Democratic Defence

This is the background against which the defence of the US constitution and its second amendment are presently being conducted. In some respects the balance of forces confronting this defence are difficult, even bleak. Left totalitarian influences pervade both the American political establishment and the UN, such that there are plots to destroy the second amendment by means of both domestic and international law. These plots can assume the significant advantage of presenting themselves under the guise of fake pacifism (Vietnam provided the model stratagem) such that a large following of ‘useful idiots’ and career minded opportunists can support these fundamentally antidemocratic manoeuvres without fear of exposure as enemies of freedom.

Nevertheless the strengths underlying the US constitution and Bill of Rights remain formidable. The second amendment has so far survived assault despite the pretentious piety of its opponents because it taps into the self evident truths of common sense that have existed since human beings first began to employ reason to ensure their own survival. As indicated these opponents have included both conservative and left totalitarian elites whose ideological standpoints have a relation to their underlying philosophical perspectives: just as neither properly supported the principles of natural law and common sense realism upheld by American revolutionary radicalism, then so also neither properly supported the second amendment. Jeffersonian theory drew in the main upon the work of Locke, Reid and Cicero and though Hutcheson was clearly relevant to any conception of natural law such influence fell short of the kind of inference that might lend credence to the idea that Hume could have supported the Bill of Rights. Skepticism and pragmatism and their passion for passion are essentially conservative creeds which reflect the reluctance of property and privilege to lend support to any but the most cautious reform which could involve their submission to the power of reason.

While dogmatists such as Beattie have to some extent obscured the full merit of Reid’s approach it is nevertheless the self evident truths of common sense which most clearly determine the calculated certainties that inform the Bill of Rights. Recognition of these truths constituted the first line of demarcation between reason and irrationalism, between those who sought to promote democratic progress and those who opposed it. The bloodshed and war made necessary to overcome the resistance of those who, when shown the light of reason, ‘simply preferred darkness’ (Locke) created the conditions for deepening error in the radical camp which gave rise to the development of left totalitarian ideology outlined above. Reason has therefore two main enemies: conservatism, which tends too greatly towards contentment with the unjust status quo that has predominated throughout the history of class society, and left totalitarian ideology. Today both err in favour of skepticism and pragmatism in their relation to the self evident truths of common sense, but even interpretivism’s weak support for the Bill of Rights is at bottom itself only feigned in this regard: as shown above the true objective of the hard left is not to preserve the fiction of a hypothetical relativist freedom, but to destroy the self evident fact of real freedom. Relativism, for voluntarist Marxism, is not an end in itself but a deconstructivist means to bring about tyranny.

A brief overview of the history of encroachments on the second amendment demonstrates more fully the evolution of the twofold nature of opposition to it. Once the British monarchy had been overthrown and the federalist case against the Bill of Rights was defeated, the primary long term threat to these rights was, as Jefferson observed, government itself, since ‘the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and for government to gain ground.’ These influences first made themselves felt in the tinkering tendencies of the southern aristocracy, who, like Henry VIII chose to find fault with the carrying of concealed weapons on the grounds that it was ungentlemanly and the sort of unprincipled act which criminals might perform to gain the element of surprise. Thereafter the chief opponents of the right to bear arms were southern slave owning interests. Concerned to preserve and expand the role of slavery in the republic, their main objective was to deprive black citizens of their rights. This also involved the formation and use of militias, both racist and republican, and closely connected to this were questions of states rights. In the twentieth century further government encroachments on the second amendment rose to new levels of complexity with the development of the Thompson submachine gun. This posed difficulties because of the increased firepower it afforded organized crime which for some time actually remained superior to that of law enforcement. Hereafter government tends to gain ground across an expanding range of matters related directly or indirectly to the second amendment such that by this century various government and legislative bodies had installed thousands of regulations to condition or abolish in one form or another the right to bear arms.

One founding state legislature has set a noteworthy example in resisting such encroachments on second amendment rights: the State of Vermont. It seems reasonable to propose there may be a relation here to its pioneer role in abolishing slavery. It certainly provides an example of common sense reasoning which can be cited in defence of the second amendment throughout the union which gives the lie to the idea that such rights only concern redneck racists and blue collar workers ‘who take refuge in guns and religion.’ When, therefore Supreme Court justices trawl over the minutiae of one or other longwinded legislative or judicial infringement of the second amendment they may either take comfort in or fret about the fact that Vermont has already provided the short, honest, eminently qualified answer.

The fact that so much legislation has been developed to ‘regulate’ second amendment rights is due to the failure of American political parties to defend those rights. Since the Kennedy administrations leftism has certainly emerged as the chief culprit in attacking the Bill of Rights but conservatism has been fairly absent in its defence until quite recently. The Supreme Court 2010 ruling opinion extending the 2008 Heller verdict at state level invokes the ‘American concept of ordered liberty’ but this concept American though it may be did not in its ‘original’ versions include the right to bear arms. The ‘idea and practice of ordered liberty’ was developed during the cold war era and gained academic credence at the 1960 Kenyon College Conference on the subject. It included the establishmentarian sentiment shared across the mainstream political spectrum from Friedrich Hayek to Edward Dumbauld that the second amendment is ‘embarrassing’ in the modern age. Ordered liberty is not exactly congruent with the need on occasion to water the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Virtually no scholarship existed on the second amendment until the 1980s for two main reasons. The first is because Marxism has always dismissed the Bill of Rights as ‘bourgeois.’ The parameters of left opportunist academic careerism especially did not favour such research during and since the Vietnam war, when the promotion of fake pacifism became a key objective of communist strategy, as so also and correspondingly did subversion of the second amendment. The second reason why no scholarship on the second amendment existed before the 1980s is because American conservatism only rallied to defence of the second amendment once it became clear the left wanted to destroy it. Before this became apparent it had been ambivalent and reticent in its support for what were and remain revolutionary democratic rights. The more usual and longstanding posture of conservatism has been to acquiesce or collude in their erosion, certainly since Lincoln’s death.

The demise of reconstruction radical republicanism (made more permanent by its depiction as ‘bourgeois’ by Marxism) created the conditions for such erosion not only in regard to second amendment rights but also in regard to jury rights. The purely judicial, not legislative, precedents established in and since the late 19th century in violation of the ‘original intent’ of the founders in regard to the power of juries to decide both on matters of law and fact is a mirror image of encroachments on the second amendment which are just as serious in undermining the egalitarian, bottom up democratic integrity of the US constitution and Bill of Rights.

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