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More Second Amendment Madness

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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Beyond this clear historical record -- that the Framers' intent with the Second Amendment was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions -- there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation's aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land and favored domestic tranquility to promote economic development and growth.

So, it would be counterintuitive -- as well as anti-historical -- to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people -- at least the white males -- to repulse uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays' Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts.

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Fabricated History

However, the Right has invested heavily over the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

To build that narrative, a few incendiary quotes are cherry-picked, taken out of context or invented. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik's compilation of such apocryphal references.]

This "history" has then been amplified through the Right's powerful propaganda apparatus -- Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications -- to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today's gun owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.

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It should be noted, too, that Thomas Jefferson, one of the most radical-sounding (though hypocritical) leaders of the Revolutionary War, was not a Framer of the Constitution. In 1787, when the document was written, he was the U.S. representative in France.

There is also the obvious point that the Framers' idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.

However, people like Andrew Napolitano on the Right -- as well as some dreamy revolutionaries on the Left -- still suggest that the Framers enacted the Second Amendment so the firepower of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government and kill its agents would be equal to whatever weapons the government possessed.

This crazy notion would be laughable if its consequences were not so horrible. The human price for this phony concept of "liberty" -- and this bogus history -- is the horrendous death toll that gun violence inflicts on American society, including the recent slaughter of those children in Newtown.

Yet, instead of recognizing the actual history and accepting that the Constitution was an attempt by the Framers to create a democratic process for peaceful change, the advocates of a violent revolution -- whether from the Right or the Left -- feed the paranoia and the ignorance of their followers.

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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 secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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