Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guns For Slavery

The other day Ted Nugent exclaimed "Why would you resist that obvious opportunity for an upgrade in reduction of crime?  It's because the Pelosis and the Eric Holders and the Barack Obamas in the world.  They don't want to save lives. They don't care about reducing crime. They are absolutely obsessed with their hatred for firearms!"  (Where in the world are all these other Pelosis, Holders, and Obamas?)

Few eyebrows were, or needed to be, raised about the foolish comment of avid gun advocate and hysterical one-hit wonder Nugent.  But when a United States Senator-  one who advocates what is heralded as a humane immigration policy-  makes an idiotic remark about gun safety, people need to notice.  Especially if that Senator is one of the two leading candidates for his party's presidential nomination.

As long as Paul Ryan has not sullied the halls of the United States Senate, that would be Floridian Marco Rubio, who this week told loofah enthusiast Bill O'Reilly

I'll let you in on secret. I mean, the President is a liberal.    And this is part of the liberals’ long-time dreams for our country, and he sees this as a opportunity to get some of these things done....I think that the President — and he doesn’t have the guts to admit it — is not a believer in the Second Amendment, although he states that he is.I didn't write the Constitution. Neither did you — neither did he. If he doesn’t want it in the Constitution or he wants to reform the Second Amendment, then have the guts to admit that.

I'll let you in on a secret.  I mean, Marco Rubio is frightened of the National Rifle Association and doesn't have the guts to admit it.

On HBO's Real Time on Friday, Bill Maher compared the second and third Amendments of the Bill of Rights.  The second famously 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."  The third Amendment less famously reads "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."  

As Maher concluded, "the second Amendment is just as anachronistic as the third."   It may be even more anachronistic (more anachronistic?) than even Maher thinks.    The Second Amendment was born in an effort to enforce the institution of slavery in the American south. Thom Hartmann explains

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states. 

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings. 

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, "The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search 'all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition' and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds."

It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?"  If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains....

Hartmann goes on to note that James Madison's draft of the Second Amendment had read "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country [emphasis mine]: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person."  But Patrick Henry and a few others feared, according to Hartmann, "that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves."    Therefore, The Father of the Constitution substituted "State" for "country" and settled on an Amendment which stipulated "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."

If there were an actual, functioning mainstream media in this nation, Florida's GOP senator (as well his fellow hysterics) would have some explaining to do.   Rubio can't be asked whether he supports slavery or believes it should be brought back:  he doesn't and would summon up righteous indignation and exploit his background as a son of immigrants (though it didn't go quite as he has spun it).   But, as an esteemed member of a select club and potential presidential nominee, he ought to be asked his explanation for supporting a passage which was shaped to maintain the practice of slavery.

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