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What right to bear arms?

By Alan Beasley - posted Thursday, 27 December 2012

There are many who subscribe to the NRA’s rationale for preserving the Second Amendment: that abrogating the citizens’ right to bear arms would constitute a breach of their civil liberties. NRA lobbying power is surely vast. But:

Where is the NRA, and its fellow-travelling handmaidens, when other elements of the Bill of Rights are violated? Amendment four was designed to protect the citizen’s person requiring warrants for search and detention. Well that one got tossed out with trash when Bush’s Patriot Act was passed; and without a murmur from either the NRA or Congressional republicans who benefit so mightily from NRA donations.

Where is the NRA, and its fellow-travelling handmaidens, when Republicans, Tea-Partiers and reactionaries seek to subvert the Ninth Amendment (the amendment sustaining the Supreme Court ruling - Roe V. Wade - which supports a woman’s right to have control over her body, her health and her reproductive rights)?

Where is the NRA, and its fellow-travelling handmaidens, when its gun-totin’ fundamentalist supporters seek to overthrow the First Amendment forbidding an established church?

Where is the NRA, and its fellow-travelling handmaidens, when the Sixth Amendment is violated – that amendment which guarantees a “speedy and public trial…and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation”? Well, the Patriot Act allows surveillance without warrant, arrest without charge, extensive and secret detention and trial without access to either charge or evidence.

Where is the NRA, and its fellow-travelling handmaidens when the Seventh Amendment is systematically violated – that amendment which specifies that there can be no “cruel and unusual punishment”? Well, in the aftermath of 9/11, Ashcroft and Cheney and Bush effectively buried that Amendment with their active and wholehearted support for such tender practices as water-boarding.

Where was the NRA, and its fellow-travelling handmaidens, when the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing the right of blacks to vote, was systematically violated by many State governments for close to a hundred years? These state governments vigorously fought Lyndon Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965 in an attempt to preserve their Jim Crow discriminatory regime.


The Bill of Rights has been, and continues to be, violated and undermined. So why is it that such organisations as the NRA and the Republican Party and the Tea-Partiers argue vociferously and vigorously for a literalist interpretation of one lone amendment yet accept, or seek to themselves undermine, so many other amendments?


Remember, one Republican Attorney General (Bush’s egregious John Ashcroft) even went so far as to fight for the right of the Government to destroy gun purchase records - largely in order to retain political contributions and donations from the NRA. Equally, those same conservative republicans – along with the NRA – favoured maintaining the “right” (known as “straw purchases”) of an individual to purchase firearms on behalf of another who may have no legal right to purchase.

So much, then for that much touted and specious argument that the NRA and its fellow-travelling handmaidens happen to be passionate defenders of a sacrosanct US Constitution. The Second Amendment sought to provide the citizenry with access to arms simply because the framers of the Constitution considered standing armies to be expensive instruments of tyranny which could be used to ensure a pacific domestic population; and which, in the hands of an unscrupulous government could embroil the nation in expansionist and aggressive war. Since the US now possesses the largest military establishment in the world, then the provision for an armed militia no longer holds.

As with Christian fundamentalists these people and these institutions cherry-pick from their sacred text favouring only those sections which happen to accord with their interests. Perhaps there is much truth in the claim that the Constitution is the most sacred document they have never read.

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About the Author

Alan Beasley teaches history and philosophy.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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