“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America
The preamble is, in effect, the mission statement for the Constitution. It offers, as its purpose for existence, the following goals:
- to form a more perfect Union
- to establish Justice
- to ensure domestic Tranquility
- to provide for the common defense
- to promote the general Welfare
- to secure the Blessings of Liberty to this generation and those to follow
I would like to highlight a few of these points–again, explicit reasons for the initial ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, and contrast these to the present debate over the “right to bear arms” in the wake of the swell of mass shootings, which are increasing in both frequency and severity across our great land.
Let’s start with number 1. The Constitution was developed to bring cohesion to the collected states, which were heretofore unbound in community to one another. The Second Amendment states:
“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.”Second Amendment to the Constitution
With regard to this language, it is common knowledge that the original intent of this amendment was to protect the autonomy of individual states (and the citizens therein) from tyrannical rule and undue dominion by an overtly powerful federal government. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that the amendment itself is part of a larger document, which set forth in its very introduction (the Preamble) that its purpose was to bring unity to the nation as a whole. Here, we already have paradox in play: we, in this new nation, would like to maintain our autonomy, yet also, we would like to be unified. I will concede that the two points are not mutually exclusive–such is the beauty of paradox, is it not? Two contradictory points convene. Do they counteract one another or produce something altogether new?
The second reason for the constitution is to establish Justice. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, justice is “the administration of law or authority in maintaining this.” Cool. We have this constitution to help us determine what is legal, what isn’t, and how to handle it when people obstruct justice by breaking the law. Got it. Let’s move on…
The third reason for the Constitution is to “ensure domestic Tranquility.” Tranquility means peace! Domestic means home or family. Thus, our country is our home, our countrymen are our family, and one of the reasons for ratification of the Constitution in its original form was to make sure we kept peace here in this place with these people coexisting here. The fourth reason? To provide for the “common defense.” Great! Now, we are talking about defending our land. Our people.
Reason five? To promote the general welfare. This means the document was enacted with the goal of creating good living conditions for most people. Finally, the Constitution of the U.S. of A. was ratified to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” (otherwise known as freedom) to “ourselves and our Posterity,” which means this legal, binding document was created to secure freedom for the people who were here in the beginning and all of their spawn, as well as their spawn, and so on…
Within the context of the development of the Constitution, let’s consider, for a moment, the Second Amendment and its implications. At the time that it was ratified, our nation was small. We were the underdog. Citizens and small governing bodies were still healing from the collective trauma of a Revolutionary War. Distrust of governing officials was warranted (yes, yes, it is still warranted today), but being such a new nation with no legislative history, our founding fathers had to be proactive against the perceived threats of their time. The amendment was ratified, ensuring the right, by the people, to bear arms, to establish a well regulated State militia. Courts and legislators are still arguing over whether the law was written with the intent of ensuring the right to citizens as a collective or as individuals to bear arms. Today, I would like to argue that the debate itself is irrelevant. Whether the law was established to grant the right to individuals or to collective citizenry, I believe it is absolutely irrelevant to our current time and place.
Would you like to understand why I feel this way? I am more than happy to elucidate. The initial impetus behind the second amendment was the protection of the citizens. This is clear, as it falls under the umbrella of the Constitution which was effected to ensure peace on our soil, provide for the common (collective) defense, and to promote the general welfare. Currently, with the mass production and accessibility of weapons (including automatic assault weapons), the transitory aspects of life in our nation (due to an intricate transportation infrastructure), and the extra-temporal and extra-spatial inter-connection offered by the world wide web, the antiquated language articulating these archaic rules is no longer effective in ensuring the fundamental rights of American citizens as delineated in the preamble to the Constitution. While at the time of ratification, the amendment served as protection against the threat posed by the government, our current threat (at least of the violent variety) comes from our fellow citizens, and it is completely random and in many ways unforeseeable. As such, the right to bear arms, set forth in the second amendment, is no longer doing its job of ensuring tranquility, providing for common defense, or promoting the general welfare of our people. On the contrary, the right to bear arms has shifted from a right to protect oneself to a necessity–a responsibility–a burden.
I am a pacifist. I have no desire to wield a weapon. Even if trained to do so, in the midst of crisis, I do not think I could take it upon myself to point a gun or shoot a trigger–even if it meant saving my life and the lives of others to do so. Why is this important? Well, in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shooting, the Florida governor signed a law that allows classroom teachers to arm themselves. What is the implication of this sort of legislation to me–an average American citizen? This legislation communicates one thing, and one thing only. It says–Honey, you are on your own! You want to make sure you are safe from armed madmen who shower bystanders in the unforgiving spray of automatically discharged artillery? Ok. Go get yourself a handgun. Learn how to use it. Carry it everywhere you go. Because me—your government? I’m not going to intervene at all for the sake of your protection. You are on your own.
It’s like sending a kid to school, on a bus full of bullies, armed with pepper spray.
It’s a losing battle.
No. I do not think the right to bear arms is an unalienable right. On the contrary, I think it is a burden. We Americans are being left to fend for ourselves with little to no real protection, while the bullies have been given unbound access to all the equipment they need to realize their savage perversions. I don’t care what the original intent of the “right to bear arms” was. I do care about my right to tranquility, to defense (as a member of a collective citizenry who is not equipped to defend myself), and to my well-being and that of my family, and that of my friends, and that of all the other average Americans who don’t want to have panic attacks every time they need to go to Walmart for toilet paper. (I am editing this to include non-Americans, too, because I don’t care who you are when you go to Walmart, wherever that Walmart is, You deserve to be treated with basic human dignity–the right to exist, in my opinion, is far more valuable than the right to bear arms).
God bless the USA! (Click the link for an awesome Weezer video)