A sensible interpretation of the 2nd Amendment could be the answer to police brutality, militarism and gun violence in the United States. Unfortunately, neither Thomas Massie and his NRA/GOP lined pockets or the establishment neo-liberal democrats profess any sound policy regarding the 2nd Amendment. “Both Sides” in this argument are usually reactionary without offering any substantive solutions.
Weapons manufacturers, arms dealers and their capitalist system of commodifying the machinery of mass murder; the military industrial complex, have an enormous influence over the perversion of the Republican’s idea of the 2nd amendment. This primarily is one of absolute deregulation, ironically the opposite of exactly what is stated in The Constitution itself.
This same parasitic war machine directly influences the criminal justice system through the militarization of the police, whether be it donated heavy military equipment or training law enforcement to behave as an occupying force in a war zone instead of peace officers serving their community. Through the executive branch of the government, the MIC has formed a symbiotic relationship with the prison industrial complex because it pays to lock people up or keep them impoverished on a form of life parole.
At the same time, gun violence is out of control in this country. The root causes of this are a combination of factors including materialism, poverty, lack of education and training, lack of adequate mental healthcare and America’s bizarre gun culture with its fetishization of weapons and historical romanticization of violence as a purifying force. This obsession with the fantasy of glorified violence as a form of “purification” is a foundational premise for many forms of authoritarianism. “Eye for an Eye”, “Zero Tolerance” and “Maximum Punishment” intentions institutionalized always inspire the boot on the throat, the firing squad, and the mass shooter alike. It’s understanding why so many wish to see the country and planet rid of firearms completely. Considering there are more guns than people in the United States, this unfortunately is unrealistic and is never going to happen.
What’s also unrealistic and never going to happen, is the mass door to door confiscation of firearms despite pervasive conspiracy theories that martial law is going to happen tomorrow promulgated by the gun lobby and ultra-right wing. Dianne Feinstein isn’t sending the UN to take your guns. This fear mongering and has led to the constant mass panic purchase and scalping of both firearms and ammunition, at the glee of weapons manufacturers and gun lobbyists.
I believe the answer to all of these problems resides within the 2nd Amendment itself, The WELL REGULATED Militia. This basically would be a military system like the Swiss Armed Forces. We were never meant to have a massive imperialistic offensive military, yet we spend more on our military than the top 10 largest militaries in the world combined. If we could shed this bloated military apparatus and efficiently managed our defenses it would be at the expense of the wealth of the billionaire warlord elite, but it must be done to ever see any fundamental change. There must be radical systemic reform on every level for any of this to work.
It is my view that an adequate interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is that we maintain a limited national armed force and a citizen defense force to replace the police. This would require EMS, social workers trained in de-escalatory and mediation skills, survival, and military training in high school, and mandatory conscription in a national service system that would function as a lottery similar to jury duty after graduation where all able-bodied citizenry would stand by in a reserve and of course, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”, conscientious objectors, or those physically or mentally unfit for duty would not be coerced into service. No one who is violently mentally unstable should have a gun. This is common sense. Upon completion of this training it would not be necessary for citizens to register their firearms.
This training would be ongoing through secondary school, and teach practical skills of self-reliance, sustainability, survivalism, first aid, self-defense and marksmanship. It would instill discipline, comradery and solidarity in shared collective experience and reduce corruption and cronyism while also greatly decreasing gun violence and accidents. An effective, efficient, WELL REGULATED militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Gun Violence Question
“Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.” -Karl Marx
This quote–one often falsely attributed to American capitalist Ronald Reagan– projects a political principle that is as important today as it has ever been. Nevertheless, the United States, a country awash in political animus & gun violence, has a problem that cannot be avoided.
In 2021, 20,904 people died from homicides where a gun was involved & 24,090 committed suicide with a gun. (https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/past-tolls) Several hundred to 1,000 people die in America annually from incidents classified as “accidents,” this includes about 1 toddler shooting themselves or someone close to them to death a week.
As socialists, we prefer to attack issues using a scientific process, while still recognizing the subjective conditions on the ground. For the United States, any discussion around weapons control often starts & ends with the 2nd Amendment.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” These words have been interpreted many ways, but to someone who believes that no man, political party, or private cartel is above the Republic, its meaning is very easy to convey.
It clearly states that we, the people of these United States, have an INALIENABLE right to regulate the people, places, & things that are part of our militia. Every right thinking man & woman can agree that no person, political party, or private cartel can own every weapon it desires. Rational people can also admit that the right to bear arms is not restricted to formal members of the military or antiquated weaponry. The question then becomes; where do we draw the line? Obviously we aren’t going to allow people to hold nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, but are we seriously going to limit them to bolt-action weapons? Preposterous.
A country like Switzerland found a way to strike a balance between an armed populace & the safety of said populace. Switzerland has a stunningly high rate of gun ownership, yet hasn’t had a mass shooting in 23 years. (https://www.businessinsider.com/switzerland-gun-laws-rates-of-gun-deaths-2018-2) Switzerland, notably lacks many of the major problems the United States–the center of the capitalist world–has in spades. They have universal healthcare, we do not. We have a prison industrial complex, they do not. We have a military industrial complex, they do not. We have the most violent police on the face of the planet, theirs are nowhere to be found in that discussion.
Peaceful States that foster prosperous populations generally don’t have massive subsets of the population dedicated to mass violence of the most treacherous variety against their fellow citizens. Though we must be clear, it does still happen, like with right-wing terrorist Anders Brevik, who killed 82 left-wing & socialist citizens of Norway in one of the worst terrorist attacks in history. However; the United States routinely has mass violence incidents perpetrated by the state or private citizens that far surpass or approach this death toll. One cannot decouple the violence of the state from its people, that violence absolutely permeates a nation’s political paradigm.
So, if we are to address the issue of gun violence comprehensively, we must address the issue of violence comprehensively, including that of the murderous police & brutal American foreign policy. It will also require a multi-pronged approach that includes policies which materially improve people’s lives, address their mental healthcare needs, while also taking a logical look at the weapons & accessories available.
For example, a political platform that seeks to address the issue of gun violence would be foolish to focus on “banning” certain weapons alone. Though it must be admitted that the barrier to entry in a black market for guns is much higher than other banned items like drugs, making them considerably harder to obtain.
What would a socialist program look like to address the issue of gun violence? It would be a political platform that doesn’t focus on the item alone, but focuses on the material & emotional needs of the society, while still protecting our cherished principles of the Republic.
For instance, universal healthcare would provide mental healthcare from the cradle to the grave, a nationwide jobs guarantee would provide stability unseen in human history, a universal basic housing program would eliminate internal, irreconcilable contradictions of our capitalist society that drive unavoidable conflicts on a small, medium, & large scale.
As for weapons themselves, I think the discussion surrounding the AR-15 is somewhat of a red herring, & to be clear I do not support banning it, as in the right hands it serves as a “great equalizer” on a small unit scale, which is what is needed for any armed, & organized group.
There are however; SEVERAL things we can do that directly deal with weapons themselves that would greatly reduce deaths across the United States. One, Federal background checks on every single gun purchase, it’s inappropriate to arm every individual who requests it. Two, “cooling off periods” for each gun purchase, no exceptions. Making people wait who are about to buy guns for the purpose of homicide or suicide can only be a good thing. Three, mandatory training & insurance measures. Everyone who has their hands on a deadly weapon should be appropriately trained with legitimate confirmation. Four, clip limits. Five, a ban on hollow tip rounds, also known as “cop killers.” Six, a permanent ban on bump stocks & other, yet to be enumerated accessories.
All of this, before banning any additional weapons, should serve as a sufficient program to comprehensively combat the gun violence issue.
YouTube: The All-American Socialist
Michael T. Richards–a 22 year veteran in politics– is an International Socialist from northwest Pennsylvania, a Social Service Worker, & a United States Marine Corps Veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom onboard the USS Harry S Truman.
Education: B.C from The Pennsylvania State University