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NRA Suggests a Police State

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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The Framers assembled in Philadelphia in 1787 to replace the ineffective, states'-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation. In writing the U.S. Constitution, they opted instead for a new democratic Republic with a strong central government. [See Robert Parry's America's Stolen Narrative.]

With memories of the 1786-87 Shays' Rebellion still fresh, Madison and Washington led the way in devising a system that allowed for the expression of popular will through the House of Representatives, elected every two years, yet with safeguards against hasty changes by having the Senate, elected (then by state legislatures) to six-year terms.

Contrary to the Right's current false narrative, the Framers were not inviting armed resistance to the government by adding the Second Amendment. After all, the Framers mostly were the government. In the Constitution, they also defined armed rebellion -- "levying war against" the United States -- as treason, and they included a federal guarantee to protect the states "against domestic Violence."

The Second Amendment with its right to bear arms was added to the Constitution with the preamble that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," indicating that its chief purpose was to enable the government to form militias to maintain "security," not to invite violence and insecurity.

Simultaneous with the ratification of the Bill of Rights , i.e., the first 10 amendments in 1791, was an anti-tax uprising in western Pennsylvania known as the Whiskey Rebellion. So, with the Second Amendment on the books, the Second Congress enacted the Militia Acts of 1792, which mandated all military-age white males to procure a musket and other equipment so they could participate in militias.

State militias were organized or strengthened, and President Washington personally led a combined force of state militias numbering around 13,000 men to suppress the Whiskey rebels in 1794. In other words, the first use of the new militia powers was to put down a popular revolt, not invite one.

Yes, I know the Right has cherry-picked some inflammatory comments by Founders to suggest that they wanted an armed population to wage perpetual revolution, but that is not what the historical record indicates. The leading lights of the Constitution were mostly aristocrats, like Washington and Madison, who had personal as well as political interests in making the American experiment succeed with minimal domestic unrest.

Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the most incendiary of the major Founders, but significantly he did not participate in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 because he was serving as America's ambassador to France. Thus, he was not a Framer of the Constitution, though he generally supported it.

Jefferson also was a notorious hypocrite, proclaiming that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 but justifying his slave-holding by arguing for white superiority in his 1781 Notes on the State of Virginia. As the nation's third president from 1801-09, one of Jefferson's principal fears was the possibility of slave revolts like the one that occurred in Haiti.

Indeed, contrary to the Right's current mythology about the Framers wanting an armed population to resist the tyranny of their own government, the Framers actually saw the arming of whites as a means of crushing slave revolts, as well as providing "security" on the frontier and the ability to put down other insurrections, like the Whiskey Rebellion.

Until 2008, when modern right-wingers had control of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Second Amendment had been interpreted as a collective right -- for a "well-regulated Militia," not an individual right. But Justice Antonin Scalia led four other right-wing justices in reversing that longstanding precedent though still recognizing the government's right to establish some reasonable limits on gun ownership.

Scalia is one who often insists that the "original intent" of the Framers must be followed. But he ignored the evidence that the Framers saw the Second Amendment as a means to promote "security," not insecurity.

It's also obvious that the Framers lived in a world of single-fire muskets that required time-consuming reloading between shots.The Framers had no experience with repeat rifles, let alone semi-automatic assault rifles with 100-bullet magazines, the kind of weapon that could kill 20 schoolchildren and six teachers in a matter of minutes.

Yet, LaPierre and other right-wingers insist that the "liberty" to own such weapons was what the Framers intended and is therefore inviolate.

So, to maintain this fictional "liberty," LaPierre and his allies offer two principal solutions: one, to crack down on the media for glamorizing violence (despite the protections of the First Amendment) and put the United States on course to become ever more a police state, where heavily armed "good guys" are on guard almost everywhere waiting to gun down some perceived "bad guy." On top of that there is the ghastly prospect that poorly trained citizens will be encouraged to whip out their own guns and start firing at every possible threat.

Surely, this is not what the Framers had in mind to "insure domestic Tranquility."

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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