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The Second Amendment’s Fake History


The Second Amendment’s Fake History

Robert Parry

False history continues to kill Americans, as we saw once again last week at Umpqua Community College in Oregon where a disturbed young man whose mother had loaded the house with loaded handguns and rifles executed nine people and then committed suicide – one more mind-numbing slaughter made possible, in part, by an erroneous understanding of the Second Amendment.


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The selective use of the Constitution reminds me of a preacher I heard when I was a kid, " Too many Christians use the bible as a kind of Sears, Roebuck catalog, they flip through the pages and pull out what they want" .

Unfortunately, the right and the left in this country have retreated into two mutually hostile camps, not willing to compromise or even to speak to each other...they just yell from the sidelines.

The writers of the Constitution clearly had no concept of automatic weapons and would not have wanted regular citizens to have access to them if they did.. Neither would they have wanted the government to confiscate a person's squirrel rifle.

The Oregon shooter was clearly mentally disturbed, even his own mother posted as such on online discussion boards. She was also a gun nut, who bragged about her arsenal and quoted the Second Amendment. The only problem was that she didn't fit what a gun nut was supposed to be...some southern redneck white male I suppose.. She was a California bred, minority, female, nurse....who's favorite activity with her disturbed son was to take him to the shooting range to shoot her AK 47. So, the MSM just ignored that whole slice of their life.Basically the same situation with the Sandy Creek killer.

So, both sides want to pretend. One side wants to pretend that having an arsenal at home (all legally purchased by Mom) didn't have anything to do with the murders, while the other side wants to pretend that the mental health of the shooter didn't have anything to do with it either.

All the mass killers (with the exception of the few that use other means- fire, explosives, knifes, ect) generally have two things in common...they have access to large magazine firearms and are usually male, and they have been showing signs of either mental illness or extreme hostility or withdrawal from society for a very long time with no intervention.

Why don't we try a two pronged approach. Make weapons of mass destruction harder to come by, and identify these individuals so they can get the help that they obviously need.


It is unfortunate how we try to manipulate the truth to win an argument and even an informed source like Parry does this in this article.

The truth was that in the language of the time, a state militia was composed of volunteers who brought their own weapons. The phrase does not refer to have a state army like the National Guard but a militia (as the term was used back then). A well regulated militia meant that it wasn't just a band of vigilantes but a group of citizens mobilized under the authority and leadership of the state officials. There is no provision for arming the citizens like there is for the army and navy. They were expected to have their own weapons.

It is also important to all of us (and in particular reporters who covered the contras) to remember that a defenseless population is a victimized population. In an age of re-definitions where we use tax dollars to pay mercenaries (more than our soldiers) to do the job our soldiers do, where we arm foreign governments and sell arms on the open market and worse...

...where our constitutional freedoms and rights have been replaced by the Patriot Act, where private citizens (employees of data mining corporations) can surveil and track others without their knowledge, where our intelligence agencies operate in secret and on our own soil, where the posse comitatus act becomes a anachronism, where we find a permanent governing elite and an oligarchy that suborns our institutions and legislators and our laws... people want to pretend that 'control is security' (a favorite phrase of fascistic thinking).

We become afraid to be free. Even Parry who knows of the dangers faced by populations in other countries that are unable to protect themselves. Where are the anti-gun people when police departments get armored cars and automatic weapons? Who wants that? Yes that is what I said as a free American citizen >>> Who wants a militarized police? Did I have a choice or did anyone? How did that happen so suddenly? Isn't the argument that American society is educated, civilized and technologically advanced and does not need to own guns yet that same society need to be policed by machine guns, armored cars, bayonets (how nice huh?), grenades etc?

I like that we are a FREE people. Not a privileged people whose freedom is offered to them by their government but a constitutionally protected free people who are actually free to own weapons. Freedom in concrete terms. Not just words.

We need to stop spending all this money on the military (and giving billions to other countries for their militaries) and use some of that money to provide social services like mental health clinics where individuals in distress can easily get help from trained medical professionals. We need to teach civics to our kids to instill in them a respect for our society and its institutions. We need to engage the young people who are losing their grasp on reality and stop depicting torture, mayhem and massacres on TV/film.

We need to fix the emptiness in our souls that make some young man want to suicide out in a bloody Big Finale like in some movie.

I like that Americans can own guns. It is a sign that we remain a free people.

I do not own a gun myself.


We're overlooking the irony that most of these "anti-government" gun nuts are almost always pro-war and pro-military, because they've been allowed to persist in the delusion that there is a difference between the armed branch of the government (the military) and the civilian branch that they see as a threat.

Likewise, many people who are "anti-gun" cannot bring themselves to muster up the same level of indignation if the killing is done by someone wearing a uniform in another country and the victim isn't an American. Then it just becomes a nebulous matter of "duty" and the reluctant act of a hero, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. Small wonder that the domestic anti-gun argument seems so disingenuous sometimes.


It is not about mass shootings. Gunshots are the #3 leading cause of death among young USAns. And how are you being "punished"? Nothing like this is politically possible in the USA, but what if the US adopted the Canadian law of requiring an exam and license to own a handgun, and barrel length restrictions to make it more difficult for the handgun to be concealed. How is that "punishing" you? You can still go hunting and participate in all other shooting sports. You can even engage in racism-tinged paranoid fear of strangers coming out of nowhere breaking into your home in the middle of the night and killing you - a type of crime that is vanishingly rare.

Are you being punished for having to have a license to drive a car - the car itself regulated by shelf loads of safety and pollution regulations? Are you being "punished" for not being able to own high explosives without a license? Are you being "punished" for not being able to legally own critical mass quantities of Pu239 or U235?


No doubt the gun advocates will dispute Robert Parry's claim that the 2nd Amendment confers a collective right to gun ownership in the context of regulated militias, but gives no individual right to "bear arms" in the abstract. Gun advocates cannot concede this argument, as it puts paid to the notion that owning a weapon of your choice is a constitutional right. But what the gun advocates cannot dispute in Parry's account is his delineation of the historical context in which the 2nd Amendment was conceived. Parry is absolutely right that the militia was given the tasks of safeguarding public order, with a view to suppressing slave rebellion, Indian attacks, and rebellious activity on the part of the lower classes. The idea that the armed citizenry was empowered by the Framers to hold in check the Federal government is a piece of nonsense, only made credible by the fact that selected quotations by Jefferson, Madison, et all would appear to give the impression that revolutionary violence was sanctioned by the founders. When the Founders spoke of rebelling against a tyrannical government, they were clearly speaking 'theoretically," as in the theoretical terms of political science. They were not saying that the American people should be ready to overthrow the real American government. In other words, their reflections had no immediate practical significance.

It beggars belief that a bunch of elitist slaveholders, landowners, merchants, lawyers and bankers would make it their prime concern to give their social underlings the right and the means to overthrow elite power, when that power became unreasonable. When do the rich and powerful ever give rights like this to the powerless? The NRA right wing narrative of revolutionary founders who wanted an armed populace to defend "freedom" against "tyranny" is just another American fairy tale, of the same order as the myth that slaveholders like Washington and Jefferson were benign and the myth that the common man has always gotten a fair shake in this land of opportunity.

Gun ownership in America has always been a matter of an IDEAL American community pitted against the actuality of the REAL society. When the 2nd Amendment was written, "the people" who might "bear arms" did not include African Americans, as in many instances they were slaves and even when free they were often not permitted to join the state militia. The ideal American community of gun owners was specifically male and "white" (whatever that means). The sense of white nationhood has been a crucial factor in the decisive history of the gun in the United States. White nationhood was central to the culture of the slave patrols and the army units that policed the "savage" Indian nations out west. White nationhood is still visible today in the politics of the gun, as the NRA has its greatest support among conservative white men, who tend to vote Republican. In other words, when it comes to guns and race in the United States in so many ways it is still the 19th century.

In a sadly-forgotten book, "Negroes with Guns," the author points out that black ownership of guns has historically been anathema in the US, precisely to the extent that guns signify a capacity for self-defense. It's interesting to note that one does not hear the NRA advocating that people of color should arm themselves against the deadly threat offered by rogue police, even though police murders of unarmed civilians is a well-known fact. One would have thought that the 2nd Amendment, as defense against tyranny, is directly applicable in the matter of illegal police killings. But the NRA remains largely silent, indicating that the defense of freedom is not their true concern.

The NRA is a simple front for the gun manufacturers, the merchants of death.


True. Most people only have to deal with the civilian branch on a day to day basis.

It has been my experience, however, that the civilian authorities have much less discipline and oversight than the military. I'm not talking about unjust wars, I'm talking about as persons.

I teach martial arts, have for decades. I've trained both military and law enforcement. I don't want to overgeneralize, as there are mostly good people in both...but my troubles have almost always been with law enforcement.

There are always a couple "Rambos" in my law enforcement classes. I can usually spot them within 2 seconds. I call them "military wannabees". They swagger, they brag, mainly men but some women too. They talk about the people they "busted up", think they know everything, and are uninterested in what I teach, weapon disarming and subdueing the suspect with the minimum amount of force and damage to either the officer or the suspect. " Hell, I'd just bust him up or give him a good case of lead poisoning!"..that sort of thing.

They seem unconcerned that they will have any negative consequences, because in truth, they probably won't.

The military people are usually different. Much less swaggering and bragging, more disciplined. Polite, More females, more racially diverse.. I rarely have a problem with them. Just my personal observations over the years. Thanks for your response.


You are engaging in a straw-man argument. Nobody is proposing a ban on gun ownership - only controls that will limit some of the types of guns. Getting rid of all concealable handguns and all guns with large-capacity magazines - which have absolutely no legitimate propose except in violent crime - would be great. Measures to prevent purchase of guns by criminals and the insane would be great.

USAns are not a free people - they are a people imprisoned by paranoid fears fed to them by the media and politicians. When I travel to Canada, the freedom and security I feel there compared to the USA is absolutely liberating. I haven't been to Europe since I was six, but really need to and I'm sure I would feel far freer there too.




Nobody ever characterized gun nuts as being southern male rednecks. The last two ones of notoriety were mothers of young men in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Roseburg, Oregon. Lots of them in New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Western New York, Wisconsin and Michigan too.


I agree with you, but if you don't think anyone has ever characterized gun nuts as southern male rednecks you haven't read as many posts as i have.


Yes to some restrictions on gun ownership (I see no point in my neighbor owning an RPG or grenades etc) and yes to more mental health services.

But when the amendment was written the word militia was not the equivalent of the National Guard. It referred to a temporary assembly of armed citizens called out for some emergency etc. There was no provision for arming these citizens and they were expected to bring their own weapons and membership in the militias was usually contingent on someone having their own gun.

That is the reality. It is not that the population should be armed so as to overthrow an unrepresentative government but that everyone has the right to be a free person i.e. they can be a single unit (person) of freedom as opposed to being part of an assembly of units.

Just like many people today no longer respect the 'innocent until proven guilty' maxim in favor of the European 'guilty until you prove you are innocent' version... people are losing their particularly American sense of liberty.

Gun ownership is an American right and while many would rather believe that somehow hundreds of millions of guns could be collected and destroyed and that criminals wouldn't be able to get guns, it is a fallacy.

It is fascistic to think that more control will equal more security.

What more control never equals is more freedom.

Americans are becoming afraid of their own freedoms and that is why we lose them and have lost them so easily.

We throw away rights that others fought and died to secure... it is our shame... our weakness... our fear of being free.


I agree.


The comment by J is not ignorant at all. It is a well-reasoned comment. Perhaps your pro -gun opinions can't accept reality?


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I think the author has forgotten one of the stories that most of us remember. The King and Parliament realized that as long as the colonists had guns their dream of controlling and expanding its empire was going to fail. They ordered the troops stationed in Boston and surrounding area to take the black powders stores. As black powder is unstable it was always stored in Armories on the outskirts of town, an easy target.

Not sure but thinking that it was a general Gage set for this task. Of course you all know the rest of the story. The general sent his troops to Concord Mass. to destroy the armory there. Paul Revere lit the lamps that told of how the troops would be coming and rode on through the country side warning the colonists that the British were coming. Indeed they did. The first community to confront them were the farmers of Lexington.

Those farmers knew they faced the subjugation of King and empire from which they had fled if they lost the powder for their weapons. They stood their ground against great odds and a shot was fired that was heard around the world. Before the British even reached Concord by horse, horse and wagon and on foot colonists from across the state from every village and town came, 300 to confront the empire. the British never made it to the armory as they were confronted from behind every tree or boulder the musket fire of those yearning to be free. The British fled back to Boston trying to out run the musket balls.

There is no doubt, today, that we face the same rulers of empire who do and will subjugate every single person living in that land today were not they afraid of such an armed force. Hence they build their police lackeys power with military weapons thinking this will be enough. Many of us today understand our governments position from the likes of our ignorant presidents who would claim our constitution just a piece of paper. Oh what a surprise they will get poking and prodding the sleeping citizens still armed and still the weaker force but with the anger of all the indignity that has been showered on us. One if by land two if by sea we will be ready and waiting.

Many do not own guns and dislike them. When they come and they will those folks will be cleaning their soiled pants while many others from behind whatever cover there is will be once again standing for their freedom and those shots will be heard across the globe as well.


Robert Parry's position, in my opinion, reflects the view of almost all serious scholarship on the origins and meaning of the 2nd Amendment. For a brief but brilliant analysis of the issue, I find "A Necessary Evil, A History of American Distrust of Government," by Garry Wills very helpful. The book is a series of essays and several touch on Second Amendment issues. I agree with Mr. Wills when he says one may look for other reasons for such a right, maybe a "natural right" to bear arms, but it surely can't be found in the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. This is an excellent piece by Mr. Parry, it brought to mind much of my reading through the years on the subject.


At this point, after the latest gun massacre, followed a few days later by the story of a 13 year old boy shooting and killing an 8 year old girl because she wouldn't let him pet her puppy, I hate the effing 2nd amendment, the NRA, the gun fetishists and all the apologists for this gun rights glop. I would love to see the 2d amendment repealed, hand guns banned, semi-automatics banned, armor piercing bullets banned, huge magazines, etc. Gun owners would have to be licensed, finger printed, have background checks and carry insurance on their guns. Maybe have a limit on how many guns a person could own? Would any of this ever be possible in this country?????? No, not ever. The NRA and the gun lovers are too powerful and too numerous. So the slaughters and the daily gun death toll will continue until the mass of the people have had enough sometime in the year 2199 if ever.


"No doubt the gun advocates will dispute Robert Parry's claim that the 2nd Amendment confers a collective right to gun ownership in the context of regulated militias, but gives no individual right to "bear arms" in the abstract."