Transterrestrial Musings  

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Watch
NASA Space Flight
Hobby Space
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
Mars Blog
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Space Cynic
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Selenian Boondocks
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
True Anomaly
Kevin Parkin
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
Saturn Follies
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
The Ombudsgod
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
Joanne Jacobs

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« Bring It On | Main | Arrogance »


But perhaps it's forgivable, since it was probably written by actual sophomores. Here's a call by the editorial staff of the Harvard Crimson to repeal the Second Amendment. The amount of historical (and other) ignorance displayed here is breathtaking. I don't have time to do it, but this needs a thorough fisking.

I do think it's a good sign in a sense, though. They're realizing that the jig is up, and that the court is very likely to overturn the DC gun laws, and many others. They'll no longer be able to pretend that it's not an individual right.

[Update at 3 PM EST]

Gullyborg has risen to the challenge. He missed a key point here, though:

Written in an age in which minutemen rose to dress and fight at a moment’s notice, the Second Amendment was no doubt motivated by a young nation’s concern for its own safety and stability.

Actually, it was motivated by a young nation's memory of warrantless search and seizure, a military not subservient to civil power, the end of trial by jury, hauling colonists back to Britain for mock trials, plundering the seas, ravaging the coasts, burning towns, and destroying the lives of people. You know, those things we wrote about in The Declaration of Independence. That thing we used to declare our nation free to write the Constitution. Look it up.

The most key motivation was the very recent memory of the battle that set off the war, in Lexington and Concord.

What set off that battle? The British troops had marched from Boston toward Concord (as Paul Revere was riding through the countryside rousing the citizenry) to seize the armory and confiscate the weapons stored there. Had the militia (i.e., able-bodied men in the area) not had their own, they would have had nothing with which to fight them, had the British troops actually been able to carry out their orders.

That's why the Founders thought it important that people have a right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment is a last-ditch insurance policy against a tyrannical government, something of which the sophomores in Cambridge (not very far from either Lexington, or Concord, and the location of one of the ancillary battles) are apparently incapable of conceiving. Or if they do, they probably imagine that it's the Bush administration.

[Update an hour or so later]

The more I think about it, the more appalling it is that Harvard students could be so ignorant of American history, not just because it's supposedly such an elite institution, but because that particular bit of American history took place almost literally in their own back yard, as the British retreated to Cambridge (where Harvard was, as it is today). And afterward, Gage attempted to confiscate all the private weapons of the citizens of Boston.

What does this say about the state of American higher education today?

I wonder if anyone involved in that editorial could even describe the circumstances of the battle that kicked off the revolution?

[Evening update]

It just occurs to me that, given their ignorance of history, the sophomores may defend their editorial on the basis that the "Americans" were rising up against a foreign government, thus making their point about the amendment being for the defense of "America" and is thus no longer needed, since America now has the most formidable armed forces in the history of the world.

Of course, they were doing no such thing. The "Americans" were British citizens (even though they couldn't vote and had no members of Parliament, but were taxed nonetheless--remember "No taxation without representation"?) rising up against their own government. "Americans" as we understand them today did not exist in 1775. Again, that thought too was very fresh in the Founders' minds.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 30, 2007 11:17 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.

Plus there's the fact that calling for a repeal is *working for change within the system* rather than bypassing it via the courts and other literally dodgy institutions. This is the way things are supposed to work, and we'll all be better off the more the rules are followed.

Posted by Ken Begg at November 30, 2007 12:05 PM

Actually, this is the proper thing to do. The Left should be pushing for a lot of amendments instead of relying on sympathetic and unelected judges to do their dirty work. It's sophomoric only because these clowns haven't learned how the Left really operates. (Another example of how a Harvard education isn't worth much anymore, too.)

Getting an amendment passed requires hard work in persuading a lot of people and can result in people finally figuring out what you are up to (just ask the ERA folks back in the '70s) And as the Prohibitionists found out, even if you get your pet project approved, you may not be able to claim permanent victory. That's the real reason the Left resorts to shortcuts, intimidation and violence.

Posted by Raoul Ortega at November 30, 2007 12:05 PM

Yup. If the Second Amendment is an impediment to a civil society, the right thing to do would be to repeal or amend it. (I think it implicitly recognizes a right -- self-defense -- that's essential to a civil society, mind, but that's another issue.)

Posted by Joel Rosenberg at November 30, 2007 12:14 PM

Let's see, off of the top of my head:

Federal law - 21 to buy a handgun from a dealer
Gun shows - dealers still have to do NICS

Posted by ParatrooperJJ at November 30, 2007 12:19 PM

Messing with the Bill of Rights is not a thing to be done lightly

To make another sophomoric comparison for them:

We all know "The Pen is mightier than the sword"

To bring this up to date, "The Word Processor is Mightier than the Assault Rifle"

IF we are going to remove the 2nd Amendment, perhaps we should remove the 1st Amendment while we are at it, as it's obvious that the founding fathers never envisioned word processors and computers. Perhaps the editors of the Crimson should be required to get a license before publishing ill informed opinions.

Posted by KG2V at November 30, 2007 12:31 PM

you ask, I deliver:

Fisk away!!!

Posted by Gullyborg at November 30, 2007 12:41 PM

Even if they think that only the military should have guns for our country's protection, the anti-gun left never seems to envision a scenario where the country's military bases are nuked and the citizens left will need to defend themselves.

Of course our biggest world power worries are from the Chicoms, and the leftists would fit right in with them.

Posted by Steve at November 30, 2007 01:11 PM

Why is an editorial in a college newspaper considered news? They are pointless jokes that only gratify the authors and are ignored even by the students within the college. And I say this as someone who spent two years as Commentary Editor of a college newspaper.

Posted by Steve Friedman at November 30, 2007 01:15 PM

Then there is the question of whether it is even possible to repeal any of the first 10 Amendments. i seem to remember that there are quite a few people that believe the Bill of Rights don't "create" rights so much as they recognize them. Since the right exists regardless of the Amendment itself, it isn't possible to repeal it.

Posted by Sean at November 30, 2007 01:26 PM

Clicked gullyborg's link and added comments.

I recommend the Harvard Crimson editors visit Kent State.

Posted by Leland at November 30, 2007 01:27 PM

Actually, it was motivated by a young nation's memory...

A rather poor argument, since none of those motivating factors are presently applicable.

The most key motivation was...[T]hat's why..

A better argument, but more applicable to the right to *keep* arms than to *bear* arms. Of course, some here will argue that's a difference without a distinction.

And no, I don't support the Harvard ed. opinion, just stirring the pot.

Posted by Andy at November 30, 2007 01:31 PM

I always thought the point of the Bill of Rights is that they were inalienable rights that the government cannot legislate away. These rights are intrinsic to this country, and a government that does not recognize all ten of them is no longer a legitimate government.

Posted by Be at November 30, 2007 01:35 PM

Since the right exists regardless of the Amendment itself, it isn't possible to repeal it.

One could pass a new amendment superceding it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 30, 2007 01:35 PM

If you can superceede it, is it still an inalienable right?

Remember, there was controversy about adding an enumerated bill of rights for this very reason.

I do not believe the founders considered to first ten amendments to be subject to repeal.

Posted by Mike Puckett at November 30, 2007 01:50 PM

Rand said "The Second Amendment is a last-ditch insurance policy against a tyrannical government"

I'm sure this conversation has been done a million times here, but doesn't that suggest that people should have the right to keep and bear arms sufficient for a defense against a modern government's armed forces? Small arms won't be enough.

Vernor Vinge's vision in "The Ungoverned" of the occasional homestead with a nuclear explosive in the basement might be unnecessary, but it might not, so where is the Constitutional prohibition on basement nukes? And if that's over the top, how about rocket propelled grenades in the basement?

Posted by Hillary-Supporter at November 30, 2007 01:51 PM

Sorry - please scratch "Constitutional prohibiton". I realize the constitution doesn't quite work that way. I should have just said "what about heavy weapons?"

Posted by Hillary-Supporter at November 30, 2007 01:52 PM

"Small arms won't be enough."

Why not? A Rifle gets you a crew-served. A crew served gets you AT weapons. AT weapons get you bigger stuff still.

It all depends on how many small arms, their respective quality and the level of competence of those weilding them. Remember, the CONUS has over three million square miles of territory and the number of active duty armed forces is less than two million. The military would be prevented from using its most effective weapons in most instances to prevent damagine the very infrastructure that supports its logistical tail. Wars are pretty much a come as you are affair anymore.

As Stalin once said: "Quantity has a quality all its own."

The better weapons the populace at large has, the less raw numbers of bodies they will have to trade to acquire these implements than if they were further up the chain to begin with.

Posted by Mike Puckett at November 30, 2007 01:57 PM

Cool! I knew there would be people here who had thought this through.

So what about gun control (and weapon control) laws? If small arms do cut it, does that justify banning private ownership of artillery, etc? But that's a slippery slope, because with enough education, you could teach a knife wielding populace to disarm the guys with small arms. If you can say the constitution is only referring to small arms (and that's enough), maybe constitution is really only referring to the right to keep and bear kitchen knifes (because that's enough too).

All this supposes mass popular support, which won't always be available. Maybe most of the populace will already be dead, or maybe they just don't agree about how who is tyrannical. Also, it assumes a two way fight between the good guys and the bad guys. It might be worth thinking about a more complex situation with multiple factions and agendas, if you are going to be thinking about last ditch insurance policies based on using only small arms.

Posted by Hillary-Supporter at November 30, 2007 02:17 PM

All this supposes mass popular support, which won't always be available. Maybe most of the populace will already be dead, or maybe they just don't agree about how who is tyrannical. Also, it assumes a two way fight between the good guys and the bad guys. It might be worth thinking about a more complex situation with multiple factions and agendas, if you are going to be thinking about last ditch insurance policies based on using only small arms.

I suggest you do some research on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.

The ghetto fighters were warned of the timing of the final deportation and the entire Jewish population went into hiding. On the morning of April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters armed with a handful of pistols, 17 rifles, and Molotov cocktails faced more than 2,000 heavily armed and well-trained German troops supported by tanks and flamethrowers.

After the Germans were forced to withdraw from the ghetto, they returned with more and more firepower. After several days without quelling the uprising, the German commander, General Jürgen Stroop, ordered the ghetto burned to the ground building by building. Still, the Jews held out against the overwhelming force for 27 days. On May 8, the headquarters bunker of the ZOB at 18 Mila Street was captured. Mordecai Anielewicz and a large number of his colleagues were killed in the fighting, but several dozen fighters escaped through the sewers.

On May 16, Stroop announced the fighting was over. He said his forces had captured 56,065 Jews and announced that he was going to blow up the Great Synagogue on Tlomack Street (which was outside the ghetto) as a symbol of victory and of the fact that “the Jewish quarter of Warsaw no longer exists.”

Approximately 300 Germans and 7,000 Jews were killed in the uprising, and another 7,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka. The outcome was preordained, but the dramatic act of resistance helped raise the morale of Jews everywhere, if only briefly.

It took a relative handful of very brave people armed with a few weapons to tie down a considerable military force for weeks. They'd kill an SS troop and take his weapons and use those to kill more SS troops.

The Jews had very little outside support and this happened in a single city, allowing the Germans to mass their forces. Had it happened at several locations at the same time, it would've been much harder to supress.

Posted by Larry J at November 30, 2007 02:52 PM

This old UC Berkeley alum hasn't agreed with The Daily Californian in years. I hope some Harvard grads feel the same way about The Crimson. Anyway, for those of us who believed in the Founding Father's natural law theory long before Justice Thomas began to espouse it, the People (not the legislature) can repeal any Amendment they wish. But since the Bill of Rights only enumerates rights already granted by Nature's God, the repeal of the Amendment would not in any way repeal the right itself. Of such things are Revolutions made.

Posted by Larry Hawk at November 30, 2007 03:03 PM

In truth, the Second Amendment is nothing more than an unequivocal statement of the founding fathers' belief in the unassailable gift of life. There is a strong argument to be made that small arms exist to preserve life on a more personal scale (i.e. relatively close encounters, within the limit of the armed person's ability to operate and utilize the weapon effectively), while a large-scale tactical nuclear bomb would be an impersonal weapon designed exclusively to kill. I understand that mutual possession of a WMD will usually preserve a certain peace, but then they only exist as a counter to each other.

Firearms, on the other hand, preserve the right to individual life and liberties, either through the protection of one's life in an attack (as a deterrent, or with actual engagement), or via hunting of wild game for food. Further, it is reasonable to assume that utilization of small arms in one's personal affairs is unassailable. However, possession of a weapon of war imputes to the holder a larger authority, one which should be guided by proper restrictions and governance. I am certain that the authors of the Bill of Rights meant to guarantee an individual's rights, and therefore ensure that personal affairs were covered. I doubt that they wanted citizens, even part of a "well-regulated militia", to own and operate national weapons of war in times of peace. If at such time a tyrannical government attempts to subjugate its citizenry, a state of war is enacted, and all bets are off in the interest of preservation of individual liberty and life.

Just my thoughts on the "small arms" debate.

Posted by Flyover Country at November 30, 2007 03:17 PM

IF we are going to remove the 2nd Amendment, perhaps we should remove the 1st Amendment while we are at it, as it's obvious that the founding fathers never envisioned word processors and computers.

Heh. I hope I may be excused for this link.

Since the right exists regardless of the Amendment itself, it isn't possible to repeal it.

I don't think anyone's arguing the right itself can be repealed -- but the amendment giving that right legal force is certainly vulnerable to repeal, if the political will ever develops to do so.

Posted by McGehee at November 30, 2007 03:19 PM

Our rights are "UNalienable," not, "INalienable." You can look it up.

About the "gun show loophole:" Firearms purchased from a Federal Firearms License holder subject both buyer and seller to the full range of legal requirements no matter the venue of the transaction. An FFL holder must follow all laws, regardless of where the sale takes place. The FFL binds its holder to all firearms laws, it does not bind merely the principal place of business.

It is inexcusable for students at Harvard, who assumedly know how to do research, not to know this.

At every gun show I have been to (maybe a half-dozen, I don't go often) there has been a sign posted prominently at the entrance stating that all federal laws and BATF regulations governing the sale or transfer of firearms would be strictly followed. There has also been a BATF agent or two on duty there, too.

A private individual, neither holding an FFL nor transacting firearms for business, may sell his or her own firearm without the background check being done. But only within a state, not across state lines. But that can be done elsewhere than gun shows, too.

Posted by Donald Sensing at November 30, 2007 03:24 PM

Over the last 4th of July holiday I read Paul Revere's Ride (David Hackett Fischer), which was an excellent introduction to what happened, followed by Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill (Richard M. Ketchum), which was a telling of what happened next. There are definitely easy and enjoyable enough ways to learn.

Posted by Tom at November 30, 2007 04:39 PM

So Harvard students don't know basic American history? Hmmmm,...,how much is tuition there now, $30,000 a year or so? I read recently about Ivy school grads, English majors, who never had to read Dickens or Milton. Seems to me that the more outlandishly expensive college gets, the less of an education kids are getting. Maybe someday, they'll realize how much they were cheated.

Posted by Donna at November 30, 2007 05:10 PM

I read recently about Ivy school grads, English majors, who never had to read Dickens or Milton.

Hey, don't want to crowd out Foucalt and Derrida...

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 30, 2007 05:16 PM

Vernor Vinge's vision in "The Ungoverned" of the occasional homestead with a nuclear explosive in the basement might be unnecessary, but it might not, so where is the Constitutional prohibition on basement nukes?

I've often pondered that it would be interesting to have a framework for weapons somewhat similar to that of the automotive insurance requirements in certain states. That is, one could own any weapon (even a nuke) if one had sufficient insurance to cover potential damages. Having various safeguards in place would lower the price a private company would be willing to insure your weapons at. It could depend from state to state, but I imagine that weapons of a particular risk potential (maybe somewhere between handguns and artillery) wouldn't require the mandatory insurance.

Posted by Neil H. at November 30, 2007 06:57 PM

I have a cartoon I found some time ago. (Years? Months, certainly.)

It is a roughly drawn picture of two suit wearing men walking along with a vague outline of the capital building behind them. I'm sure they are meant to be congressmen. Or senators. Whichever.

One is saying to the other "Of course I vote for gun control. Who wants armed tax-payers?"

What else is there to say?

Posted by Fuloydo at November 30, 2007 07:12 PM

Bah. Harvard students are, as always recently, right behind oppression because they confidently expect to be among the oppressors, not the lumpenproletariat oppressed. There were a lot of supporters of (e.g.) Mugabe and Chavez with much the same motives.


Posted by Ric Locke at December 1, 2007 06:48 AM

With well-ordered militias now able to bring governments to a halt with IEDs and home-grown bioweapons without any legalization, using firearms to protect liberty is anachronistic.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at December 1, 2007 08:02 AM

Sam Dinkin said:
With well-ordered militias now able to bring governments to a halt with IEDs and home-grown bioweapons without any legalization, using firearms to protect liberty is anachronistic.

I agree that IED's and home-grown bioweapons would be an effective primary weapon against an over-reaching government, but firearms are still a good backup to fighting tyranny.

Posted by Robert at December 2, 2007 12:08 AM

After reading the Harvard Crimson, I move that they be required to register their thesis before exercising their 1st Ammendment rights. Preferably with a historian. Or perhaps with someone who has been home-schooled.

Posted by Fen at December 2, 2007 01:16 AM

Does Hillary-Supporter really want to campaign on "bringing NY gun laws to the rest of the country"? former governor Clinton might have something useful to say about such a campaign.

Perhaps HS can also tell us why abortion and gay sex, neither of which are mentioned in the constitution, should be more protected than guns.

Posted by Andy Freeman at December 2, 2007 09:32 AM

Andy, for this thread, I'm just asking about Rand's assertion that the 2nd Amendment is a last ditch insurance policy against tyranny. I think he is quite right - that _is_ what it is for. So what does that mean with regard to private heavy weapon ownership? Are my Constitutional rights being violated if I'm not permitted to (carefully) own a significant arsenal of modern weapons?

Above, someone named "Flyover Country" speculated intelligently about what the writers of the Constitution intended, but he or she didn't quite say what is and is not permitted by the 2nd amendment.

I'm curious about how absolute the 2nd amendment is. I'm starting with questions about whether the Constitution allows Americans to keep and bear any type of weapon.

Can I keep and bear tanks?

Posted by Hillary-Supporter at December 2, 2007 11:27 AM

"Can I keep and bear tanks?"

Yes, although one might argue whether classifying the main gun and each round as a National Firearms Act "destructive device" might be an infringement.

But if you can find a tank to buy (mostly European models are available for sale on the internet) and you can get your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer to sign off on a gun and the ammunition, and you register everything and pay the transfer tax, you may own, keep, and drive (on your own property) a fully functioning tank. Import costs and permissions, local DMV-type permits and maintenance will be additional issues.

It is not clear what level of arms is the upper limit which might be protected by the Second Amendment. Generally, people who accept that it protects anything for individuals will agree it probably covers individual-use weapons short of crew-served systems. So, rifles, pistols, squad automatic weapons (SAWs) and similar equipment are mostly uncontroversial. But in the Eighteenth century individuals also owned cannon, and cannon-armed ships suitable for privateer service; I think the writers and adopters of the 2nd would not -require- anyone to have such a thing, but there is no clear indication that they would prohibit them, either.

Posted by JohnS at December 2, 2007 02:26 PM

What Hillary-Suppoerter and people like him fail to realize is people have ben purchasing Tanks, Flame Throwers and Heavy Machine Guns for decades.

In spite of straw boogeyman fears, I have yet to hear of anyone inside this country being mowed down in a Seven Eleven by a Ma Deuce, incinerated in a drive-by barbecuing by a flame thrower or squashed flat by a civilian owned tank or blown up by a civilian owned grenade launcher.

The simple fact is these people and weapons are out there and in full compliance with the NFA, They have been out there for quite some time and have not constituted a significant problem.

Posted by Mike Puckett at December 2, 2007 02:34 PM

Despite any prejudices you might have about Democrats and Hillary-Supporters, I personally have no problem with weapon ownership. The recent histories of Switzerland and Sweeden show that a place can generally be a nice place to live regardless of whether guns laws make gun ownership mandatory or prohibited. But I love freedom, so I would hate to prohibit something if it wasn't necessary.

Does the term "crew-served" just mean that it takes more than one person to operate the weapon? I don't know what difference that distinction would make to the 2nd Amendment. Cooperation is going to be essential if tyranny is to be overthrown.

There have been at least two cases of tanks-gone-wild on civilian streets in the USA, but that, in itself, is a terrible reason to ban tank ownership. I also think Mike Dukakis got a raw deal on the tank video -- I would have loved to drive a tank around - who wouldn't?!

Posted by Hillary-Supporter at December 2, 2007 03:18 PM

Yes, crew served would be something that requires more than one person to operate efficiently or operate at all.

An M240 or an M60 are considered crew served and I could certainly operate one as an individual (I used to instruct on operating and maintaining the M60 or the 'pig' as some affectionately reffered to it as.) but I would be a lot more effective with an assistant gunner to help feed ammo, direct fire, reduce stoppages, change the barrel and carry the spare barrel, tripod and extra ammo.

A good crew is more than the individual sum of its parts.

A bit of a side note but I never was too fond of the 60. IIRC there were no less than five parts that could be installed backwards and render the weapon inoperable. The gas system was held together with stainless steel aircraft grade lacing wire.

When everyone was 'switched on' and it was well-supplied and well inspected and maintained, it would deliver the goods. It was, not tolerant of less than optimal maintainence or operator error.

Just recenttly, the majority of its shortcomings have been addressed by a private entity. The E5 version is a remarkable weapon.

Problem is, the military has replaced it as the A standard weapon with a Belgian design called the M240. The 240 is an excellent weapon and I supported them as a coax and loader gun for the M1 series tank. It is four pounds heavier thant the 60 in its dismounted version IIRC.

The M60 is kind of the Space Shuttle of US small arms development. Meant to replace something bigger, older, revered as a weapon that helped win WWII that was more expensive to produce (The M1919 series) and coming up short due to design compromises so we could rush out and jump onto the RLV...ahem.....General Purpose Machine Gun bandwagon.

But I digress.

Posted by Mike Puckett at December 2, 2007 07:59 PM

Post a comment

Email Address: