January 16, 2011

the Second Amendment and the right to bear nukes?

What is so distressing about the coverage of the Tucson shootings so far is the general reticence to reopen a debate about gun-control and the Second Amendment, and talk openly about the need for PROPER LIMITS in accessing and using weapons. Remember, Jared Loughner bought his nine-millimeter Glock 19 lawfully and easily. So whatever may have led Loughner to commit the act, whether it was “Don’t Retreat, Reload!” Sarah Palin and the Tea Party antics, or the grammar of Mexican immigrants, or those aliens from hell, “whatever Loughner’s demons turn out to be,” writes Katha Pollitt,

what let him kill six people and wound fourteen was that he had access to a gun—and a magazine that let him shoot thirty-three bullets without reloading. (Indeed, the Glock 19 was the same model gun Seung-Hui Cho used to kill thirty-two people at Virginia Tech.) It's a little pathetic—has it really come to this, that it will be a huge uphill battle to ban something that has no purpose except to kill up to thirty-three people before anyone can stop you? Apparently, yes.

And, remarkably, the sale of the Glock 19 has only skyrocketed nationwide since the shooting!

Sure, the militia cult among my fellow Americans is hardly new. And, of course, it is impossible to prove that Palin, Glenn Beck, fat-man Rush, Sharron Angle, Joyce Kaufman, or anyone else on the extreme right led Loughner to go on his rampage; but it is also impossible to prove that they did not. In fact, it really doesn’t matter whether Loughner saw Palin’s website, or even the campaign ad for Jesse Kelly who ran against Gabrielle Giffords last November. These public figures are still morally culpable, at least, in pandering to and feeding the rabid gun-toting right which has only become more mainstream and normalized because of it. The far right sees cultural authenticity in guns and, more generally, in a military aesthetic which is boorish and brute - exactly the kind of thing people cling to when they are incapable of arguments and debate, and exactly the kind of thing righties these days like to fire up.      

Perhaps even more disturbing are the militia-men troglodytes who readily speak in in terms of the legitimacy of armed resistance against the US government. And, remarkably, they do so as Constitutional Fundamentalists appealing to the Second Amendment, as well as to the overall libertarian lexicon of “limited government” and individual freedoms more broadly. (Listen to Ron Paul talk about the Constitution’s state-of-nature clause.) Here Fundamentalists like to claim that their purchase and possession of guns and weapons are  simple testaments to – even a celebration of – their Constitutional right. A few have even brandished their weapons at public gatherings, (like town meetings where “the socialist takeover of health-care” has been debated,) in order to remind the rest of us of so-called “Second Amendment remedies,” (a term coined a few months back by candidate for Nevada Senator, Sharron Angle.)

But would this guy and others like him ever go so far as to actually advocate the armed overthrow of the US government? And should the FBI and others in law enforcement be watching them given their  Constitutional obligations? (Listen again to Ron Paul give his views.) Whether or not gun-nuts actually openly look forward to the day when they can wage insurrection against the US government, or much less pull a trigger, their organized presence can certainly intimidate and chill political debate.


Rachel Maddow began to provide some much needed perspective a few nights ago.

So what are the PROPER RESTRICTIONS AND LIMITS …and why? And do we want law enforcement actually having to contend with a heavily armed population which also incidentally happens to be ill-informed, xenophobic, and probably ill-equipped to use the fucking things anyway? Adding, Digby wrote,

Let's face it, even if the founders anticipated a future revolution when they wrote the second Amendment (which I doubt --- I assume the anticipated a future invasion.) But whatever it was, they didn't anticipate the kind of weaponry the government would someday be able to muster against the people if such a thing happened. It's a silly notion at this point that a revolutionary force armed with Glocks could defeat the government if it decided to turn its sites on the people.

So, for the sake of argument, why not tanks? Why not nukes? Does there come a point where the Fundamentalist reading of the Second Amendment undermines a functioning Constitutional order, or at least any remaining Constitutional order which requires peaceful assembly, due process, etc. Is the US Constitution potentially at war with itself? 

On another level  we must begin to realize that the heated rhetoric and overall “climate” in the US right now should be seen as symptoms of a failed two-party system which cannot adequately address a pervading violent, fearful, and increasingly deranged culture as well as a widespread persistence of political and economic malaise, individual powerlessness, and resentment that is felt by many, many Americans. So rather than try to begin addressing these issues, (much less even tighter restrictions of semi-automatic weapons like the Glock 19,) the response of public officials from both parties has been to call for calm while consider how best to ramp-up the security state even more, and spend more money on private security forces. “There are a lot of desperate people in our society, said Jesse Jackson Jr., “who may be unemployed, uneducated and despondent. They are susceptible to rumors, innuendo and anti-government rhetoric that only serves to inflame an already combustible environment.” And considering this timeline of political violence and threats since the US Supreme Court cited the Second Amendment in June, 2008 to proclaim that it was indeed unconstitutional to ban fire-arms, their pleas hardly seem irrational.    

As institutions increasingly fail, and the country teeters on becoming downright ungovernable, unfortunately for liberals and progressives it has been the Tea-Party and the far right that has successfully mobilized popular discontent. But a broken system such as this one only reflects and entrenches adversarial hysteria, some kinds more disturbing than others. Considering the violent acts and rhetorical antics on the right, especially during the elections of 2010, should the rest of us, especially on “the left,” start taking the Second Amendment into our own hands as well for protection? Criminals, gun-nuts, businessmen, politicians: everyone and their neighbor will have ‘em, why not us too? I really hope it doesn’t end like that.    



seesilly said...

(Hello, this reply mistakenly appeared in another blog below. You may want to make the correction.)

The rhetoric used by Palin and others wasn't supposed to produce a violent response just a fearful one. It is way easier to get people excited and motivated by juicing up the fear response ( end run around the frontal lobes like most forms of advertising ). Apocalyptic tone was simply a motivational tool and is particularly effective when the intended audience has a relatively high proportion of people who believe in the Apocalypse.

But how do you know Loughner was on the right?

pietro said...

I didn’t say Loughner was a card-carrying member of the Tea Party or a fan of Glenn Beck. Nonetheless he is a psychotic gun-nut who, insofar he was lucid, was obsessed with Giffords as well as with English grammar, and returning to the gold standard. Yet regardless of Loughner’s motivations, the act he committed, I think, should be understood in light of the lax-gun laws, gun culture, and hysterical ranting so dear to the Tea Party and NRA.

seesilly said...

Well he did drugs too. Should Bob Marley and the hipppies get off the hook? Played saxophone even.

pietro said...

point taken. Failed mental health and social services are also an issue here. Nonetheless if Loughner had not had access to guns Giffords and the rest would still be walking.