Sorry Bernie, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not about hunting, and it doesn’t only matter to your rural constituency. It’s not even about self defense or defense of family. It’s not that hunting and self defense are not entirely defensible and noble rights. They are products of our second amendment right. When they are placed at the center of a debate on gun rights in America as purposes, however, they minimize the fundamental importance of the Second Amendment to our status as the freest and greatest nation on the planet Earth.
And we are still the greatest and the freest, despite the modern trend of politicians to plead with the American people, and whine about how we are the “only developed nation” who hasn’t done this or that. Since when did it become our goal to “catch up” with the social and political norms of failing nations, the citizens of which cannot wait to come to the United States for the opportunity our almost-capitalism brings, and the personal almost-freedom our constitution and Bill of Rights deliver. Of the nations cited, from which we should absorb the learned and enlightened lessons of progressive policy, most are a fraction of our size and almost all are directly or indirectly tied to the stagnating remnant of a failed British Empire from which we fought to gain independence.
Much of the blame for the misplaced emphasis on hunting and self defense falls on the organization that every self-respecting socialist loves to hate: The National Rife Association. The most recent Democrat Debate featured a hilarious contest, between candidates vying for the heart of the liberal base, comparing voting “grades” issued by the NRA. Of course, an “F” from the NRA is a prized possession in today’s Democratic Party. The problematic result of this narrowing or ‘dumbing down’ of our right, is that it implies that we must continually offer up a functional justification for our right to bear arms; as if we must literally answer the hysterical liberal moaning of “how many guns do you need!?!”
A brief note of caution to the constitutional conservative regarding the NRA: This organization has been around for a long time, much like the GOP, and while they are generally on the right side of an issue, they have matured into their own brand of big-money “establishment” where principles take a back seat to power. This was made clear, for those who were paying attention, by the NRAs refusal to support the landmark case of D.C. v. Heller, resenting the libertarian attorneys’ bold infringement on “their turf”. Much like the GOP Establishment, the NRA operates solely within the confines of Realpolitik and the give and take of lobbying and big dollars. They were unwilling to take the risk that led to the clearest and most profound supreme court decision on the second amendment to date. The NRA is not the enemy, but they may have played a role in conveying the perhaps small-minded view that our individual rights under the second amendment are supported only by, and are limited to, our freedom to take wild hogs and defend our home from burglars. We can support them, but we must not grant them a monopoly on this individual right, just as we have not relegated guardianship of our free speech rights to any one organization.
The Second Amendment is about liberty, and defense against oppression from the government. The militia reference in the text of the amendment (explanatory, not conditional) does not refer to the United States Army. What government would need to create individual constitutional rights to give guns to its own defense force? The contemplated militia is made up of free and independent citizens, who must have no impediment to, or infringement on the ability to rise up against a tyrannical government. This right is necessary to the security of a free state, which is far more powerful than “necessary to a happy hunter” or “necessary to family home safety”. It is no coincidence that the rights nearest to the heart of our liberty were embodied in amendments 1 and 2 of the Bill of Rights.
An armed citizenry is the only effective check against the oppressive government we are inching toward. We must unashamedly proclaim our right for what it is, not what the ever-more progressive democratic party, or even the beltway-centric NRA deems it to be. If we want to maintain our liberty, we must not demote or downgrade this express fundamental guarantee to a mere matter of personal safety or a “right to engage in hobbies”.