Friday, August 16, 2013

Guest Post: Liberals & The Second Amendment

By Zee

Liberal Professors and Historians of Constitutional Law Who Hold
Surprising Views on the Second Amendment

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has long generalized that the Bill of Rights—or, at least, the first Eight Amendments—protect individual rights, an assertion with which I agree.
Yet the ACLU—along with perhaps most American liberals—has decided to assign a special, “collective rights” interpretation to the Second Amendment (hereafter, SA), directly contradicting its/their own general assertions. This needless torture of plain language is done, IMHO, strictly for political purposes, and is damaging to the entire Bill of Rights.

Alan Dershowitz, liberal professor of law at Harvard Univ. and an expert on constitutional law and civil rights, has recognized the serious danger lurking behind this interpretation of the SA. From Wikipedia (and note that all bold emphases that follow are mine):
“Dershowitz is strongly opposed to firearms ownership and the [SA], and supports repealing the amendment, but he vigorously opposes using the judicial system to read it out of the Constitution because it would open the way for further revisions to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution by the courts. 'Foolish liberals who are trying to read the [SA] out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like.'
But Dershowitz is by no means the most respected professor or historian of constitutional law who has decided that the SA protects an individual right to own firearms.

Let's start with the person who is probably the biggest “intellectual constitutional gun” on the field, and who has undergone pretty much a complete reversal from his earlier position in support of the “collective model,” liberal Harvard law professor and constitutional law expert, Laurence Tribe:
“Perhaps the most accurate conclusion one can reach with any confidence is that the core meaning of the [SA] is a populist/republican/federalism one. Its central object is to arm 'We the People' so that ordinary citizens can participate in the collective defense of their community and their state. But it does so not through directly protecting a right on the part of the states or other collectivities, assertable by them against the federal government, to arm the populace as they see fit. Rather, the amendment achieves its central purpose by assuring that the federal government may not disarm individual citizens without some unusually strong justification consistent with the authority of the states to organize their own militias. That assurance in turn is provided through recognizing a right (admittedly of uncertain scope) on the part of individuals to possess and use firearms in the defense of themselves and their homes—not a right to hunt for game, quite clearly, and certainly not a right to employ firearms to commit aggressive acts against other persons—a right that directly limits action by Congress or the Executive Branch and may well, in addition, be among the privileges or immunities of United States citizens protected by sec. 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment against state or local government action.” --Laurence H. Tribe, “American Constitutional Law (3rd edition),” 901-02 n.221, Foundation Press, 2000.
What a complete reversal from his position on the SA in the two earlier editions of his highly-respected textbook!

Note that Tribe's year-2000 textbook predates the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases Heller v. DC and McDonald v. Chicago, of which the latter's decision “incorporated” the SA under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Tribe acknowedged his epiphany in a 2007 NYT article regarding an appeals court case, Parker v. DC, which was later consolidated into Heller v. DC when it arrived at SCOTUS:
“Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, said he had come to believe that the [SA] protected an individual right. 'My conclusion came as something as something of a surprise to me, and an unwelcome surprise,' Professor Tribe said. 'I have always supported as a matter of policy very comprehensive gun control.'”
Earlier, in a 1999 USA Today article that followed closely on the heels of the release of his 3rd edition, Tribe said:
“I've gotten an avalanche of angry mail from apparent liberals who said, 'How could you?...But as someone who takes the Constitution seriously, I thought I had a responsibility to see what the [SA] says, and how it fits.”
 (So, after two editions of his textbook, he finally gets around to seeing what the SA really says? Well, better late than never.)

And now that SCOTUS has incorporated the SA just as Prof. Tribe thought might happen, that protection—“admittedly of uncertain scope”— extends right down to the individual.

Another respected consitutional law professor, Akhil Reed Amar (Yale Univ.) has reached the same conclusion, both in his book, The Bill of Rights, and in several related newpaper, magazine and webzine articles. He has been described as a “liberal” in a NYT review of his most recent book.
From The Bill of Rights:
What's more, the 'militia,' as used in the amendment and in clause 16 [of Article I, Sec. 8 of the U.S. Consititution] had a very different meaning two hundred years ago than in ordinary conversation today. Nowadays, it is quite common to speak loosely of the National Guard as the 'state militia,' but two hundred years ago, any band of paid, semiprofessional, part-time volunteers, like today's guard, would have been called a 'select corps' or 'select militia'—and viewed in many quarters as little better than a standing army. In 1789, when used without any qualifying adjective, 'the militia' referred to all citizens capable of bearing arms. The seeming tension between the dependent and the main clauses of the [SA] thus evaporates on closer inspection—the 'militia' is identical to 'the people' in the core sense described above. Indeed, the version of the amendment that initially passed in the House, only to be stylistically shortened in the Senate, explicitly defined the militia as 'composed of the body of the People.' This is clearly the sense in which 'the militia' is used in clause 16 and throughout 'The Federalist,' in keeping with standard usage confirmed by contemporaneous dictionaries, legal and otherwise. As Tenche Coxe wrote in a 1788 Pennsylvania essay, 'Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves?'”
Amar goes on to spike the notion that either the term “well-regulated” in the SA, or Article I, Sec. 8, clause 16 of the U.S. Constitution somehow trumps an individual right:
“First, it appears that the adjective 'well-regulated' did not imply broad state authority to disarm the general militia; indeed, its use in various state constitutional antecedents of the [SA] suggests just the opposite is true. Second, and connected, the notion that congressional power in clause 16 to 'organiz[e]' and 'disciplin[e]' the general general militia logically implied congressional power to disarm the militia entirely is the very heresy that the [SA] was designed to deny. How, then, can we use the amendment's language to embrace the same heresy vis-a-vis state regulations? What's more, as shall become evident in Part Two [of Amar's book], the right to keep and bear arms was plainly viewed by the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment as a 'privilege of national citizenship' that henceforth would apply, and perhaps should always have applied, against states.”
It seems clear that Prof. Amar has come to the same conclusion as Prof. Tribe, again, well before Heller v. DC. And he similarly anticipated the extension of that protection right down to the individual based on the Fourteenth Amendment, which we now know has happened. So again, here's another highly respected, liberal constitutional scholar who has determined that the SA protects an individual right to own firearms.

However, Amar's position on the SA and “reasonable” gun control is also informed by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, as well as by simply examining customary firearms ownership, useage and laws in America since colonial days. From an article co-authored with Tribe,
“The fact is, almost none of the proposed state or Federal weapons regulations appears to come close to offending the [SA's] core right to self-protection. [Excluding, of course, the near-absolute bans of DC and the City of Chicago, both of which SCOTUS found to be unconstitutional!] The right to bear arms is certainly subject to reasonable regulation in the interest of public safety.”
I might argue at length with Profs. Tribe and Amar as to what is “reasonable gun control,” but I don't deny their basic premise: “Laws that ban certain types of weapons, that require safety devices on others, and that otherwise impose strict controls on guns, can pass Constitutional scrutiny.”
Another liberal law professor—not of constitutional law—who has been quoted favorably in this forum on other matters, Jonathan  Turley, published in USA Today in 2007 an article entitled A Liberal's lament: The NRA might be right after all.
“Principle is a terrible thing, because it demands not what is convenient but what is right. It is hard to read the [SA] and not honestly conclude that the Framers intended gun ownership to be an individual right. It is true that the amendment begins with a reference to militias...Accordingly, it is argued, this amendment protects the right of the militia to bear arms, not the individual.”
“Yet, if true, the [SA] would be effectively declared a defunct provision. The National Guard is not a true militia in the sense of the [SA] and, since the District [of Columbia] and others believe governments can ban guns entirely, the [SA] would be read out of existence”

More important, the mere reference to a purpose of the [SA] does not alter the fact than an individual right is created. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is stated in the same way as the right to free speech or free press...” “
Considering the Framers and their own traditions of hunting and self-defense, it is clear that they would have viewed such ownership as an individual right, consistent with the plain meaning of the amendment.
“None of this is easy for someone raised to believe that the [SA] was the dividing line between the enlightment and the dark ages of American culture. Yet, it is time to honestly reconsider this amendment and admit's the really hard part...the NRA may have been right. This does not mean that Charleton Heston is the new Rosa Parks or that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership. But it does appear that gun ownership was made a protected right by the Framers, and while we might not celebrate it, it is time that we recognize it.”
Leonard W. Levy was not a professor of law, but he was a respected historian regarding the Bill of Rights. He won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for History with his book, “Origins of the Fifth Amendment.” In an obituary, he was described as a “New Deal liberal.”
From his book, Origins of the Bill of Rights:
Believing that the [SA]does not authorize an individual's right to keep and bear arms is wrong. The right to bear arms is an individual right. The military connotation of bearing arms does not necessarily determine the meaning of a right to bear arms. If all it meant was the right to be a soldier or serve in the military, whether in the militia or the army, it would hardly be a cherished right and would never have reached constitutional status...”
“The right to bear arms is by no means unlimited. Public regulation may specify the kinds of weapons that are lawful and the conditions under which those weapons may be kept; but no regulation may subvert the right itself. The very language of the amendment is evidence that the right is a personal one, altogether separate from the maintenance of a militia. Militias were possible only because the people were armed and possessed the right to be armed. The right does not depend on whether militias exist.
So there you have it. Five highly respected, liberal professors—three, of constitutional law, the fourth a professor of law, and the fifth a distinguished historian of the Bill of Rights—have reached the same conclusion as have I and many others, viz., that the SA protects an individual right to own guns for personal protection independent of “enrollment” in any militia; a right that may neither be completely prohibited, nor made impossible to exercise—by, for example, complete bans on firearms ownership, imposition of exorbitant taxes on firearms and ammunition, expensive liability insurance requirements, or burdensome “fees” for background checks, etc.—at any level of government.

This interpretation also brings the entire Bill of Rights into conformance with the ACLU's general assertion that it does indeed protect individual rights. Which is as it should be.


Pearl said...


I skimmed over your lengthy article as my feeble brain couldn't take it all in except to surmise that most liberal organizations support the fact that individuals have the right to bear arms. O.K.

But how do we put on the brakes about what kind of firearms (like assault
weapons and the like) are permitted to be sold to ordinary people, and how do we get laws about background checks that make sense, how do we teach our children to learn that solving political and social problems should not be done at the point of a gun and can be accomplished in other ways, and most of all, how do we get the leaders and lawmakers of the U.S. to not support the military/gun mentality that pervades its history and encourages the population to live in fear and feel the necessity to arm themselves.

There is a lot money and profit involved in selling guns which makes the picture even murkier.

I believe you are a responsible citizen, Zee, in handling firearms and avoiding the use of them irresponsibly, but unfortunately not everyone is.

Zee said...


Thank you so much for looking over my admittedly-lengthy article, and thanks also to Karen for graciously granting me the space to get what I wanted to say out in a single piece, in one place. Having done that, I hope that I may never have to make these arguments piecemeal, again.

I think that there are a number of things that we could do as a nation to strengthen the background check system without violating a constitutional right.

Consider this: The State of Illinois requires that firearms and ammunition purchasers be in possession of a valid Illinois Firearms Owners Identification card, or FOID, a system which apparently has withstood constitutional scrutiny since its inception.

“The FOID card is issued by the Illinois State Police, who first perform a check of the applicant on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), an electronic database maintained by the FBI. Grounds for disqualification include a conviction for a felony or for an act of domestic violence, a conviction for assault or battery within the last five years, or being the subject of an order of protection. The police also check an Illinois Department of Human Services database, to disqualify any applicant who has been adjudicated as a mental defective, or who has been a patient of a mental institution within the last five years.Mental health professionals are required to inform state authorities about patients who display violent, suicidal or threatening behavior, for inclusion in the Human Services database. The police may also check other sources of information...

A FOID card legally must be granted within 30 days from the date the application is received, unless the applicant does not qualify...Cards issued on or after June 1, 2008 are valid for ten years; cards issued prior to June 1, 2008 are valid for five years. The application fee for the card is ten dollars. The FOID card will be revoked before its expiration if the individual becomes disqualified as described above.

Illinois law requires that, when a firearm is sold by a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder or at a gun show, the seller perform a dial-up inquiry to the State Police to verify that the buyer's FOID card is valid.”

Such a federal law would certainly meet my standard of constitutional acceptability: (1) The application fee is not at all onerous; (2) The FOID must be issued or denied within a reasonable time period; and (3) As I understand the law, it is not a system of firearms registration, per se because possession of a valid FOID merely documents that I am able to buy or own firearms or ammunition should I choose to do so, not necessarily that I have done so. If no details of the transactions are recorded, then the privacy of all concerned is protected.

Suppose we further require that no private sales of a firearms can take place without the seller confirming that the buyer possesses a valid FOID? Provide a telephone number on the back of the card where this background check can be accomplished quickly, and provide both the seller and buyer with a transaction number on the 'phone—confirmed later by e-mail or snail mail—without keeping a record of the details of the transaction. This protects the privacy of both the seller and the buyer while protecting public safety. One might further protect privacy by requiring that, once both the seller and buyer have received—in writing—a record of the legality of the transaction, the Feds destroy their own record of the sale.

I can't claim that I have thoroughly thought through all the ramifications and possible “unintended consequences” that such a law might entail. Perhaps others in this forum could provide me with some feedback.

But I think that it is a starting point for serious discussion about how, in the future, to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those unfit to possess them.

The Black Swan said...

I don't think gun violence is an issue of gun control, but an issue of income inequality. Unequal societies are violent. People who live in poverty and have no way out become violent. People are then blamed for their manufactured predicament and made to feel unworthy because of their poverty. Place this within a culture that celebrates lawlessness and violence and you will see an immensely violent society. It is true, guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns just make it much easier. So instead of arguing over gun control, we should be trying to understand how to build a Just and Compassionate society, one in which violence becomes an aberration and not the norm.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Zee said...


Another thing that we can start to do is to hold gun owners accountable for “accidents” that should never have been allowed to occur.

Not many people can afford the elaborate vaults like mine in which I store my firearms when away from home or when we have guests. But everyone who can afford a gun can also afford a trigger or barrel lock. They are inexpensive and pretty effective, especially against a child who has stumbled across Dad's gun and wants to “show” it to his/her friend(s). In fact, I believe that all new firearms that are sold include a trigger lock as part of firearms manufacturers' strategy to avoid lawsuits.

When someone dies or is injured owing to an improperly stored firearm, the owner should be held criminally—and civilly—accountable. Of course, when one's own child dies as a result of such negligence, there's hardly any greater punishment that could be meted out to the parent than to have to live with that fact for the rest of one's life.

But when such (wholly preventable) accidents occur involving the general public, well, the owner should should be made to pay a very heavy price, rather than just writing off the occurrence as an accident. After a few such cases occur and are highly publicized, well, may safe gun storage might become all the rage.

Another component of “gun safety,” if achieving that is actually seen as a desirable goal, is education.

I don't fully know what the answer is here. The NRA wants its “Eddie Eagle” gun safety program introduced into public schools, while many parents and teachers don't want it there, and/or are convinced that it's merely camouflage for the NRA and firearms manufacturers. Some studies suggest that such youth educational programs are ineffective.

Personally, I don't believe that such education belongs in the public schools, even if we do teach students how to drive, how to have safe sex, and how to stay away from dangerous drugs there.

But if a child's/teen's only understanding of firearms comes from Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoons, consequence-free shoot-'em-up action movies and violent video games, well, what then?

To my mind, a parent who doesn't “believe in guns” does his/her children no favors by ignoring their existence, and failing to educate them as to how to live in a world where guns can suddenly be all too real.

No matter how sheltered they may try to keep their children, there is at least a reasonable chance that they will come across a gun at some point in their lives. Will they know how to act responsibly when that time comes?

Zee said...

@The Black Swan and Pearl--

There is no doubt in my mind that in a more just and equitable nation (or world), we would see all types of violence— and not just gun violence—plummet.

The direct relationship between concentrations of poverty (inequality) and concentrations of all manner of violence is irrefutable.

And as both of you have pointed out, the history of the founding of this nation is rooted in violence, first in our revolution against Britain, then in the conquest of the indigineous peoples both before and after a huge Civil War that caused more American casualties than any other war we have fought, and now in the endless international extension of the American Empire that began somewhere around the Spanish-American War.

(Not to mention our movies and video games that hopelessly glorify violence.)

We continue to celebrate this.

While I don't see our American history as needful of a massive revision à la Howard Zinn—and I confess, I haven't read his A People's History of the United States, —I do think that it is now time for frank, national self-examination as to who we are as a people and nation, and where we would like to go, together, in the future. This includes creating a more equitable society.

There is something drastically wrong with a nation that listens in large numbers to a so-called “conservative” radio talk show whose “theme song” includes the words, “We'll put a boot in your ass. It's the American way!”

Quoting from Ambrose Bierce,

“In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first.”

It's long past time to start working for change.

But as you have more-or-less said, Black Swan, “[we have to start by] trying to work within the world as it exists.”

And this existing world can be a violent one, often randomly so.

Both Mrs. Zee and I have found ourselves in random circumstances where we had wished we'd had a gun to defend ourselves, or were later quite grateful that we'd had the prescience to have a gun in our possession when something untoward happened. I won't go into details, but no guns were ever drawn at close quarters, and only one was displayed—not brandished—from a great distance.

Mrs. Zee's cousin's daughter was murdered in her own apartment in Los Angeles. And, when working in a capacity at University of New Mexico upon which I will not further elaborate, one of her student employees was kidnapped, raped, had her throat slashed, and was dumped from a car in Tijeras Canyon. (Fortuitiously, the slasher's aim was inaccurate, and his victim survived to testify against him and see him sentenced to prison.)
In the wake of these events, we have chosen not to be victims insofar as we can be, but, at the same time, we believe that we have made every effort to be responsible gun owners.

That choice is not for everyone, but we believe that we should have the right to make that choice for ourselves.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Thanks, @Zee, for your post — and thanks @Karen for running it as a guest post.

That I support it undoubtedly comes as no surprise to Sardonicky regulars given my own past comments about such matters on this forum. As I've said previously, my own opinion derives in part from my background, which includes rural origins on one side of my family, my current residence in the Southwest, the long-ago murder of someone I knew who was unable to defend herself from an infamous serial killer, and the deaths of many distant relatives in the Holocaust.

But my opinion comes from more than the personal.

First of all, I've long thought that the often-substantial leftist/liberal opposition to private firearm ownership has been a grave strategic mistake, alienating large numbers of lower-middle-class working Americans — who should, more often than not, identify with progressive economic positions, but who have been peeled away by Republicans based on hot-button social issues, one of the most inflammatory being the prospect of highly-restrictive gun control. The Democrats (and progressives too, whether formally Democratic or not) have often shot themselves in the foot (or a worse place) so to speak, with gun control pronouncements that have encouraged such fears. Even when leftist or liberal politicians have made a deliberate show of being at ease with firearms, it has often come off as insincere. And when they have made statements supporting gun rights, those statements have often focused on hunting, not the issues that were more clearly the inspiration for the Second Amendment.

Which brings us to perhaps the most important point. The 1960s and early 70s resonated with chants of "power to the people!" but matters have gone very much downhill since then. We have witnessed a long-term erosion of fundamental civil liberties supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and subsequent Amendments. Meanwhile, the power of government has increased exponentially — but in all the wrong ways, in all the wrong places. Serious regulation and criminal penalties for the investment bankers who brought our economy to its knees, those who inject toxic liquids into the ground, or corporations that endanger workers? Heaven forbid! (Oh, an occasional example is made in the most egregious cases, but the deregulation trend is clear). Instead, both national and state governments have overtly militarized, while at the same time building a massive covert surveillance apparatus that vastly exceeds that of the Communist East German Stasi. Spying on the communications and geolocation data of law-abiding citizens, marginalization and sometimes even violent dispersal of peaceful protest, a vast expansion of no-knock warrants, huge prison expenditures and a per-capita prison population that is the highest in the world — simply put, we are building an infrastructure for tyranny. We have seen fundamental civil liberties such as those supposedly guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment disappear via secret Presidential directives, or signature into law of ill-conceived legislative bills.

The founding fathers understood the value — and interdependence — of our fundamental individual rights. Certainly, the entire Bill of Rights is important. But paradoxically — I say paradoxically, because those of a rational, moral, progressive bent may wish it weren't so — we must consider that given current conditions and the deliberate violation by government of our other supposedly-guaranteed liberties, the widespread distribution of private firearms enabled by the Second Amendment may well be the most important still-operational deterrent to the transformation of our nation into a fully totalitarian one.

In his guest post, Zee makes a thoughtful, well-documented case for the Second Amendment as an individual right — and it's a case based on arguments/sources that no one could claim as right wing.

The Black Swan said...


Since we do live in a world with guns and since the 2nd amendment gives the people of the USA the right to bear arms, I don't see guns going away anytime soon. I agree with you that gun safety needs to be of paramount importance, and that punishment for disregarding basic safety issues needs to be harsh. If we are to have guns, we need a populace that is well educated in the safe ownership of firearms. Just as we need to be tested in order to receive a drivers license, so we should be similarly tested before being able to own a firearm. Once someone owns a gun, any lapse in it's safekeeping should be harshly penalized. If people want to own guns, that is fine, but they need to take personal responsibility for any harm caused by their firearm.

As a side note, I don't really understand what the word 'liberal' means anymore. Is a Democrat liberal? Is environmentalism liberal? Likewise I don't really know what means anymore to be labelled a 'conservative'. Any thoughts?

Zee said...

@The Black Swan--

I quoted Wikipedia as describing Alan Dershowitz as a “liberal,” yet Karen pointed out to me during the editing process that “there are plenty of people who would strongly disagree that Dershowitz is a liberal. Maybe a neoliberal or a neocon, but no liberal. Of course, even liberals aren't really liberals anymore, in the Age of Obama!”

I consistently describe myself as a “conservative,” yet in explaining some of my values early on in my participation here at Sardonicky, Anne Lavoie concluded that I was really just a run-of-the-mill, moderate Democrat. I don't think that's altogether true, but she had a point regarding some of my values.

So as you suggest, simple labels just don't mean much anymore, and therefore aren't particularly useful. The scholarly thing to do would have been to more deeply explore, and then, describe at some length, the sociopolitical beliefs/opinions of those “liberal professors” whom I quoted in support of an individual right to keep and bear arms. Which would have meant a great deal more research on my part, the sacrifice of much more space on Karen's part, and a much longer article than anyone would have bothered to read.

To some extent, this detailed exploration is what I have been trying to accomplish by participating in this forum: To explain that those of us who consider ourselves to be “thinking Conservatives” are more nuanced than are the current crop of Republicans who also—and I think, wrongly—say they are Conservatives.

And I have learned from some in this forum that those who describe themselves as “Liberals” or “Progressives” are rather a more nuanced bunch than I had previously thought. How, otherwise, could some of them share so many values with me?

But when space is limited—and I know that I strained the limits of the space that Karen was willing to grant me—some kind of broad-brush shorthand was needed, which, I think, generally communicated my point. Specifically, regarding private ownership of guns the “Liberal” or “Progressive” label generally corresponds to an expectation of adherence to the “collective right theory.” (Though I now know that that is not as uniform a phenomenon as I once thought.)

And, true to the stereotype, “liberal” Professor Laurence Tribe once fervently—and blindly— did adhere to the “collective rights interpretation,” and was very disappointed when he was forced—upon further study—to conclude otherwise in the 3rd edition of his textbook.

So, sometimes the shorthand works.

Still, people can be surprising with respect to their internal set of values, which is why we need to get beyond simplistic labels and stereotypes.

You, for instance, say many things that resonate with me, a self-described Conservative, and we have begun communication on some topics of great sociopolitical importance—not that anyone other than ourselves might take these discussions seriously—that interest me greatly.

But if—rather than communicating at some length—we each simply wrote the other off, me as the stereotypical, knuckle-dragging Paleolithic Conservative and you as, perhaps the Starry-Eyed Utopian Idealist (no insult intended), we'd be dead in the water, wouldn't we? Kind of like Congress and the President.

Now, I'm not saying that these at-length discussions will ever even begin to solve the world's problems. As Karen has pointed out elsewhere, we are, after all, a very limited audience with an even more limited impact.

Still, merely trying to understand each other is a start.

And besides, I enjoy the exploration!

I hope that this answers some of your questions. I'll undertake to answer more of them over on your blog, http://blackswanmovement.blogspot.

CitiZen said...

Zee, it's been obvious for quite some time that you've been hanging out at Sardonicky not to 'find common ground' but to advance your agenda. Unfortunately you haven't picked up on some hints sent your way. Time to start your own blog, dontchathink?

Zee said...


Of course I have an agenda to advance. Why else would I regularly hang out with people whose values—in some ways—differ so greatly from my own? And, occasionally, to be handled a bit roughly merely for civilly expressing a reasoned perspective that differs from the majority here, but which occasionally finds some resonance with other participants in this forum?

To me, that is “finding common ground.” But I've covered that topic before.

The foregoing guest post was written in response to an off-the-cuff assertion, made a few threads ago, that my interpretation of the Second Amendment is “lunatic.” I felt compelled to respond at some length, which required asking Karen if she would consider a guest post. Upon reading the first draft, she described my essay as “interesting and informative.” After working with her to whittle the article down to a reasonable length and make it more readable, she kindly published it. For which I am deeply grateful.

It was intended only to politely point out that some very distinguished, “liberal” constitutional scholars agree with me that the Second Amendment does indeed protect an individual right to own firearms, and that there are certain attendant limitations on what governments can do regarding “gun control” if that interpretation continues to hold up under judicial scrutiny. I took great pains to observe that in any event, the right is not unlimited, and that I agreed with that finding.

You are, of course, under no compulsion to agree with me or my panel of professors.

I'm not sure exactly what you believe my “agenda” to be, but I can assure you that is not on my “agenda” to persuade you or anyone else that I now have the right to own machine guns, Stinger missiles or howitzers. It is not on my “agenda” to assert that some “insurrectionist theory” now applies to the Second Amendment and that I have an inherent right of rebellion against any government with which I disagree. It is not on my “agenda” to suggest that I now have the right to pack any kind of concealed “heat” anywhere I go, without proper training, a background check, and licensing.
& etc.

At bottom, the only “agenda” I had in writing the article was perhaps to persuade some of you out there that if my interpretation of the Second Amendment is “lunatic,” then I'm in great looney company with Alan Dershowitz, Laurence Tribe, Jonathan Turley, Akhil Reed Amar and Leonard Levy.

PS: The good news is, having presented just about all I care to say about the Second Amendment in one place, backed by solid evidence, you probably won't have to hear me rant about it again. I now have a link that I can provide to anyone who cares to really understand what the Second Amendment is all about.

CitiZen said...

Zee, maybe agenda was the wrong word. Maybe obsession with guns is more fitting. That includes your frequent reference to your personal weapons arsenal, the need to get your regular fix of gun talk here at Sardonicky, and your obvious need to try to convert everyone based on your prior assumption of where we must stand on guns simply because we're here. That's probably why you're not at one of the many gun enthusiasts websites. You feel challenged to convert others here. If you're not trying to convert, you're certainly desperately trying to get a SA debate going. There's a cringe worthy neediness and insecurity that comes through though. That's why I consider it an obsession.

You've revealed yourself in the past as being an Archivist (see Flame Warriors website) from your giving direct quotes of others' old comments. That said, getting others to reveal their position on your favorite topic seems to be another item on your agenda. You like to keep track of us and what we say. That strikes some of us as creepy, even if we happen to be SA supporters.

The Black Swan said...


I was going to stay out of this, and after Zee's reply to your first post I thought things might be done, but seriously man, wtf?

I don't own a gun, I don't ever care to own one, I've only fired one once (a .22 rifle when I was a kid) and I personally think guns are pointless at best and a horrible invention at worst. But I've never found that Zee has a pro gun agenda. Or that I'm being pressed to support guns in any way. Or that he is somehow fishing for our opinions in order to... what? report us to Big Brother?

I welcome the fact that people with very much opposite views can share them with others. Sometimes we can find common ground, sometimes not. But an open debate is an essential part of why I visit this blog and read through the comments.

And the fact is, gun control is a pressing issue in our society, so is the ongoing loss of our civil liberties. The Second Amendment is one place where these two things meet. If we erode the Second Amendment in order to control 'arms' then what is to stop the erosion of the rest of our Constitutionally granted rights? (Ok, granted they are all being eroded or already gone, but that's not the issue at hand) Likewise, if we allow that the 'right to bear arms' includes any and all 'arms' then we open ourselves up to a very dangerous and violent world. So a reasoned and open debate on this topic is very necessary.

Also, look up 'projection'.

In order to harm another person, one must first generate anger within themselves. In this way any harm done to another arises from doing harm to oneself.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Zee said...


I regret to say that you are generally correct in that I came over to Sardonicky—as I first did to RealityChex—with a pre-conceived notion that participants here would be zealously anti-Second Amendment.

I have been pleasantly surprised to find that this is not uniformly the case—part of that “common ground” that I claim to have found here on several topics, even beyond the Second Amendment.

So, for that act of stereotyping, I apologize.

I believe that even you have expressed implicit support for the Second Amendment as an individual right, which I find somewhat gratifying:

“ Hands off my body and my PPDs - personal protective devices.” --citiZen

Oh, darn! There goes that memory of mine again! And that's all it is: a really good memory. I'm not consciously keeping track of anybody, and what they say; it just happens. I really don't have a computerized “card file” in which I record your every utterance, just to throw them back at you at an opportune moment!

But when it seems "right" to recollect what has been said in the past, well, I just do. Something about "consistency," I guess.

I don't “investigate” anybody here, or try to penetrate their pseudonyms.

And if I were really creepy, Karen would not have a clue as to my identity. Nor would Valerie Tweedie-Long or Fred Drumlevitch or The Doktor.

As for an “obsession” with guns?

Well, they do have great meaning in my life, on multiple levels. But my “obsession” has more to do with keeping what I lawfully bought—or inherited—than it is about guns as objects of outright obsession or even “worship.” (Of which some anti-gun zealots have accused us so-called “gun nuts.)

“Property,” too, has meaning for me.

You try living under a virtual state of siege since 1968 and see if you don't acquire an obsession or two.

Finally, the Flame Warriors website has a pigeonhole for just about everyone who dares to participate in the blogosphere.

If I'm an “Archivist,” well, perhaps you're a “Therapist:”

“Therapist can be a highly annoying and therefore very effective Warrior. Instead of making a frontal attack, Therapist attempts to shift the focus of the conflict to the combatants' psychological motivations and problems. He will freely speculate about other Warriors' insecurities, personalities and relationships, but he will almost never directly engage the subject of the dispute. CAUTION: Evil Clown, Imposter and Troller often masquerade as Therapist.” (My bold emphasis.)

You don't have to read my guest post(s) or remarks. But if you do—and you care to reply—why don't you try to stick to the the gist of my arguments, instead of trying to psychoanalyze me from your couch?

'Cause I'll be here until Karen tells me fold up my tent and go.