the offspring of it and when the public sees plutocrats who regard politicians as the hired help and Washington as the feeding trough, it’s natural to fear that we are becoming vassals; subjects rather than citizens.

But a violent uprising, with all the bloodshed and chaos that would follow? Armed revolt is when people are so desperate they kill and are killed. Who would wash the blood from the streets, restore order after the chaos and bury the dead? Have we lost our minds?

There is an alternative to force, blood, and suffering. It’s called democracy. Yes, there is plenty of injustice, greed and sheer wickedness. But don’t mourn the fact organize. Stop wringing your hands and berating real and imaginary foes. Join up with others, stand up to the exploiters, throw the rascals out.

If Congress and the White House are crooked and out of touch, come Election Day, you make sure they lose. And on all the other days, when you can, you work for change and demand a say. It’s not easy but slow, hard and demanding it takes long and patient activism to make democracy work. But with committed people organized and united toward common goals of social justice and accountability, victories are possible.

Drop your weapons and celebrate that we live in a country where peaceful change is still possible. Make democracy work.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writer at the think tank Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at www.BillMoyers.com.




Gun Madness v. Gun Sanity

As the gun carnage continues across the United States, the Right won’t stop peddling its bogus historical claims about the Second Amendment and rallying its gullible supporters to fight even modest safety laws. But victims of gun violence are finally fighting back, write Bill Moyers and Michael Winship.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

This week, we spent time with Francine and David Wheeler, parents of six-year-old Ben Wheeler, one of the 20 children and six educators shot and killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Francine and David moved from New York City to Newtown to raise a family somewhere safe. They could never have imagined that in that quiet place on a Friday morning, just days before Christmas, gunfire would take their younger son’s life.

The Wheelers’ courage and commitment deeply touched us. Since their son’s death, they have managed to cope with memory and hold together their lives, and the life of their surviving son, Nate, with uncommon grace.

Along with other Newtown families, they lobbied the Connecticut state legislature, which now has the toughest gun law in America, and in Washington, they walked the halls of Capitol Hill, urging senators to vote yes for the amendment that would expand the use of background checks for people buying guns.

Although a majority favored the legislation, they fell six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for passage, but the Newtown families, friends and neighbors do not intend to quit. They are part of a growing nationwide movement committed to changing our gun culture. They call it Sandy Hook Promise.

“America is in desperate need of a new path forward to address our epidemic of gun violence,” they write. And then comes the promise: “THIS TIME THERE WILL BE CHANGE.”

You want to believe with all your heart that this is one promise that will be kept. But arrayed against them are mighty forces, mountains of money, a corrupted political system, and habits deeply ingrained in the human psyche.

That Minnesota radio host who told the Newtown families “to go to hell” is hardly alone in placing his freedom to own weapons over a child’s right to live. The gun industry’s most conspicuous pitchman, Wayne LaPierre, is the walking embodiment of the sociopathic mentality, one radically devoid of empathy.

His National Rifle Association spent $18.6 million on the 2012 elections and then at least $800,000 lobbying the federal government in just the first three months of this year, pushing back against those like Sandy Hook Promise who have been calling for change after the Newtown massacre.

But Gregg Lee Carter, the editor of the encyclopedia Guns in American Society, told the Center for Public Integrity: “The issue is not so much how much the NRA gives any senator or member of the House, it’s how they can make their lives miserable. And how they make their lives miserable is they e-mail ’em, they call ’em, they fax ’em, they show up at meetings. They’re much more activist than the other side and that’s what really produces their gains.”

As the NRA holds its annual meeting in Houston this weekend (expected attendance: more than 70.000), you see their tracks everywhere. A kindred, pistol-packing spirit, the Arizona Citizens Defense League has been raffling off an AR-15 semi-automatic at their website’s online store, similar to the weapon Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They’ve taken it down from their site now, when we first saw the offer, there were only five tickets left, so maybe it’s sold out, but here’s what the offer looked like (including the Statue of Liberty brandishing a rifle, Rambo-style).

That same group cheered on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer this week as she signed two pro-gun bills, one that prohibits local governments from keeping lists of people who have firearms not that any of them were and another that requires police to take guns that are voluntarily surrendered in buyback programs and instead of destroying them, sell them back to the public. That’s right: get them off the street and then get them back on the street as fast as you can. Perhaps they should install a drive-through window at the precinct houses.

Granted, this is in Arizona, where the OK Corral is hallowed ground (reenactment daily at 2 pm) and there’s even a TV station in Tucson with the call letters K-GUN, but the mindset pervades across the country, even as there have been eight school shootings since Newtown and more than 3,800 gun deaths.

The killing field that is America never calls a truce. In Kentucky this week, a two-year-old girl was accidentally shot and killed by her 5-year-old brother who was playing with a rifle he had received as a gift. In Alabama, a stray bullet fired nearby killed a 24-year-old mother holding her 10-day-old baby in her arms. She fell onto a couch by the door still clutching her child.

Hold that image in your head and in your heart, so emblematic of a country that has taken leave of its senses. Remember all the dead from all the solitary shootings and all the massacres. Some senators suggest there may be another vote on background checks before the end of the year. If, as David Wheeler suggested to us, this is a tipping point for the movement against gun violence, the moment has come to push harder than ever.

Make the promise: THIS TIME THERE WILL BE CHANGE.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writer at the think tank Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at www.BillMoyers.com.




Crazy Gun-Toting Insurrectionists

Exclusive: Just a few months after 20 first-graders were mowed down by a deranged killer wielding an assault rifle, the prospects of restraining this gun madness are fading. A major factor is the Right’s success in promulgating a bogus history of what the Framers were doing with the Second Amendment, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Tea Partiers and their Libertarian allies fancy themselves the true protectors of the Constitution, but they consistently demonstrate profound ignorance of what the Framers were doing and why. It’s as if they are all summa cum laude graduates of Glenn Beck’s unaccredited online university.

Their sloppy history might not be a matter of particular concern if the consequences weren’t so severe, such as how it has frustrated common-sense gun control by promoting a false interpretation of the Second Amendment that the Framers wrote it because they wanted individual Americans to be heavily armed so they could kill representatives of the U.S. government.

A common view on the Right and among a few on the Left is that the Framers, having emerged from a war against the British Crown, wanted to arm the American people so they could battle the “tyranny” of their own Republic. This wacky interpretation has fed an insurrectionist mood in some circles, where these modern extremists assert that the elected government of the United States must be resisted through violence and that no limits on gun ownership can be tolerated, that citizens must be armed to a level comparable to the government’s police and military.

It doesn’t seem to matter that George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and other key Framers considered the creation of a Republic led by elected leaders to be the best protection against “tyranny” and that the Constitution’s intricate system of checks and balances would further shield the country from the possibility of tyrannical leadership.

To the Framers, American liberty was not dependent on having a discontented minority of citizens shooting the representatives of a majority of the people, which has become today’s twisted view of the American Right. Liberty was dependent on the rule of law and the wisdom of the electorate, though the Framers’ idea of liberty was selective, excluding African-American slaves, Native Americans, women and other groups.

These Framers and the first Congresses enacted laws for arming white military-aged men in “well-regulated” militias not so they could fight the government but so they could defend the young nation’s security, including putting down armed insurrections. Yet, whenever anyone tries to explain this obvious history, there comes a flood of e-mails and comments citing some inflammatory remarks by Thomas Jefferson or some other cherry-picked quotes.

These constitutional “scholars” don’t seem to know that Jefferson did not write the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. He was the U.S. representative in Paris from August 1784 to September 1789. By the time Jefferson returned from Paris, the Constitution had been written and ratified and the Bill of Rights was moving through the first Congress.

While Jefferson was in Paris, the actual Framers of the Constitution, especially Washington and Madison, led the national effort to confront the failure of the Articles of Confederation, which governed the nation from 1777-1787. The Articles had made the 13 original states “sovereign” and “independent” and had marginalized the central government as not even a government but a “league of friendship.”

Pragmatic Nationalism

Washington and Madison were what you might call “pragmatic nationalists.” They were profoundly afraid that the hard-won independence of the United States and the dreams of having a free country governed by the people, not a king, were threatened by the nation’s fragmentation under the Articles of Confederation.

Those fears were both economic and military. Washington and Madison believed that a strong central government was necessary to build the young country that needed roads and canals to connect the states and permit the development of the interior. With Washington’s support, Madison had proposed an amendment to the Articles of Confederation that would have put national commerce under the control of federal authorities, but his amendment was blocked in the Virginia legislature. [See Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Washington and Madison also worried about violent disorders, such as the Shays Rebellion that rocked western Massachusetts in 1786 and early 1787. The weak central government was incapable of putting down the revolt or defending the nation’s security. Washington fretted that the British might be behind the uprising.

So, with Washington as the presiding officer and Madison serving as the chief architect, a new Constitution was drafted in Philadelphia in 1787 transferring sovereignty from the 13 original states to “We the People of the United States.” Among other expanded powers, the central government was given the authority to regulate national commerce and federal authorities took on the responsibility to protect the security of the country and the states. Federal law was made supreme.

The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States as well as giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy (Article III, Section 3).

However, the Constitution wasn’t embraced with enthusiasm by some prominent Americans, including important Revolutionary War leaders such as Virginia’s former Gov. Patrick Henry. These Anti-Federalists objected to the surrender of so much authority by the states. Others, such as northern Virginia’s George Mason, insisted on the inclusion of protections of individual rights.

So, as part of a compromise to win ratification of the Constitution, Madison promised to incorporate a Bill of Rights, which included specific protections for the states and for individual citizens. The Second Amendment was added primarily as a concession to the states, explaining its preamble. The amendment read: “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.”

The reason for the right to “bear arms” was to have citizens who could fill the ranks of “a well-regulated Militia” for the purpose of maintaining “the security” of the states and country. Indeed, the key words for understanding the Framers’ intent are “militia” and “security.” This was never intended as a “libertarian” right to wield whatever weapon someone might wish to own for the purpose of insurrection. Instead, it was meant to support “a well-regulated Militia” responsible for ensuring the “security of a free State.”

Yet, the words of the preamble routinely disappear whenever Tea Partiers or Libertarians spout off about the Second Amendment. For instance, when Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz lectured Sen. Dianne Feinstein about the Second Amendment, he distorted the 26-word amendment by cutting off the first 12 words, all the better to confuse the true-believers in the Right’s faux history of the United States. The Texas Republican apparently couldn’t bring himself to say the words, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ”

Reinterpreting the Constitution

The struggle to distort the meaning of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights began almost as soon as the two documents were ratified. Though the Anti-Federalists lost the political battle to block the Constitution, they never relented on their determination to reestablish the lost “sovereignty” of the states.

Over the next two-plus centuries, forces that were pro-slavery, pro-corporate or pro-segregationist have sought to dial back the Constitution’s expansion of federal power every time the nation has moved toward a more progressive recognition of human rights. Over the last few decades, the Reagan Revolution succeeded in building a right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and those five Republicans have essentially rewritten the Constitution in many ways, including changing the traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment.

In 2008, the five right-wing justices threw out the old view of a collective right for the states to maintain militias (or National Guards) and replaced it with a new interpretation asserting a limited individual right to possess a firearm outside the context of a militia. It’s true that even that radical change by the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court detected only a very limited right to own a gun for protection of one’s home while respecting the countervailing needs of a society to impose reasonable restrictions for public safety.

However, within today’s era of Tea Party madness, the narrow Supreme Court ruling has taken on a much-broader life of its own. It has encouraged new insurrectionist fantasies among some extremists to the detriment of the lives of thousands of Americans whose lives, whose liberties and whose pursuits of happiness have been cut horribly short by gun violence, including those 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut.

[For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “More Second Amendment Madness.”]

[For a limited time, you can purchase Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush family for only $34. For details, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




Newtown’s Hidden Crime-Scene Photos

Exclusive: With solid Republican opposition and many Democrats scared of the gun lobby, Congress is turning its back on a renewed assault weapons ban, a collapse made easier by the refusal of Newtown officials to release crime-scene photos of the bullet-riddled bodies of 20 first-graders, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As a father and grandfather, I appreciate the feelings of those Newtown, Connecticut, parents who don’t want the gruesome crime-scene photos of last December’s massacre released. But it is now imperative that the people of the United States and especially the Congress face up to the horrible realities resulting from the nation’s cavalier attitude toward assault weapons.

If we are to prevent future Newtown massacres, we need as a country to study what actually happens to human beings when they are subjected to the violence of these powerful weapons. Yet, viewing these awful photos is equally necessary if we as a nation decide to place some twisted notion of what the Framers intended in the Second Amendment over the bodies of these 20 first-graders and the many other victims from mass killings.

It was unpleasant, too, for Americans to be confronted with photos of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, but without the public release of those images, the reality of that war would never have been understood. Similarly, in the 1950s, the mother of 14-year-old lynching victim Emmett Till insisted that people see her son’s mutilated body.

In both cases, the images galvanized the consciences of honorable Americans to do something to prevent recurrences of these atrocities. However, even those who wanted to continue the Vietnam War or who favored maintaining racial segregation in the South needed to look at the images so their beliefs could be measured against real human costs.

Similarly, we must all look at these bullet-riddled six-year-olds, some of them literally ripped to pieces by multiple gunshots from an AR-15 rifle. For some of us, such an experience as distressing as it would be would strengthen a determination to take action. For others who believe that the Second Amendment gives them the right to own any weapon they want and carry it wherever they please, seeing the dismembered school children would give them a new way to value their “right.”

If, after all, the “right to bear arms” is so precious, it would be even more precious after seeing the torn flesh and the fresh blood of these 20 tiny schoolchildren and their six brave teachers. Each time, these “gun rights” enthusiasts shout out their truncated version of the Second Amendment leaving out the parts about “a well-regulated militia” and the “security of a free state” they could have these images of mangled children flash through their minds.

It would be a value-added to their Second Amendment pride. It would remind them that their “right” is even more valuable than the lives of innocent children.

Or, it might give these true-believers reason to rethink their absolutism and perhaps study the real history in which the Framers never viewed the Second Amendment as a “libertarian” right to rise up against the government, but rather as a practical necessity for states to maintain order and to put down armed rebellions. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “More Second Amendment Madness.”]

Though some of the Newtown parents have understandably recoiled at the thought of seeing photos of their children’s shredded bodies piled together or scattered about their classroom, one mother, Veronique Pozner, grasped the importance of facing the grim truth. She insisted that Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy see the body of her son Noah at his open-casket funeral in December.

The bottom half of Noah’s face was covered by a cloth. That was because his mouth and jaw had been blown away as had his left hand. He had been shot 11 times.

“I owed it to him as his mother, the good, the bad, the ugly,” Pozner told a reporter. “It is not up to me to say I am only going to look at you and deal with you when you are alive, that I am going to block out the reality of what you look like when you are dead. And as a little boy, you have to go in the ground. If I am going to shut my eyes to that I am not his mother. I had to bear it. I had to do it.”

As painful as her message was, Pozner was right. The horrifying facts of the massacre like the 20 children who died that day belong to all of us since we live in a democratic Republic in which all citizens bear responsibility for the laws that do or don’t protect our society.

We owe it to the little victims of Newtown to view the crime-scene photos and to listen to their silent witness as to what “gun rights” actually mean.

[For a limited time, you can purchase Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush family for only $34. For details, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




The NRA’s War on America

The NRA’s rejection of virtually all gun-safety proposals is not only a repudiation of common sense but a bare-knuckle assertion of right-wing power, money and propaganda over the desire of most Americans to better protect themselves and their kids from guns. It will take a determined electorate to prevail, says Beverly Bandler.

By Beverly Bandler

The issue of the NRA vs. America is not only about the nation’s horrific gun violence epidemic. Americans have to decide whether the National Rifle Association and the gun industry should continue to corrupt our political system, whether the NRA with an estimated 3 million members and a management dominated by firearms manufacturers should control politicians and determine public policy for 315 million.

Or as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said, “The NRA is only powerful if you and I let them be powerful.”

The NRA has morphed from a group that represented ordinary gun owners into a front group for the firearms industry, whose profits are increasingly dependent on the sale of military-bred weapons like assault rifles.

Today’s NRA also stands astride some of the ugliest currents in our politics, combing the “Astroturf” activism of the Tea Party, the unlimited and undisclosed “dark money” of groups like Crossroads GPS, and the sham legislating of groups like the American Legislative Council.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, is in the business of selling the American public a “Hellish World” in order to frighten them into buying into the idea that their survival requires them to buy more guns, join the NRA and organize opposition to gun control measures. The NRA has been called a “cynical, mercenary political cult” by a former employee.

And the extremism is escalating. In May 1999, LaPierre said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period.” However, in December 2012, after 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, were murdered by a gunman wielding a semi-automatic assault rifle, LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He proposed that armed, NRA-trained vigilantes patrol each of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools, discarding the gun-free zones he once championed.

But the NRA is not only out of touch with mainstream America’s desire for common-sense gun laws; it is also out of touch with its own members. NRA members are much more sensible about gun safety than the management of the non-democratic, top-down, hierarchical NRA.

A May 2012 poll revealed moderation: three out of four NRA members believed that background checks should be completed before every gun purchase. Nearly two-thirds supported a requirement that gun owners alert police when their firearms are lost or stolen.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, noted that it is just the intensity of the NRA leadership’s extremism that intimidates politicians: “It only takes political courage because the NRA makes people toe the line against the majority view of the country. It’s time the majority stood up and said enough already. And the majority should have a motive because any of us could be a victim tomorrow.”

But the gap between the public’s desire for gun sanity and the NRA’s insistence on gun madness is best explained by following the money. NRA’s corporate patrons include 22 firearms manufacturers, 12 of which are makers of assault weapons with household names like Beretta and Ruger. Donors from the industry and other dark reaches of the corporate world have funneled some $52 million to the NRA in recent years.

LaPierre serves at the pleasure of a 76-member board that is stocked with industry brass, and which is all but self-perpetuating. Only one-third of the board’s membership is up for re-election in any given year. Voting is limited to the NRA’s honored “lifetime” members and to dues-payers with at least five consecutive years of being in good standing. One of the NRA’s 10-member nominating committee is the CEO of Freedom Group which manufactures the Bushmaster semiautomatic that Adam Lanza used to slaughter the 20 children and six teachers in Newtown.

The NRA’s political contributions totaled $2,850,033 between 2003 and 2012, 74 percent of which went to Republicans, according to Follow the Money.org. In the 2012 political races, the total percentage of contributions that went to the GOP: 88 percent.

The NRA’s traditional, regulated PAC is as strong as ever. It spent $16.6 million in national political races in 2012. It was joined by a newly empowered NRAILA, which kicked in an additional $7.4 million from undisclosed sources, making the NRA the eighth-largest dark-money group in the country. [Primary Source: Tim Dickinson: “The NRA vs. America,” RollingStone.]

The consequences of the NRA’s long-running assault on gun-safety laws have been devastating to American citizens. “Since 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in all the wars of the nation’s history: 1.2 million died in wars (from the Revolutionary War though the Iraq War); 1.4 million died in firearm deaths,” according to Politifact.

Author Tom Diaz has written that “In the four decades between 1969 and 2009, a total of 5,586 people were killed in terrorist attacks against the United States or its interests. By comparison, more than 30,000 people were killed by guns in the United States every single year between 1986 and 2010, with the exception of the four years in which the number of deaths fell slightly below 30,000,1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004.

“In other words, the number of people killed every year in the United States by guns is about five times the grand total of Americans killed in terrorist attacks anywhere in the world since 1969.”

But this death toll is of little concern to the NRA. It uses inflamed rhetoric about protecting America’s “freedom” and “civil rights,” but its real purpose is the selling of more and more guns and the expansion of the corporate power of the multi-billion-dollar gun industry.

“The NRA wins because Americans lose focus,” writes Tim Dickinson.

So, the only way to counter the NRA’s power is for American citizens to stay focused, committed and consistent, and to understand that this issue is not only about gun violence. It is also part of the struggle between America and right-wing extremism.

Beverly Bandler’s public affairs career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico.

In the News: “The Showdown Over Gun Laws From Coast to Coast” by Gavin Aronsen, Mother Jones, 2012-03-01. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/03/maryland-assault-weapons-gun-laws  

See also Mother Jones’s special report  “America Under the Gun.” http://www.motherjones.com/special-reports/2012/12/guns-in-america-mass-shootings

Resources:

How Many People Have been killed by guns since Newtown? 2,396 or more since Newtown as of March 1, 2013. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html
A Snapshot of State Gun laws. Washington Post.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-snapshot-of-state-gun-laws/2012/07/24/gJQAsfJp7W_graphic.html
11 Facts About the NRA. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/11-facts-about-the-nra/2012/07/24/gJQAJSNKrc_gallery.html#photo=1
Gun Control Facts By James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith. Just Facts, September 13, 2010. Revised 2/11/13. http://justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp
Follow the Money.org  https://www.google.com/search?q=followthemoney&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=fflb
Open Secrets.org  Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/

Suggested Reading:

Achenbach, Joel, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz. “How NRA’s true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby.” The Washington Post, 2013-01-12. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-12/politics/36311919_1_nra-leaders-nra-officers-mighty-gun-lobby
Diaz, Tom.  The Last Gun. The Last Gun: Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It. The New Press, (March 26, 2013).
Dickinson, Tim.  “The NRA vs. America.” How the country’s biggest gun-rights group thwarts regulation and helps put military-grade weapons in the hands of killers. Rolling Stone, 2013-01-31. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-nra-vs-america-20130131
Feldman, Richard.  Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist. John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (October 26, 2007).
Follow the Money. http://www.followthemoney.org/database/topcontributor.phtml?u=1854&y=0&incs=0&ince=0&incf=0&incy=0&so2=a&p2=1
Harkinson, Josh. “Does the NRA Really Have 4 Million Members?” MotherJones, 2013-01-14.
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/01/nra-membership-numbers
Hsieh, Steven.  “Meet the NRA’s Top 10 Enemies.” 1. Doctors, 2. Poets, 3. Women, 4. 90s Boy Bands, 5. Greeting Card Companies, 6. Churches, 7. Pro Football Teams, 8. Actors, 9. CEOs, 10.Interior Designers. Alternet, 2013-02-01. http://www.alternet.org/print/tea-party-and-right/meet-nras-top-10-enemies
Hickey, Walter.  “How the NRA Became the Most Powerful Special Interest in Washington.” BusinessInsider, 2012-12-18. http://www.businessinsider.com/nra-lobbying-money-national-rifle-association-washington-2012-12
Kessler, Glenn. “Does the NRA really have more than 4.5 million members?”  Washington Post, 2013-02-08. http://tinyurl.com/ah8r4j6
Lepore, Jill.  “Battleground America.” One nation, under the gun.” New Yorker, 2012-04-23. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/23/120423fa_fact_lepore
Moyers, Bill and Michael Winship.  “The Madness of the NRA.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-01-06. https://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/06/the-madness-of-the-nra/
Open Secrets.org   http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?cycle=2012&id=D000000082
Perlstein, Rick.  “How the NRA Became an Organization for Aspiring Vigilantes.” (Part 1). The Nation, 2013-01-09
http://www.thenation.com/blog/172100/how-nra-became-organization-aspiring-vigilantes-part-1#
Perlstein, Rick.  “How the NRA Became an Organization for Vigilantes (Part 2). The Nation, 2013-01-10. http://www.thenation.com/blog/172125/how-nra-became-organization-aspiring-vigilantes-part-2
Politifact.com 2013-01-18. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jan/18/mark-shields/pbs-commentator-mark-shields-says-more-killed-guns/
_______http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jul/23/facebook-posts/do-people-get-shot-every-year-facebook-post-says/
Reeve, Elspeth.  “The Executive Order the NRA Should Fear the Most.” Atlantic Wire, 2015-01-14. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/01/executive-order-nra-should-fear-most/61004/
Rosenfeld, Steven.  “How the NRA Went From Best Friend of the Nation’s Police to Harsh Enemy of Law Enforcement.” AlterNet, 2013-01-24. http://www.alternet.org/how-nra-went-best-friend-nations-police-harsh-enemy-law-enforcement
Rosenfeld, Steven.  “The NRA once supported gun control.” It may seem hard to believe, but for decades the organization helped write federal laws restricting gun use. Salon, 2013-01-14. http://www.salon.com/2013/01/14/the_nra_once_supported_gun_control/
Schecter, Cliff.   “5 Issues That Divide Gun Owners and NRA Leadership.” The NRA’s membership agrees with most Americans that our gun laws should protect our families, not the financial interests of a clique of elites. Alternet, 2012-07-22.
http://www.alternet.org/story/156416/5_issues_that_divide_gun_owners_and_nra_leadership/
Seitz-Wald, Alex.  “The NRA won’t support Arizona’s new gun bill. A new Arizona bill is trying to make it a crime to enforce federal gun laws. Even the NRA wants no part of this. Salon, 2013-01-22. http://www.salon.com/2013/01/22/even_the_nra_wont_support_arizonas_new_gun_bill/
_______“The Hitler gun control lie.” Gun rights activists who cite the dictator as a reason against gun control have their history dangerously wrong. Salon, 2013-01-11.  http://www.salon.com/2013/01/11/stop_talking_about_hitler/
_______“The NRA is the enabler of mass murders.” In the wake of today’s shootings, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler says we need to wage “war” on the gun lobby. Salon, 2012-12-14.  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/14/the_nra_is_the_enabler_of_mass_murderers/
_______“Why the NRA’s plan won’t work. Science and history show that the NRA’s plan to flood schools with arms is ineffective,and would be disastrous. Salon, 2012-12-21. http://www.salon.com/2012/12/21/why_the_nras_plan_wont_work/
_______ “The NRA’s war on gun science.” In addition to fighting gun laws, the gun lobby has spent the past 20 years fighting research into gun safety. Salon, 2012-07-25. http://www.salon.com/2012/07/25/the_nras_war_on_gun_science/
Smyth, Frank.  “How the NRA became the fringe.” MSNBC, 2013-01-28. http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/01/28/how-the-nra-became-the-fringe/
Stein, Sam and Paul Blumenthal.  “Why the NRA Is the Baddest Force in Politics.” The HuffingtonPost, 2012-12-17. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/gun-lobby-nra_n_2317885.html
Sugarmann, John. National Rifle Association: Money, Firepower & Fear. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 19, 2010).
Violence Policy Center. Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA. April 13, 2011. http://www.vpc.org/press/1104blood.htm
Waldman, Paul.  “Democratic Fear Inflates Myth of N.R.A. Power.” New York Times, 2012-12-17. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/17/is-the-gun-lobby-invincible/democratic-fear-inflates-myth-of-nra-power
Webster, Daniel.  “N.R.A. Members Vs. N.R.A. Leaders.” New York Times, 2012-12-17.  http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/17/is-the-gun-lobby-invincible/nra-members-vs-nra-leaders
Weigel, David. “The Nightmare Vision of Wayne LaPierre.” Slate, 2013-02-13. http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/02/13/the_nightmare_vision_of_wayne_lapierre.html
_______ “The Nightmare Vision of Wayne LaPierre.” Slate, 2013-02-13. http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/02/13 the_nightmare_vision_of_wayne_lapierre.html
_______The NRA Is ‘Winning’ The Gun Control Battle if It Loses, or Something.’” Slate, 2013-01-18. http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/01/18/the_nra_is_winning_the_gun_control_battle_if_it_loses_or_something.html
_______  “How the NRA Defeats National Tragedies.” First it scares people into thinking the government is coming for their guns. Then it quietly asks the public to pray for the victims of the next rampage. Slate, 2012-12-17. http://tinyurl.com/cl4xrap
Wilkie, Christina.  Wayne LaPierre: “More Guns Needed For ‘Hellish World’ Filled With Hurricanes, Kidnappers, Drug Gangs.” The Huffington Post, 2013-02-13.
Americans for Responsible Solutions  http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/    Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence   http://www.bradycampaign.org/   Children’s Defense Fund  http://www.childrensdefense.org/    Coalition to Stop Gun Violence  http://www.csgv.org/
The Joyce Foundation – Gun Violence Prevention  http://www.joycefdn.org/    League of Women Voters   http://www.lwv.org/  Legal Community Against Violence  http://www.lcav.org/   Mayors Against Illegal Guns  http://mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/demandaplan.html  National Gun Victims Action Council   http://gunvictimsaction.org/   National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence  http://lepartnership.org/  One Million Moms for Gun Control   1mmoms4guncontrol@gmail.com  Sandy Hook Promise   http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/   Stop Handgun Violence  http://www.stophandgunviolence.org/  Violence Policy Center   http://www.vpc.org/aboutvpc.htm




New Hope for a Second Term

President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address surprised some pundits with his strong messages on climate change, immigration reform, gun safety and other social issues. But whether real action follows will depend on a shift in public consciousness, says Robert F. Dodge.

By Robert F. Dodge

This year’s presidential inauguration on Martin Luther King Day finds us as a nation and people at a remarkable crossroads. We have the same daunting issues we have faced for years before us; and yet there is something different.

There is a developing shift in our consciousness and responsibility. We are witnessing a new awareness of the challenges and necessity of addressing them. What is needed is the collective will and steadfastness of effort to realize the opportunities that are upon us.

This year commemorates profound social events in history, from the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago. That dream and challenge is alive and vital today, and recent events have made the need to realize it ever more apparent.

From Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook, the challenges we face loom large. They range from climate change, gun control, immigration reform, to mass incarceration, war and social and environmental justice. On our shared planet, there is a demand for environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment. We must recognize that these issues are all connected. Not one can be had without the others. The tipping point on these issues is at hand.

Daily we witness the devastating effects of climate change, from year after year record temperatures and 2012 being the warmest year on record for the lower 48 U.S. states. We see the catastrophic global storms and record melting of the Arctic Sea ice. People are making the connection of extreme weather and climate change. The storms affect everyone, though poor and underdeveloped communities and civilizations feel a disproportionate brunt with resultant environmental injustice.

Gun violence is a public health threat and national disgrace. Averaging 87 gun-related deaths per day, the United States saw more than 30,000 of our citizens die last year from gunshot. Gun-related deaths are the leading cause of death among inner city black children and teens.

This “war” rages on everyday right here on our soil. According to Bloomberg News, deaths from these weapons of mass destruction will soon overtake annual auto fatalities. This public health threat has gone on for far too long.

As with any public health threat, prevention is key. A sad and paradoxical outcome of the Sandy Hook shootings and the loss of innocent white school children and teachers is that previous congressional adversaries to gun control are starting to evolve, recognizing that there is no “safe” population. They are seeing the need for some sensible control of our current insane gun policy.

Immigration reform has long been ignored or used as a divisive political issue. Yet immigration is a reality in our society and how we respond will address social and economic justice. Our economy is dependent on the labor of these “non-recognized” people whom we so often overlook and treat as non-entities. This is a complex and international issue that demands compassion and leadership to resolve.

Mass incarceration that flows from the “War on Drugs” finds 2.3 million people in the U.S. behind bars. With 5 percent of the world’s population the U.S. has 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated, making the U.S. the “incarceration nation.” Fifty percent of this population are men of color; this has been referred to as the new “Jim Crow.” This institutionalized racism tears apart the social fabric of our communities.

Finally, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan it is imperative that we look closely at addressing and eliminating the root causes of war. All war has the possibility of going nuclear, either by intent or mistake. In a world that remains wired for instantaneous nuclear annihilation stemming from outmoded Cold War thinking, the time at long last has come to make real progress in abolishing these weapons.

The cost of war and the military-industrial complex to our society and world in lives, treasure, natural resources, brainpower, and missed opportunities is incomprehensible. The entire war economy demands a complete review as we face the finite fragile future of our planet. It is inaugural time time to inaugurate some key necessary changes.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.




The Second Amendment’s History

In his Second Inaugural Address, President Obama reaffirmed his intent to seek gun safety laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre, but the Right insists the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to own assault rifles. What is the real history of the “right to bear arms,” asks Beverly Bandler.

By Beverly Bandler

“A majority of Americans tell pollsters that they believe the Second Amendment protects private ownership of guns,” wrote Garry Wills, historian and author of James Madison, in 1995.

What is the basis for this belief and why was Wills focusing on this issue in 1995? Does the sparse language of the Second Amendment actually guarantee an individual right to bear arms? Protect private gun ownership and the right to carry firearms without restriction?

What does “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” mean in the context of the entire Second Amendment language? In the context of the Constitution? In the context of the historical record? What was the feeling among the constitutional delegates about standing armies? Militias? Indeed, what were the politics of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

Is the meaning of the Second Amendment clear? If the “original meaning” of the Constitution is clear and unambiguous, why have we been paying the Supreme Court to interpret it for over 200 years? Why do some express a “majority opinion” and others dissent? Why do we have constitutional scholars?

James Madison was the author of the militia clause in the Constitution and the Second Amendment. What was Madison’s thinking and how do we know it? Are Madison’s words undebatable?

Have all the Supreme Court justices agreed on the interpretation of the Second Amendment? Why did the Court have one interpretation this amendment for almost one hundred years and then seem to reverse course? Was there a consensus on the Court?

What was the purpose of the Second Amendment? Was it to address self defense? To save slavery? To pacify the delegates from the South who were resisting support of the Constitution at the 1787 Convention because of the slavery issue?

No one would deny that slavery played an important role in the early development of the nation, but just how important was it? What do we know about the role slavery played in the Constitutional Convention and how do we know it?

Historian Gordon Wood notes that: “If we are to understand accurately the role of slavery in the making of the Constitution, we have to try to rid ourselves of our knowledge of what happened in the succeeding decades. The founders did not know the future, any more than we do, and most of them at the outset lived with the illusion that slavery in the United States was dying away and would somehow eventually disappear, especially with the ending of the slave trade. Of course, they could not have been more wrong.”

Politics in Philadelphia

What were the politics of the delegates to the Philadelphia convention in that hot summer? Was the Amendment designed to ensure that citizens are armed and ready to fight against their own government should it become tyrannical? Did the Framers consider the possibility of a “tyrannical” new government a priority consideration as they worked to produce a document designed to unify and stabilize thirteen colonies? Does such an idea make sense? What evidence supports the idea that the Framers feared that the new government might become tyrannical?

Were the Framers concerned about individual ownership of firearms or about “security” and “domestic tranquility?” Or, were the Framers concerned about maintaining order and avoiding chaos in the new nation, discouraging threats to its “security,” instability that could discredit the Revolution, and benefit its “enemies” abroad?

Has the belief that the Second Amendment protects private ownership of guns always been so? Or is this belief born of a disposition to believe that the Second Amendment is a “sacred principle” that protects gun ownership? Is this disposition of recent vintage?

Has the Second Amendment been “hijacked”? Have gun advocates intentionally misstated the law, repeating their misstatements and investing heavily in propaganda in order to persuade the public? Persuade the corporate media? Persuade courts?

The Right, the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby and even some on the Left given to romanticizing history have a “boiler plate,” knee-jerk response to the gun control issue, they would have Americans believe that the argument that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to own firearms is moot. Is that true?

And what about the term liberty? Just what does that word mean? To whom? Why?

“The American Right is fond of putting itself inside the minds of America’s Founders and intuiting what was their ‘original intent’ in writing the U.S. Constitution and its early additions, like the Second Amendment’s ‘right to bear arms,’ ” writes investigative reporter Robert Parry. “But, surely, James Madison and the others weren’t envisioning people with modern weapons mowing down children in a movie theater or a shopping mall or now a kindergarten.”

Abusing the Second Amendment

Historian Garry Wills wrote: “The recent effort to find a new meaning for the Second Amendment comes from the failure of appeals to other sources as a warrant for the omnipresence of guns of all types in private hands. Easy access to all these guns is hard to justify in pragmatic terms, as a matter of social policy. …

“That is why the gun advocates appeal, above pragmatism and common sense, to a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere…We must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it doesn’t.”

Few Americans know much about U.S. history, or specifically know history in relation to guns and the gun control issue and they do not do their homework, a comprehensive review of the related history.

The American public generally has the reputation for being anti-intellectual, ill acquainted with scholarship and considered to have short memories and even shorter attention span. Indeed, Americans appear to have given up reading altogether.

The result is that millions of Americans have embraced the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created. This belief is not accidental, it has been deliberately taught, the result not of serious scholarship and study but the result of an agenda.

The gun industry, an interested party of the first order in the individual right interpretation of the Second Amendment, has averaged about $3.5 billion a year in inflation-adjusted terms going back to the mid-1990s. Journalist Lee Fang reports in The Nation magazine: “For every gun or package of ammunition sold at participating stores, a dollar is donated to the NRA.”

Too many Americans, frustrated and confused by a host of issues, and perhaps easily given to irrational fears and paranoia reinforced by a shallow and narrow frame of reference, have willingly embraced the Right’s well-funded propaganda and attempt to re-interpret the Second Amendment and re-write American history. They are all too willing to embrace anti-government hysteria and succumb to manipulation.

As Parry writes: “Today’s American Right is drunk on some very bad history, which is as dangerous as it is false.” The Right has been repeating lies about the Second Amendment and U.S. history for several decades, but as Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “Repetition does not transform a lie into the truth.”

Americans are being cheated by a Right that is trying to reduce American history to simplistic, comic-book levels and steal our history right out from under us. (Revisionism can come in “Left” clothing as well.)

Longstanding Precedents

Few Americans know that there are two opposing views of the Second Amendment: the collective right model and the individual model. They are unaware that the first view prevailed for almost one hundred years, that it was not only widely accepted it was uncontroversial.

Professor Robert J. Spitzer discovered in the course of his research for the “2000 Symposium on the Second Amendment” that from the time U.S. law review articles first began to be indexed in 1887 until 1960, all law review articles dealing with the Second Amendment endorsed the collective right model.

The first law review article asserting an individual’s right to own firearms for self-defense (or sport) did not even appear until 1960. Eleven articles discussing the Second Amendment were published during this 73-year period. All endorsed the collective right model.

“If there is such a thing as settled constitutional law,” wrote law professor Carl T. Bogus in 2000, “the Second Amendment may have been its quintessential example.” The United States Supreme Court addressed the Amendment three times in 1876, 1886, and 1939 and on each occasion held that it granted the people a right to bear arms only within the militia. [See United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876); Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886);
United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).]

The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. As passed by Congress, it read: 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.”

The Right (and those who have bought into their argument) would appear to completely dismiss the first phrase relating to the militia, the phrase that gives the leading, primary meaning of the sentence and to which the second phrase relates. The word “militia” is defined in the Constitution itself:

“The Congress shall have Power . . . To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” [Article 1, § 8.]

Law professor Carl T. Bogus points out that the founders disagreed about how the militia ought to be organized: For example, “Madison favored a universal militia while [Alexander] Hamilton argued for a select militia. However, they agreed as a constitutional matter to leave this up to Congress; and the Constitution expressly gives Congress the power to organize the militia. Thus, the militia is what Congress decides it is, regardless of whether it differs from an eighteenth-century model. Currently, the militia is indisputably the National Guard because Congress has so decided.”

Twisted Quotes

Historian Wills’s lengthy and scholarly argument in 1995 was not to deny any private right to own and use firearms. He simply maintains that Madison “did not address that question when drafting his amendment.” He suggests that gun advocates lobbied using shoddy scholarship that included quotations that were “truncated, removed from context, twisted, or applied to a different debate from that over the Second Amendment” in order to find “new meaning for the Second Amendment” in effect, to sell the American public the idea that there is a “sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere.”

It has been suggested that the basis for the majority opinions of the Court in the 2008 and 2010 cases that provided support for the individual model (in 2008, for the first time) is also based on questionable scholarship and intellectual leaps. It should be noted that in both cases the Court was divided 5-to-4. [See District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008); McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010).]

Reporter Parry emphasizes: “The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison.

The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 weren’t precursors to France’s Robespierre or Russia’s Leon Trotsky, believers in perpetual revolutions. In fact, their work on the Constitution was influenced by the experience of Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786, a populist uprising that the weak federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, lacked an army to defeat.”

Law professor Geoffrey R. Stone strongly suggests that: “It is time for opponents of gun control to stop mindlessly shouting ‘The Second Amendment!!’ as if that ends the discussion. It does not. Just as there is no First Amendment right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theatre, there is no Second Amendment right to carry an AK-47 there. And that is only the beginning of what the Second Amendment does not guarantee.”

We citizens don’t have to become constitutional lawyers or scholars on the Second Amendment. We do need to take the time to do some basic homework–and not be intimidated by right-wing bullies and their deep-pocketed propaganda campaigns. We need to reach a comfort level as to what is known, what is not known, what is debatable, and what is a misrepresentation or outright lie.

The Right has given us nothing but destruction and death. Irrational right-wing extremists and their so-called “conservatism” have transformed the United States into a nightmare.

They have given us not simply extraordinarily bad manners but conscience-less coarseness; distracted us with nihilistic obstructionism that prevents our being able to effectively solve major national problems; made us look like backward, ignorant, unworthy and reckless fools before the entire world; militarized our culture with an authoritarianism that would echo the Third Reich; robbed us of our joy, our peace of mind, our dignity and our self-respect; de-civilized us with fear, violence and ugliness; “drenched us in Bloodshed;” indoctrinated citizens with misrepresentations, distortions, and blatant lies; attempted to make superstition respectable and madness the norm; polarized our national community; and they want to steal our past, our American history as well.
Enough.

Alternative Reality

I am on the side of the collective right argument, the argument that the Second Amendment does not protect individual gun ownership, an argument supported by credible real scholarship by real scholars that supports the collective right argument.

I emphasize the word real because it is clear that too many Americans live in an alternative reality that confuses belief with facts, and are unable to distinguish scholarship from fanciful propaganda and scholars from lobbyists.

We may even have members of the U.S. Supreme Court who have succumbed to what is nothing less than a National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun lobby sales pitch that fits their right-wing, corporatist, authoritarian mentality.

I believe too many of the American public, politicians and mainstream media have been hoodwinked by the radical Right, the billion-dollar gun industry and the NRA. Yes, we are over 300 million individuals, but we are individuals who do not live in isolation but share a society.

On a personal note: I know what it is like to face a 22 revolver in the hands of a 9-year-old boy (reputed to have been disturbed) just two inches off my forehead (in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early ‘70s). Believe me, I remember what the color “gun metal” looks like and know the sensation of feeling that all the blood has left my body. I want to see strong, sensible gun regulations.

I want the country of my birth to regain its sanity.

Beverly Bandler has worked in public affairs for some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico.

References on the topic of the Second Amendment:

Bogus, Carl T.  “The History and Politics of Second Amendment Scholarship: A Primer.” Chicago-Kent Law Review, Symposium on the Second Amendment, vol. 76, 2000. http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/BogusChicago.htm
_______  ed. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: The New Press, 2001.
Bruce-Briggs. B.  “The great American gun war.” National Affairs, Fall 1976. http://www.nationalaffairs.com/public_interest/detail/the-great-american-gun-war
Gehrke, Joel. “Justice Stevens: Second Amendment is ‘no obstacle’ to banning automatic weapons.” Washington Examiner, 2012-10-15. http://tinyurl.com/arynq8k
Goldstone, Lawrence.   Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits, and the Struggle for the Constitution. Walker & Company (October 3, 2006) [See review by Gordon S. Wood.]
Green, Mark.  “The Emperor Has No Guns.” On the “right” to own guns: “The U.S. Supreme Court since 1939 has ruled that only state militias, not individuals, have such a right.” [This 2007 article is prior to the Court reversals of 2008 and 2010 decisions but has value.] The Huffington Post,  2007-04-18. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-green/the-emperor-has-no-guns_b_46210.html
Labrunski, Richard.  James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights. Oxford University Press (June 20, 2008).
Liptak, Adam. “Justices Extend Firearm Rights in 5-to-4 Ruling. The New York Times, 2010-06-28. http://tinyurl.com/aqo72ht
McCoy, Drew R. The Last of the Fathers: James Madison & The Republican Legacy. Cambridge University Press (June 28, 1991).
Moyers, Bill and Michael Winship. “The Madness of the NRA.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-01-06. https://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/06/the-madness-of-the-nra/
Parry, Robert.   “The Right’s Dangerously Bad History.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-01-18. https://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/18/the-rights-dangerously-bad-history/
_______ “More Second Amendment Madness.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-01-14. https://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/14/more-second-amendment-madness/
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