Bring on the ‘well (un)regulated militia!’

We can probably assume that we’re on the way to inmate running the asylum, based on not one isolated nut case but input from multiple sources about how best that awful business in Colorado the other day could have been thwarted or minimized. The suggestion was advanced a few times by gun rights advocates that had the Aurora citizenry gathered in that ill-fated cinema been packing heat, an early takedown of the shooter would have likely spared the nation another episode of this gunfire- eruption grief it has so often had to endure .

When there’s sentiment in more than one quarter for arming members of the public as the most effective means of maintaining order, keeping aberrant behavior at bay, that sounds like cause for alarm. It starkly brings home how much those who favor an even greater proliferation of firearms than now exists, have controlled this debate. It reinforces why the Assault Weapons Ban passed during the Clinton administration got to its sunset date in 2004, only to make its exit, with nary a whimper about renewal. And it perhaps makes us reluctant believers of those polls which indicate, incredulously to many of us, that majority opinion in the U.S has turned against the need to tighten gun ownership laws and in favor of those who parrot the NRA line.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to his credit, was all over the shamefulness of the political mainstream’s non-presence on the matter of gun control, calling out both President Obama and his Republican rival and demanding that they both declare where they stand. The mayor correctly described Obama as having dodged the issue thus far.

The president, for his part, did do somewhat of a minimalist acknowledgment of this radioactive area at a campaign event a few days after the massacre, declaring that “we can all agree” AK47 rifles belonged only in the hands of the military. The comment was in a way reminiscent of the left-handed salute he made to candidate William Thompson at a Manhattan dinner in 2009 during the mayoral contest, Obama offering only a fleeting reference to fellow Democrat Thompson being “in the house.”

Bloomberg, of course, could afford the high road, a-political stand on the gun problem in his position of not running again (as far as we know) for mayor of New York or any other office. Indeed the mayoralty of New York, we New Yorkers can proudly boast, figures to be one of the dwindling elective offices in the country where championing strict gun laws serves as boost rather than badge of dishonor. At any rate, Bloomberg is seen as one of the few voices insistent on hammering away at lax laws that allow guns to be possessed by folks who clearly shouldn’t own them. Predictably, he characterized as “one of the dumbest” ideas the bone-headed notion that allowing citizens unrestricted access to firearms is the solution of choice for preventing these periodic bouts of trigger-happy madness.

An altogether different scenario for Obama. Not that he needed another wedge issue around which his opponents could rally, but were he to go all principled about this gun debate, talk about maybe introducing proposals to prevent guns from winding up in the wrong hands, the NRA would assuredly commit to appreciably more resources than it’s already contributing to help end Obama’s White House occupancy. They would no doubt redouble their efforts to influence congressional races involving anyone likely to be supportive of anti-gun ownership policy. The NRA likes lording it over advocates of sanity in the national community, making the latter the bad guys in a warped interpretation of the American ideal.

“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.” So says the Second Amendment. It is perhaps one of the great puzzlements of American jurisprudence that the Amendment has sailed along these many years, successfully maintaining its position as gun rights advocates’ stamp of legitimacy. Given the precise language in which it is couched, though, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that justices who over the years have let stand the claim that the Amendment gives license for keeping and bearing arms in modern American society, have been influenced more by political than letter-of-the-law considerations. How the now long obsolete “well regulated militia” could be read as other than the sole premise of the Amendment boggles the mind.

So now comes the beyond ridiculous idea originating from wackos evidently anxious to have us embrace the militia concept, or some facsimile of it, yet again. Aurora wasn’t the first such happening to generate this particular brand of lunacy. After the Virginia Tech. massacre in 2007, for example, there was talk that guns should be allowed on campus among the student population, and how much this could have positively impacted that situation. It’s unreal; going to such extremes — anything to avoid looking dead center at where the problem exists.

Or maybe these proponents of wild west vigilantism just want to get ahead of the curve. Maybe there’s some sense of foreboding in that camp of the Supreme Court brethren one day having the courage to engage that “well regulated militia” language with greater honesty than some of them have been wont to do.

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