If Soldiers Are Quartered, Only Militias Will Be Regulated

Ben Pollock, leaving a big meeting, October 2010
The author, leaving a big meeting, 2010

The Second Amendment has had a free ride for too long. Sure, laws and regulations on firearms purchases have been developed from it, but numerous events indicate their effectiveness is minimal.

Now that it’s 72 hours after a 20-year-old whacko killed his gun-loving mother and took her guns to a nearby grade school, killed 20 young children, six adults then shot himself in the head, we pinkos (as opposed to the reddies and the bluesers) should admit that maybe Newtown couldn’t have been prevented. Mama Whack owned the weaponry, apparently legally. Twenty Whack’s issues probably didn’t look that threatening, before Dec. 14.

We can’t arrest someone before a crime; Minority Report is science fiction. For a few more years.

But quickly and decisively revising who gets to possess which kinds of arms can have an impact on the enraged  attitude of “I’ll Show Them.” Other countries have whackos — Norway and China are recent examples — but with America, second place is no contest. The explanation: Other countries control weapons more stringently.

Revising a mental health care system will take longer than a couple of months. Mainstreaming the emotionally dysfunctional decades ago was intended to curb cruel, ineffective practices. Exchanging one extreme for the other causes its own failures too often.

In short, let’s not fight the last war.

We did not stop Twenty-Whack or the other dozens of Yankee psycho shoot-em-ups of recent years.

Let’s plan for the next war.

We start by setting fire to the Straw Man, in this circumstance, the Second Amendment.

Here’s the old sentence itself, straight from the quill pen of Little Jimmy Madison:

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.”

Not even the First Amendment has had the same kind of liberty over the centuries: Courts give freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly and petition a nearly limitless berth. But these tolerate some boundaries.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

What are the constraints on the First Amendment? There are any number of relatively specific limits and expansions (watch the double negatives, legal beagles), such as the recent Citizens United case allowing corporations freedom of speech with which to support or vilify political candidates.

Yet there remains a sweeping Freedom of Speech impediment, and a comparable stumbling block needs to be set before the foot of the Second Amendment. “FIRE!”

Nearly a century ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment does not protect against maliciously causing a panic.

Americans do not have the right to create a “clear and present danger,” said Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., writing for the court. His sentence: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

The Constitution and its Amendments comprise a living document. This case, Schenk v. United States, seems overly limiting to civil liberties. In fact the ruling was overturned 50 years later in Brandenburg v. Ohio. But the “shouting fire” example holds.

The Constitution gains its strength from being reconfigured for each era. That’s why the Third Amendment has been ignored:

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.”

If there is a limit to extraordinarily reckless or malicious speech, in causing panics or riots, why can’t a liberty loving republic control the violent possibilities of reckless or malicious people?

Have you noticed? I am no lawyer.

But our nation can’t keep handicapping itself with laws that don’t actually exist. State Guard units have nada to do with owning firearms for marksmanship, personal protection and for hunting. The best that 18-century guns could fire was three shots a minute. Since then, the number of people hurt and killed by gun mishaps is heartbreaking.

We can help the irrationally violent better than we have been. (By help I mean hinder them.) We can control weapons to a greater degree. We must.

Copyright 2012 Ben S. Pollock

2 thoughts on “If Soldiers Are Quartered, Only Militias Will Be Regulated

  1. Thanks, Ben. I am just so sad to think that yet again, we will not rise above the helplessness for long enough to do something about this culture of violence. “Have nots” can so easily, with the simple purchase of a weapon, instantly become “haves” if only for a few minutes. The guns and violence are a symptom. The inequality has become epidemic.

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