President Obama’s Mule and the Second Amendment


Grieving friends and relatives in the wake of the Orlando shooting

Grieving friends and relatives in the wake of the Orlando shooting

By Edmond Y. Azadian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

DETROIT — A new day, a new mass murder, this time at a gay nightclub in Orlando. A total of 49 killed and 53 wounded, with the killer identified as a US citizen of Afghani ancestry, Omar Mateen.

Before Orlando there was San Bernardino and before that Newtown and … we have lost track already of the count, because it has become so common that we have come to accept mass shootings as a fact of life in this civilized country.

Investigations may eventually reveal the motives of the killer and whether or not he was affiliated with any international terror group, which of course is no consolation to the victims’ families nor any assurance to the survivors. The killer was questioned twice by the FBI and released. However, when he acquired lethal weapons two days before the carnage, no red flags were raised.

Whether the trigger was Omar’s personal hatred toward gays because he could not come to terms with his homosexual tendencies or his allegiance to ISIS is immaterial. The heart of the problem is the availability and abundance of guns for anyone to lay their hands on and commit carnage. And all this is protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

All laws evolve and change in time with the development of society. But not the Second Amendment, which was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first 10 amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

The Second Amendment was based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common law.

In 1876, the Supreme Court ruled that “the right to bear arms is not granted by the constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.”

In United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit the ownership of any weapon types not having “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.”

The Second Amendment was adopted when the US was still a frontier country and the Westward Expansion was in full swing. Newcomers to the land were urged to move West to claim land and found townships, costing the lives of many Native Americans in the process. Even 85 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, US Cavalry Commander John Armstrong Custer was fighting Sioux tribes at Little Bighorn where he was killed in 1876.

During the presidential debates in 2012, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney criticized Democrats for eliminating certain types of weaponry from the US forces, President Barack Obama retorted, “We no longer use any mules in the armed forces.”

The Second Amendment is the mule of US laws. It has been reinterpreted, refined and debated intensely. But it is still alive in the 21st century.

Here it would be too presumptuous to bring a legal argument in favor of its abrogation. But as citizens whose lives are affected by it, we can argue with our common sense. It is well said that the law is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

To many gun lovers, the Second Amendment is more a religious stance than a law — a sacred right enshrined in our tenets of liberty.

It is also a sacred cow for the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association (NRA), which spend millions to protect the amendment, making it a lucrative entitlement for arms merchants.

Politicians deal with the issue with kid gloves in order not to upset the powerful gun lobby.

When the Brady Bill was brought to the US Congress in 1993, the gun lobby fought it tooth and nail. The bill got nowhere near prohibiting guns; instead it only mandated federal background checks on firearms purchasers in the US, and imposed a five-day waiting period on gun purchases until the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was implemented in 1998.

Incidentally, Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against the bill, betraying an inconsistency in his socialist credentials.

What, in fact, the gun lobby meant, was that any person out of a mental asylum must be able to acquire guns. This means that my life and my safety are dependent on the sanity of my armed neighbors. I have no other protection. Our entire society is hostage to the dark motives of lunatics.

The defense of the Second Amendment and consequently the right to own arms should not be politicized as the life of ordinary citizens is affected by it. Nor should it be enshrined in Republican dogma, since Republicans are also vulnerable to assault by arms. The Brady Bill was named for James Brady, an aide to President Ronald Reagan, who was seriously injured during an assassination attempt on the president in 1981.

Every times a mass murder takes place in the US, gun prices soar sky high. Why? Because the gun lobby uses scare tactics suggesting that the government can adopt bills to restrict gun sales, or President Obama may issue an executive order to limit gun use and confiscate existing guns.

Like any professional salesman, the NRA has catchy slogans to promote its business. One of the slogan is: “Only a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun.”

The adage is false, because there is the element of surprise. Any criminal with a gun has the added element of surprise going for him or her.

To disprove the slogan, it is worth finding statistics on how many “good persons” have been successful in self-defense, in that kind of tense situation. Most probably, very few.

The other slogan which is equally false is: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

But the availability and abundance of guns empower potential murderers to dominate their victims quickly.

Of course, there is also the argument that if someone is determined to kill a person, he or she can use any kind of weapon. That may be true but still, the presence of a gun increases the odds for committing a crime.

The rights to gun ownership and freedom of speech have their limitations. The French philosopher Voltaire said, “I will defend your right to free speech to death, but your freedom stops where my nose begins.” The freedom to own guns causes nose bleeds for the great majority, yet its defenders persist in their zeal to defend their dangerous game.

The film “Bowling for Columbine” by Michael Moore is an outstanding indictment of the gun lobby. Many statistical data are provided in the documentary and the US is compared to many other countries such as Canada, where gun control is strict, and fewer people fall victim to gun crimes.

The ordinary citizen has the right to argue that if the government has allowed loopholes in the law for me to buy a gun for self-defense, then that government, which taxes my income to the last penny, has abandoned its obligation to protect me. Either I should be entitled to a refund or the government has to allow loopholes in other services, such as in foreign policy. Like the issue of self-defense, the citizen must conduct his or her own foreign policy individually or ask the government not to send taxpayer money and arms to Turkey, to be used for killing Kurds.

All these arguments may look absurd but they are not as absurd as the implication of the Second Amendment.

Gun lobby activists ignore the latter part of the amendment. The thrust of the Second Amendment entitles the individual to bear arms “in a well-regulated militia.” The requirement thus intends the citizen to be armed to defend the republic, something they do not have to do anymore since the country already has an army. The gift of life is precious and irreplaceable; guns are replacable and disposable.

To bring the US up to the standards of Canada or Scandinavian countries, the entire population of the country needs to be disarmed. That is a challenge not only to a militia but also to the entire US armed forces.

Otherwise, we have to wait for the next Orlando, San Bernardino or Columbine.

The gun laws are obsolete as is the use of mules in the US army.