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The Second Amendment: A Symbol of Freedom or An Invitation to Violence?

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"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." -- The Second Amendment to the US Constitution

You can largely determine where a person will fall in the debate over gun control and the Second Amendment based on their view of government and the role it should play in our lives.

Those who want to see government as a benevolent parent looking out for our best interests tend to interpret the Second Amendment's "militia" reference as applying only to the military.

To those who see the government as inherently corrupt, the Second Amendment is a means of ensuring that the populace will always have a way of defending themselves against threats to their freedoms.

And then there are those who view the government as neither good nor evil, but merely a powerful entity that, as Thomas Jefferson recognized, must be bound "down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." To this group, the right to bear arms is no different from any other right enshrined in the Constitution, to be safeguarded, exercised prudently and maintained.

From Declaration of Independence, with Firearm
Declaration of Independence, with Firearm
(image by KAZVorpal)

Unfortunately, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, while these three divergent viewpoints continue to jockey for supremacy, the U.S. government has adopted a "do what I say, not what I do" mindset when it comes to Americans' rights overall. Nowhere is this double standard more evident than in the government's attempts to arm itself to the teeth, all the while viewing as suspect anyone who dares to legally own a gun, let alone use one.

Indeed, while it still technically remains legal to own  a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at and killed. (This same rule does not apply to law enforcement officials, however, who are armed to the hilt and rarely given more than a slap on the wrists for using their weapons against unarmed individuals.)

Just recently, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a Texas man whose home was subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household. Making matters worse, police panicked and opened fire through a solid wood door on the homeowner, who had already gone to bed.

Earlier in the year, a Florida man traveling through Maryland with his wife and kids was stopped by a police officer and interrogated about the whereabouts of his registered handgun. Despite the man's insistence that the handgun had been left at home, the officer spent nearly two hours searching through the couple's car, patting them down along with their children, and having them sit in the back of a patrol car. No weapon was found.

In 2011, a 25-year-old Philadelphia man was confronted by police, verbally threatened and arrested for carrying a gun in public, which is legal within the city. When Mark Fiorino attempted to explain his rights under the law to police, police ordered him to get on his knees or else "I am gonna shoot ya." Fiorino was later released without charges.

A provision in a Washington State bill would have authorized police to search and inspect gun owners' homes yearly. Connecticut has adopted a law banning the sale of large-capacity magazines and assault weapons. And a bill moving through the New Jersey legislature would reduce the number of bullets an ammunition magazine could hold from 15 to 10.

Under a proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services, anyone seeking mental health treatment--no matter how benign--could find themselves entered into the FBI's criminal background check system and have their Second Amendment rights in jeopardy. They would join the ranks of some 175,000 veterans who have been barred from possessing firearms based solely on the fact that they received psychiatric treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Meanwhile, the government's efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration placing orders for hundreds of millions of rounds of hollow point bullets. Moreover, under the auspices of a military "recycling" program, which allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990. Included among these "gifts" are tank-like 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, tactical gear, and assault rifles.

Ironically, while the Obama administration continues its efforts to "pass the broadest gun control legislation in a generation," which would include bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, expanded background checks, and tougher gun-trafficking laws, the U.S. military boasts some weapons the rest of the world doesn't have. Included in its arsenal are armed, surveillance Reaper drones capable of reading a license plate from over two miles away; an AA12 Atchisson Assault Shotgun that can shoot five 12-gauge shells per second and "can fire up to 9,000 rounds without being cleaned or jamming"; an ADAPTIV invisibility cloak that can make a tank disappear or seemingly reshape it to look like a car; a PHASR rifle capable of blinding and disorienting anyone caught in its sights; a Taser shockwave that can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button; an XM2010 enhanced sniper rifle with built-in sound and flash suppressors that can hit a man-sized target nine out of ten times from over a third of a mile away; and an XM25 "Punisher" grenade launcher that can be programmed to accurately shoot grenades at a target up to 500 meters away.

Talk about a double standard. The government's arsenal of weapons makes the average American's handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

It's no laughing matter, and yet the joke is on us. "We the people" have been so focused on debating who or what is responsible for gun violence--the guns, the gun owners, or our violent culture--and whether the Second Amendment "allows" us to own guns that we've overlooked the most important and most consistent theme throughout the Constitution: the fact that it is not merely an enumeration of our  rights but was intended to be a clear shackle on the government's powers.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)

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Truly, th... by John Whitehead on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 12:30:08 PM
WHO ARE YOU KIDDING JOHN WHITEHEAD? You should g... by Michael Daly, artist on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 11:18:41 PM
 WE ARE THE "MAN" in manufacture The planet... by Michael Daly, artist on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 11:34:58 PM
..MANUFACTURE ! a glaring omission in your articl... by Michael Daly, artist on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 11:38:32 PM
If you can't defend your freedom with your vote yo... by BFalcon on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 12:07:27 AM
The second amedment seems very clear to me. It sa... by Paul Easton on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 12:06:56 AM
You forgot to include the part of the Second Amen... by Xman2 on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 10:21:43 AM
I addressed the Framers' meaning of "A well regula... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 3:31:26 PM
I followed your links which brought me to:  ... by Xman2 on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 5:32:05 PM
Armed citizens are the militia! ... by Bill Johnson on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 9:04:48 PM
The notion that: "...the Second Amendment's right... by S. Juniper on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 10:42:00 AM
Let's expand the discussion to include culture. ... by KurtB on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 1:40:38 PM
sorry but your giving a falsehood. glad I am getti... by zon moy on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 4:27:15 PM
So a man needs a gun in case the American governm... by Simon Leigh on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 11:48:22 AM
The Viet-Cong stifled the combined might of the ... by KurtB on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 1:27:40 PM
Reality check! The Military Industrial Complex n... by Paul Repstock on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 2:11:42 PM
Sir, I found your article a combination of contra... by Gil Tygart Sr on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 12:33:51 PM
Gil, I believe you left the 'ball park of reality... by Xman2 on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 1:24:34 PM
I would welcome clarification. If the author is n... by Gil Tygart Sr on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 1:54:10 PM
This article details a common defence of Gun Owne... by Paul Repstock on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 1:55:30 PM
I support total disarmament from the top down. I r... by Vernon Huffman on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 3:23:46 PM
>>" Nonviolent noncompliance is our best ho... by Paul Repstock on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 3:38:08 PM
Unfortunately, the ruling elite stole the power of... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 3:41:58 PM
Government has never supported "THe Right" to pro... by Paul Repstock on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 9:40:41 PM
sounds like the best option. ... by zon moy on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 4:37:27 PM
indeed that part does seem to limit it to those th... by zon moy on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 4:23:49 PM
Make two columns.  In one column list all th... by Rodger Malcolm Mitchell on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 4:46:12 PM
Excellent thought provoking article. I have never... by Taylor Morgeson on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 7:07:47 PM
The Milgram experiments, conducted in the fifties... by jon cranor on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 11:06:58 PM
Could you simplify that a bit for us ordinary fol... by Paul Repstock on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 12:39:23 AM
I didn't get that from what Jon wrote.  He p... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 12:04:28 PM
Thanks for asking Paul.  It just seems to m... by jon cranor on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 3:09:36 PM
A first I dismissed this as "If you can't blind t... by Gil Tygart Sr on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 10:49:34 PM
Evolution is intrinsically dangerous .  It's... by jon cranor on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 5:35:50 PM
In Federalist No. 46, Madison calculates that th... by sesquiculus on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 11:31:15 PM
To me, the Madison reasoning you cite--quite ti... by Patrick Walker on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 8:04:50 AM
How long has it been since the US military emerged... by sesquiculus on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 4:43:47 PM
That was then. Combat today is highly capital int... by Paul Easton on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 3:28:41 AM
Maybe you could, if you were quite content to die... by Paul Easton on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 3:32:37 AM
Climate change now threatens to cut a gargantua... by Patrick Walker on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 8:39:41 AM
Fukushima makes climate change a rather trivial is... by Amy Schreiner on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 1:07:30 PM
The second amendment is quite clear for those who ... by kappie on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 8:47:18 AM
Kappie:   The second amendment is indeed qui... by Xman2 on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 9:38:38 AM
About half of all gun murders are committed by bla... by sesquiculus on Monday, Mar 24, 2014 at 4:51:30 PM
The second amendment always was the anti-tyranny ... by David Mills on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 12:49:54 AM