Deconstructing the second amendment

Note, October 4, 2020: I received a text from a local campaign touting endorsements from the police and gun nuttery lobbies. Honestly, I have no idea how these folks even begin to imagine that I might support their candidate when I favor abolition of the police[1] and oppose gun nuttery.

It motivated me to dredge up my old research journal entry on my analysis of the second amendment which, to say the least, is not the one that presently prevails, especially in Pennsylvania. When I go into the raw text of my old Drupal database dump, I don’t know the date the entry was created, nor do I know the original title. But in this case, I see there’s an update. The entry, as resurrected, follows.

See update for October 5, 2020 at end of post.


Update, June 16, 2016: Since writing this post, I have learned that the late Chief Justice Warren Burger offered a similar view, saying “that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word “fraud”—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.'” I have not located a transcript to confirm the full text in the meme; apparently he said it on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1991[2] and was allegedly “expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum.”[3]


Fig. 1. Meme found on Facebook, fair use.


In the wake of yet another mass shooting,[4] I will here run where angels fear to tread, into an analysis of the wording of the second amendment. First, the text itself:

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.

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  1. [1]David Benfell, “On police,” Not Housebroken, August 12, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/10/on-police/; David Benfell, “Don’t just defund the police. Abolish them,” Not Housebroken, August 29, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/25/dont-just-defund-the-police-abolish-them/; David Benfell, “On the pretense of ‘law and order,’” Not Housebroken, September 11, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/11/on-the-pretense-of-law-and-order/; David Benfell, “Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts,’” Not Housebroken, October 1, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/30/donald-trumps-brown-shirts/
  2. [2]Cass R. Sunstein, “The Most Mysterious Right,” review of Out of Range, by Mark V. Tushnet, New Republic, November 17, 2007, https://newrepublic.com/article/76368/second-amendment-gun-rights
  3. [3]Michael Waldman, “How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment,” Politico, May 19, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/nra-guns-second-amendment-106856
  4. [4]Valerie Bauerlein, Cameron McWhirter, and Scott Calvert, “Terror Shooting at Gay Nightclub in Orlando Leaves at Least 49 Dead, 53 Wounded,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/orlando-nightclub-hit-by-shooting-causing-multiple-injuries-1465720691