TOM THE DANCING BUG: The N.R.A. of Counter-Earth!

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH Counter-Earth's NRA pushes an extremist and destructive view of the First Amendment. BE THE FIRST ON YOUR BLOCK to see Tom the Dancing Bug every week! Members of the elite and prestigious INNER HIVE get the comic in their inboxes at least a day before publication -- and much, much MORE!

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  1. We can’t even have this discussion until we finally acknowledge that the Second Amendment was not about hunting or protecting Philadelphia from marauding Red Indians or keeping your new HDTV safe from hearth invasion.  It was, and is, about ensuring that the citizenry have effective means of violently resisting a government that it no longer finds satisfactory, should it ever come to that. You know, like they do in Syria or Libya.  You can say that’s a good thing or a horrible thing, and opinions will surely differ, but that is what we are debating here.  Either we want people to have the means to resist, or we don’t.    

    If you scroll down a bit on the boing boing homepage, you’ll come across an item headlined “Congress decides every aspect of your electronic life can be spied on without a warrant and you can’t know how much spying is going on.”  Carry on.

    1. The problem with this is that it just doesn’t work in the modern world.  Back when the Constitution was written the “army” was just conscripted people who probably had to bring their own rifles.  If you kept your own rifle around, you were basically as good as a professional army (modulo the generals commanding the army of course).

      If you wanted to make this interpretation work in the modern day, then a citizen would need the right to own a F-35 or an Abrams tank or at least good anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.  This doesn’t even take into consideration the need for people to own their own nuclear warheads. 

      The Arab spring has shown that you really can’t stand up against a modern professional military without some sort of outside assistance from another professional military, not unless you can do something to counter the massive asymmetry between the citizenship and the military. 

      Plus, our democratic system theoretically prevents anybody from grabbing enough power to form a dictatorship, at least for more than a few years.  Simply voting the bums out is a much better alternative to the armed rebellion.  I guess if you really want to make a difference you would have the armed rebels show up on K Street. 

      1. That’s an excellent argument for disarming the State.  If peace is the goal, Switzerland’s model of armament is the logical model to follow.   No massive military, no war for 150 years.

        Oh, and the National Rhetoric Association may be useful idiots, but criminal prosecution of unwanted speech is far less useful than liability for damages incurred by irresponsible use of speech. No law ever prevented a crazy person from shouting in a crowded theatre.

          1. You can shout anything you want in an airport or movie theatre, you will also suffer consequences for doing so. Normally I wouldn’t be so pedantic about it but I already read an awkwardly contorted argument in the form of a comic I might as well see where the argument leads us.

          2. I shall test this theory.  Be right back.
            Nope, you’re wrong.  I can still do it.  Had to run like the very devil afterwards, though!

            Excuse me, somebody’s knocking on my door.

      2. Support the troops, because they are the only thing standing between the citizenry, and an executive order turning us into another Syria.  Just because they currently receive their pay from the treasury does not mean the joint chiefs can’t suddenly decide to raid the oligarchs for their paychecks, should they do something stupid enough – say, trying to fully privatize the military, or ordering the military to violently suppress a non-violent, widespread insurrection.

      3. “Plus, our democratic system theoretically prevents anybody from grabbing enough power to form a dictatorship, at least for more than a few years.  “

        That is the most charmingly naive thing I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite a while (and I read Reddit, so that should give you some idea of my background).  

        “Voting out” a dictatorial regime.  That’s just so cute!  *pinches cheek*

        1. You can thank the founding fathers for making it so difficult for strongmen to seize power in the US.  Checks and Balances are poison to those sorts of people. 

          At most you get those times when both houses of Congress and the President are controlled by the same party and they start hammering through everything they want regardless of the consequences, but they only get a few years of that before the voters turn the tables.  So you get your budget breaking giveaways to your billionaire buddies, but the next guy who comes along is going to eventually shut down the money spigot. 

          1. And you can thank the American people for not doing a single damn thing to protect those checks and balances over the last few decades. The two incumbent parties have done a very good job of sabotaging all attempts at real electoral reform. Over the last fifty years, they have solidified their dominant positions in our political landscape and successfully prevented any third party from having a significant impact on national policy. As long as these two parties remain in control you can expect them to continue doing everything they can to stay in control. The only real recourse we have against them is a unified nationwide grass roots movement with real policy positions (not a ridiculous, disorganized, rhetoric spouting pack of lunatics like the Tea Party). But the two parties have been playing their constituents against each other so well for so long that the odds of us actually establishing that grass roots movement is pretty close to nil at this point.

            Hate to break it to you, but the budget breaking giveaways and billionaire buddies have been around for a long long time now. We keep saying that the next guy is going to clean house, but that hasn’t happened, and there is absolutely no reason to think it will any time soon, because it was never “the next guy’s” job to do that in the first place. It’s ours.

            This is also a great argument against armed civil war. In order for a citizens militia, regulated or otherwise, to stand up to our military they would have to be fairly large and fairly well-organized. We can’t even pull together a citizens movement to establish real campaign finance reform. How the hell are we going to organize a revolt? The idea that the 2nd amendment protects us from our own government in the 21st century is basically a masturbation fantasy for libertarians and gun nuts. It’s ridiculous, and anyone who really believes their basement-modified AR-15 represents a tool of resistance is pretty much lining up to get shot by a remote-controlled plane. Our military forces are trained almost exclusively to fight against insurgent forces these days. That’s all they do. If you think a bunch of deluded survivalists with rifles are going to stage an effective revolution against a military force that successfully held their ground while surrounded by an entire nation of angry rebels who actually have fighting experience, you’re kidding yourself. The only hope a rebellion could possibly have in the US today is if a large portion of our military decided to join it and some large corporate interests decided to fund it.

            Our political problems in this country are, at heart, a cultural problem. Our culture gave up on democracy. It was too boring to hold our attention. It was too complicated for us to really understand. It was too time-consuming for us to be ever-vigilant. In the post-war era we became complacent, quite frankly. We surrendered to an oligarchical republic decades ago, before the current generation of American voters could even do anything about it. We exchanged democracy for convenience, freedom for the promise (not the realization) of prosperity, and knowledge for entertainment.

            The only way to fix it now is to fix our culture first. After we have a citizenry that actually wants to participate in democracy, we can fight to reestablish it. After we build a culture that is capable of governing itself, we can self govern again. Right now, even if we could reestablish the democratic republic our founders left for us, it would go to waste in the hands of a populace that, for the most part, doesn’t actually care. We need a cultural movement first, then a political one.

    2. Really if they were writing a law today to accomplish the original intent of the second amendment, they would require all police forces keep a Cache of heavy arms in case the feds try to impose national laws by force. It doesn’t have anything to do with regular people owning guns.

      1. There were no police at the time the 2nd Amendment was drafted.  Communities policed themselves.  A militia was not the cops, nor was it the army.  It was the people of the community themselves when mobilized together for self-defense.

        We don’t do that anymore, because we granted the cops and the army the power to do it for us.  But both those institutions do some pretty horrible stuff with the power we granted them.  Maybe militias weren’t such a bad idea.

        1. Militias of all kinds aren’t exactly known for their respect of civil rights or tolerance.  At least with the police we theoretically have some pressure on them through the election process.  You can get away with having volunteer militias as your primary means of law enforcement if your community is small and homogenous enough, but as a general solution it just doesn’t scale to the modern world. 

        2. Maybe militias weren’t such a bad idea.

          Militia is a word that means “vigilante mob that meets more than once.”

          1. Actually…

            10 USC § 311 – Militia: composition and classes(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
            (b) The classes of the militia are—
            (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
            (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

          2. Is there any point to this comment at all?  (It doesn’t even really contradict the comment in responds to.)

            Edit: The U.S. military does not have any sort of etymological primacy over any other user of the English language; basically, who CARES what the US military defines a militia to be?

            But even ignoring that, even assuming that the US military should get to determine word usage for everyone else, when they say “anyone is or can be part of the militia. They do not have to be part of an organized military” they are essentially conceding that “a vigilante mobs that meets more than once” would, in fact, constitute a militia.

            So again, I don’t see how this contradicts the idea that a militia is essentially just another armed gang of thugs.

          3. Your original response is to the meaning of the law. RedShirt77 claimed “militia” has nothing to do with regular people. ZikZak claimed militia = everyone and gave examples. You make a snarky remark that it doesn’t mean that. The law (constitution + military code) currently agrees with ZikZak. 

            There’s no ambiguity.  The law says ” the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. That’s proceeded by “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” which is the only grounds for claiming that it doesn’t mean all everyday people. But Militia is defined, by law, as everyone.

            We could argue to repel the 2nd amendment but arguing about its meaning seems pointless.I’m not arguing for or against gun control. I’ve lived in countries with gun control and I felt much safer than I do in the USA. Not sure if that’s because there’s more guns here or just because too many of my fellow American’s choose (for whatever reason) to be violent to others with or without guns. 

          4. But Militia is defined, by law, as everyone.

            In real life, ‘militia’ is defined by the people who form them. And that definition is nothing like the legal one.

      2. Police Departments are regularly offered surplus DOD equipment, which they then use to terrorize the local citizenry. 

    3. Yes, fortunately the government doesn’t possess tanks, or airplanes, or bombs, or drones, or satellite surveillance, so resisting the goverment through superior firepower is entirely plausible.  The towering success of Shays’ Rebellion teaches us this if nothing else.

      Also, those crazy drafters of the Constitution were so mixed up!  Even though they wanted the citizens to be able to overthrow the United States by force, they still went ahead and wrote Article Three, Section Three to define treason as levying war against the United States!  Make up your minds, you wacky guys!

      1. The point isn’t to necessarily repel any wholesale domestic repression; it’s to make it so costly to the authorities that the option is an unattractive one.  Shays’ Rebellion failed in part because it was small and disjointed, and didn’t have very broad support.

        Another point – I *think* the underlying idea is that in the event an American government became repressive and/or tyrannical, it would lose moral legitimacy, and thus treason as such would not really be an operable idea.  (That wouldn’t prevent a dictatorial regime from punishing resistance as treason, of course.)

    4. Thinking that you stand a chance against the army or police  even with your weapons is childish.
      Google “afrikaner weerstandsbeweging Bophuthatswana” to see how that ends.

      1. You could also Google “War in Afghanistan” or “War in Iraq” if you want to see how easily a well equipped military can skate to victory over a pitiful force of average citizens equipped only with small arms.

        I don’t like this comparison here – I don’t think it really translates – but if you really wanted to convert and apply current federal restrictions of the second amendment as directly as possible to the first amendment, I don’t think anybody would be particularly pleased with the outcome.

        1. Do RPG launchers count as “small arms” now?  They have (fully auto) AK 47s and RPGs.  They’re using guerrilla tactics in difficult terrain.  I may be wrong, but the US occupying force I believe is rather small by historical standards.  Most importantly, every piece of equipment used by the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan has to be flown or floated over there; military installations have to be rebuilt from pre-existing (and probably obsolete) facilities or built from scratch.

          Their most effective tactics are roadside bombs.  How often do insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan actually win firefights or capture US positions?

          Have you noticed we’re still occupying Afghanistan after 11 years?  Have you noticed that US casualties over that time have been incredibly low by historical standards?  It may not have been an easy victory but it wasn’t necessarily a “defeat” either.

          Edit: Also, we had essentially no intelligence apparatus in either of these countries before the war. We have quite an extensive one domestically. This DOES make a huge difference.

    5. But on Counter-Earth, you see, the second amendment wasn’t about random people being able to resist the government on their own. It was about them having arms to form well-regulated militia, those being necessary to the security of a free state. That’s why they included those words in their strange version of the amendment.

    6. “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” sounds like the purpose was to prevent encroachment of other nations or groups. They didn’t write, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to undermine the security of a tyrranical state….”

      1. If you delve into the history of the Second Amendment, it becomes pretty clear that one of its purposes is in fact as a check on tyranny.

          1. Not necessarily; only about two thirds of the quotes from the founding fathers about this issue are completely fake.

          2. Really?  Do you have some scholarship or research to back that assertion?

            Because in all the reading I’ve ever done on the subject, a main purpose (not necessarily THE purpose) of the Second Amendment was to combat the power that tends to accrue to the government with the maintenance of a large standing army.  

            Such armies were (rightly) viewed as potential sources of oppression by the Founders – the iron fist, if you will, of tyranny.  It’s a lot harder to oppress a recalcitrant population without a large military force (even with it’s an uphill slog).  One solution is the creation of local and state militia forces.  Another is the personal ownership (that whole “keeping and bearing”) of weaponry.

            This attitude towards large standing armies is also made amply apparent in the Third Amendment – having soldiers involuntarily billeted upon oneself is a pretty oppressive tactic.

            There is also ample historical precedent for a right to personal arms as a check on government – from the English Bill of Rights to multiple British attempts to disarm colonists during the Revolution.  

            I’m a huge fan of the civil rights outline in the Constitution – all of them.

            Rather than me being in the realm of “making shit up,” I’d say it is you who are rather in its neighboring kingdom, popularly known as “Not Knowing What The Hell You’re Talking About.”  It is a country teeming with citizens of all stripes, so at least you’ll have company.

          3. Do you have some scholarship or research to back that assertion?

            You’re arguing that a short passage in a 200+ year-old document has to be taken literally (as in biblical literalism) while arguing that your personal interpretation based on (undoubtedly biased) research is the only correct one.  You’re making a religious argument, and a hypocritical one at that.

          4. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus 
            I note that you didn’t actually answer or rebut any of what I wrote, other than crass generalizations.  Do you *have* an argument?  ‘Cause right now, your form is *just* like that of the meathead right-wingers I encounter on other boards.  

            For articles/research, here are a few that might be worth a read, if you can be bothered.  They’re PDFs; I uploaded them myself if you’re concerned about their origin.

            “The Ideological Origins Of The Second Amendment”

            “Toward a Functional Framework for Interpretingthe Second Amendment”

            “The Constitutional Right To Keep And Bear Arms”

            You’re arguing that a short passage in a 200+ year-old document has to be taken literally (as in biblical literalism)

            No, I’m arguing that the text broadly means a certain thing, and that events prior and subsequent jurisprudence and scholarship back that view.  Kindly support your assertion that it doesn’t.  Or don’t, I guess.  But you can hardly be taken seriously if you can’t/won’t support your view – either rhetorically or by some other means (i.e. citation).

            In any case, calling a Constitutional Amendment a “short passage in a 200+ year-old document” is rather understating the magnitude of the document and its application.  

            I doubt you’d be so blithely dismissive (I know *I* wouldn’t) if someone made a similar categorization of, say, the First Amendment.  AAMOF, I KNOW *you* wouldn’t, looking at your comment history.  You seem to be quite the absolutist on free speech.  Why you aren’t so on the right of self-defense (both individual and community)?  

            What IS your position, anyway?  Do you believe that individuals shouldn’t be trusted with firearms ownership?  Should the government be the only entity possessing them?  If so, why?  Is government somehow automatically trustworthy or any better than the people who run it?  

            while arguing that your personal interpretation based on (undoubtedly biased) research is the only correct one.

            I can only argue my personal interpretation of the Amendment, as backed by past reading I’ve done on the subject and informed by my expansive view of human and civil rights.  Right now you’re doing exactly what you have accused me of – relying on bare assertion, not to mention an inordinate amount of snark and handwaving.

            You’re making a religious argument, and a hypocritical one at that.

            Physician, heal thyself.  If I’m a student of the School Of Opinionated Assholes (guilty!), you seem to have graduated cum laude, though you appear to have chosen to minor in Disrespectful Snark vs Reasoned Debate.  

            Now, I’ve presented my view, and supported it with actual scholarship in respected journals of history and law.  If you have anything useful or intelligent to post, feel free.

          5. Once again:

            – You’ve argued that we are bound by the 2nd Amendment as written.
            – When it has been pointed out that it doesn’t say what you claim it does, you resort to opinions to bolster your claim.

            You can’t have it both ways.

          6. You comment that it doesn’t say what I say it means.  What does “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” mean, then?  

            And what, beyond your trenchant say-so, do you have to back it up?  If you can’t support your views and desire to restrict the rights of millions, you’re just as full of shit as you claim I am.

            ETA: I also want to thank you for taking the time to read and actually respond substantively to my previous message, as opposed to merely arguing via repetition and bare assertion. It’s gratifying to see someone so intellectually engaged and willing to at least listen to the other side.

          7. kringlebertfistyebuns:

            What does “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” mean, then?

            It does not mean arms should be unregulated, in the context of a sentence that begins with “A *well-regulated* militia being necessary to the security of a free state.”

            We can argue about what kind of regulations constitute “infringement”, but that’s not what we hear from most gun manufacturing lobbyists and their proxies.

        1. Read up on the Whiskey Rebellion. Basically, a group of farmers who made booze rebelled in 1791 against the federal government because they thought the taxes on it were tyrannical. They were put down *by* a militia — one led by George Washington, no less. Militias were never about defying the federal government — they were its teeth before things like the professional army and FBI existed.

          1. I’m quite well-aware of the Whiskey Rebellion.  It failed for the same reason Shays’ Rebellion did – support was too small and too narrow.  The suppression of the rebellion was accomplished with a federalized militia, not that of the state of Pennsylvania.  

            Washington’s putting down of the rebellion is really immaterial; the Founders were quite comfortable doing things that were directly at odds with the principles they otherwise supported.  I would direct you to John Adams, who signed into law the blatantly unconstitutional Alien & Sedition Acts.  Or Lincoln’s illegal suspension of habeas corpus.  Or Wilson’s abridgment of people’s political rights to free association.

          2.  Lincoln and Wilson were not actually founders, but it’s not a bad point.

            What you seem to be missing is that any future rebellion is going to look a lot more like the Whiskey Rebellion or Shay’s Rebellion than the general uprising fantasy that gun nuts masturbate to.  Government encroachments on rights will be piecemeal such that no more than a small group of citizens will object to any given encroachment.  The rest of the populace will be content with that group of violent troublemakers being put down for the common good.

            Armed rebellion against the US government is an adolescent fantasy.  Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

          3. @wysinwyg:disqus 

            > Lincoln and Wilson were not actually founders, but it’s not a bad point.

            Of course not. Chalk it up to bad phrasing.  I realized the error soon after, but didn’t have the time to correct it.

            I don’t disagree that an armed uprising would be a tough slog indeed for the rebels, but that’s not really the point.  The point is that if (as in the fantasy of some folks on both sides of this issue) there was a general gun confiscation, subsequent repressive tactics would come at virtually *no* cost to any hypothetical regime.  

            Besides as a means to the inherent right of self-defense, personal arms ownership is meant to make an invader or internal oppressor pause in their planning.

            Whether or not it’s realistic is really immaterial, as I was talking about what the impetus behind the 2A was.  To draw a parallel, I think the Fourth Amendment is pretty unrealistic at this point given the ubiquity and technological advancement of the encroaching surveillance state, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea.  

            I also think you’re being a bit deterministic – while a large-scale unified uprising might in fact be unlikely, it would not be at all crazy to expect (especially with much improved communications ability vs. the late 18th Century) widespread if smaller groups wreaking a hell of a lot of havoc.  It’s the essence of asymmetric warfare.  A couple well-led, halfway-intelligent groups could cause tremendous hurt without ever setting foot near a police station or military base.  

            I suspect that if the rebels in the Whiskey Rebellion or Shays’ Rebellion had the benefit of modern communications, they would’ve been able to gather quite a bit more support.  I mean, how can someone support a rebellion they know nothing about?

            You also assume that any process of oppression would necessarily be an incremental process.  That may be true.  But in the cases I can recall, it doesn’t seem to matter.  At some point people get fed up and snap, and if they have the means to strike out against their oppressors, they do so.

            Armed rebellion against the US government is an adolescent fantasy.  Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

            Again, it’s more about the *possibility* of generating insurrection than the actual eventuality.  

            Unlike many people who hold a similar position to mine, I hold no brief with “gun nuts,” nor do I nurture any “Red Dawn” fantasy of taking to the hills with my guns and fighting it out.  Quite bluntly, I think most of those folks are full of shit.  

            But any armed insurrection would be horrific for both sides.  That’s the point.

        2. I was replying to someone about the text of the Second Amendment. Whether there was discussion of it as a check on tyranny earlier or later or outside of that sentence is a separate issue.

    7. Historically, armed rebellions lead to civil wars, which lead to lots of death and destruction.  Armed revolutions usually lead to a reign of terror, mass executions, and often an ensuing police state built on the paranoia that anyone could be a counter-revolutionary.  The American Revolution is actually misnomer– the people in power in the colonies mostly stayed in power, and King George wasn’t dethroned.

      The point I’m making– if you think the 2nd Amendment is a viable solution to problems with the government, then be prepared for the cure being worse than the disease.  We have a government of the people, by the people, for the people, I suggest guns are not a viable solution, but a horrible mirage.

      1. I agree with you, with respect to the end result of civil wars.  And I assume you agree with most Americans, and with the American high courts that –at least until there is some turnover in the composition of the current Supreme Court  –that the Second Amendment protects the right of average, law-abiding citizens to possess some kinds of firearms for the purpose of defending their homes (at least), subject to various regulations.  No one seems to be seriously arguing against that basic premise.  

        The current debate is centered around what are called, by opponents of their possession, “assault weapons.”  These weapons are not designed for defense of one’s home against typical kinds of intruders, or for carrying concealed when one walks home from work in a bad neighborhood.  They are designed for combat.  Implicitly, combat against an oppressive government, or combat against civilian oppressors (rampaging Klansmen, a small town sheriff’s force which has it in for South Asian immigrants, whatever; pick your bogeyman).  The NRA has not been forthcoming about this, preferring to couch its rhetoric in abstract terms, rather than specifically stating what is one the table for debate, and possible prohibition:  Whether or not American citizens have the right to possess combat small arms, for possible (however remote or unlikely) use against various units of government and/or oppressive civilian groups.  It’s as disingenuous as the pro-abortion lobby calling itself “pro-choice.”  I am pro-abortion, because there will still be plenty of choices left if/when the anti-abortion lobby (they’re not “pro-life”) succeeds in banning abortion.  So I’d suggest that, for purposes of the instant debate, we call it what it is.  It’s not about something as abstract as being “pro Second Amendment” or “pro gun” or even being in favor of actualizing the original intent of the Founders, because no one will ever know what that was.  In today’s context, the debate is simply this:  Do Americans have the right to own combat small arms?  Let’s cut the shit, and debate that.  Abstraction of the issue, as done in this cartoon, is not helpful.  We need the opposite of abstraction right now, we need precision in terms, arguments and justifications.

        1. It’s as disingenuous as the pro-abortion lobby calling itself “pro-choice.”

          This isn’t the least-bit disingenuous if you interpret the “choice” part as meaning “the choice of whether or not to get an abortion.”  Which is exactly what it means.  “Pro-abortion” sounds like a bunch of people who follow pregnant women around telling them how great abortions are. 

          I also think “pro-life” is not disingenuous because I think the majority of pro-life folks honestly believe that they are trying to protect lives.

          It seems to me as though you’re the one mistaking labels and rhetoric for content.

          1. You can’t very well choose whether or not to get an abortion if abortions are outlawed, and that’s why that debate is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life” (something that lobby actually isn’t, given its overlap with the pro-death penalty movement).  Call it “pro access to legalized abortion” if you want, but call a spade a spade, or neither side gets anywhere in any discourse. 

            And that’s the problem with the NRA, as expressed in my original post, and both sides of this whole debate.  It’s not about “guns” anymore, or hunting.  No one is seriously suggesting –or at least no one who is taken seriously is suggesting –that guns be banned, but the NRA operates on that conceit and whips its members up into a fury over it.  Similarly, the other side bases its argument on the unremarkable fact that you don’t need a 30-round clip to go hunting, which amounts to a big dumb non sequitur.  The NRA has refused to acknowledge the Constitutional basis for the continued right of access to those weapons, and the other side has refused to confront it.  That’s what this debate should be centered on –whether or not the Second Amendment is a “doomsday provision” (as one prominent judge has described it), intended to ensure that citizens have means of resistance and protection when government goes off the rails.  Agree with that?  Great, you’re in favor of access to “assault weapons” (a horribly imprecise term, but that’s another issue).  Disagree with that?  Great, you’re opposed to access to “assault weapons.”  But that’s the next step in this debate, which is being impeded by the abstract rhetoric employed by both sides (and in this cartoon, by the usually stellar Bolling).   

      2. The problem is that many of us think that the whole “government of the people, by the people, for the people” part is also a mirage, regardless of whether we favor peaceful or violent revolutionary solutions. 

    8. I disagree. It’s not about resisting the government, either. It’s about citizen empowerment. It’s the statement that we trust our fellow citizens with responsibility over life and death. The problem is that our society has grown so large that for every ten thousand people we can trust, there’s one that we can’t- and it’s that last one that’s the real problem.

    9. It was, and is, about ensuring that the citizenry have effective means of violently resisting a government that it no longer finds satisfactory, should it ever come to that. 

      That is a fantastic argument.  By which I mean it is fanciful and remote from reality.

      1. It’s not an argument, it’s a statement of fact, as determined by the people with absolute authority to make such final and binding factual determinations: The Supreme Court of the United States.  You can disagree with their factual conclusion, and there’s plenty of historical evidence to support a countervailing argument.  Scads of it, in fact, some of it even well-reasoned.  But until a differently constituted Supreme Court revisits the issue, say 30 or 40 years from now, you’re pretty much stuck with those apples.  You’ll just have to deal. 

        (If you don’t like it, you may wish to think up a Constitutional provision which would provide some kind of last-ditch relief for when a government, and all its constituent branches, goes completely off the rails.  Gee, I wonder what such a provision would look like?) 

        1. It’s not an argument, it’s a statement of fact, as determined by the people with absolute authority to make such final and binding factual determinations: The Supreme Court of the United States.

          A dude named Dred Scott says to tell you that you don’t understand what the word “fact” means.

          1. I’m not saying our system is perfect or close to it.  But that is the system that you and I are stuck with it, and as of today, that system considers it a settled fact that a right to take up arms against an oppressive or tyrannical government is the basis for the Second Amendment.  You want page numbers, I’ll give em to you.    

            I find it curious that you live under a system of government you, apparently, find laughably broken, but feel that it would be prudent to remove any means of forcibly resisting it, should things ever get that bad.  Me and Dred Scott would both disagree with you about that.

          2. I’m not saying our system is perfect or close to it.  But that is the system that you and I are stuck with it,

            By the exact same reasoning any armed resistance against the government should be considered to be treason and those who do so should be executed.

            It should be really fucking obvious that legal absolutism undermines your argument more fundamentally than it does Antinous’.

    1. It upsets me when “conservatives” deliberately misinterpret a rethorical point just in order to inject some artificial bipartisanship into a thread.

      1.  I am a liberal.

        Why would a “conservative” be upset that folks were accepting an argument that peace activists are criminals?

        1.  Why would a self-defined liberal only be upset when other presumed liberals won’t follow his or her personal rules for historical annotation of household analogies? Where does “liberal” even enter into that mess of presumptions? You tell me.

          1. Why would any American, particularly a liberal, not be upset when people accept an argument that the govt should remove their most basic rights as defined in the bill of rights, just for the sake of increased safety. 

            “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Ben Franklin.

          2. Since you seem to be such an stickler for historical accuracy I´ll assume you already know that Ben Franklin didn’t actually say that. Not in those words, anyway. Wich renders the rest of your argument not void, but comical.

          3. Franklin’s original quote was in reference to giving up Pennsylvania’s legislature’s power to tax to the Penn’s and their appointed colonial Governor in exchange for frontier security funding.

            It is not a quote directly aimed at giving up personal liberty but instead regional self rule in what was at least a somewhat representative governing process in exchange for putting troops on the boarder.

            I think it has relevance as safety is given as an argument to eliminate individual liberties.

          4. Franklin not only did write that, he wrote it several times in several different phrasings, according to Wikiquote.  I’ve seen it in the “Historical Review of Pennsylvania” I believe.

            But Adams expressed the same sentiments in a more lively style, really.

  2. At first I assumed this comic would be gun control propaganda, but it actually makes me more sympathetic to gun rights activists.  Interesting.

    Ruben tries to imply that unregulated speech would lead to danger and death, and therefore we let the government regulate it.  But that’s a very slippery slope, and one that makes me nervous the same way I imagine NRA folks get nervous about gun control.  In fact, the example he alludes to – “Yelling fire in a crowded theater” – was coined as an argument that criticizing World War I should be prohibited, since that speech is too dangerous and puts lives at risk.  That’s never been a credible argument for restricting speech, so why should it be for guns?

    In fact, we have free speech watchdogs and legal groups which cry bloody murder any time the government even hints at restricting free speech.  Protesters claim 1st Amendment protection for actions which are obviously illegal, and we agree with them.  We support institutions like WikiLeaks, despite the potential for harm their speech involves.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t, I’m saying that this makes us 1st Amendment nutjobs.  That helps me appreciate the perspective of 2nd Amendment nutjobs a little more :)

    1. I don’t know if any examples of “yelling fire in a crowded theater” have been prosecuted, but there are widely accepted limitations on freedom of speech, like inciting riots or violence (I’m thinking of the case of white supremacist Tom Metzger) or libel/slander laws. Free speech watchdogs and legal groups have not been able to shoot down libel or slander. Not sure if they have affected laws about inciting riots or violence.

      “I’m not saying we shouldn’t, I’m saying that this makes us 1st Amendment nutjobs.”
      For some limited values of “us”.

  3. It seems evident to me that yelling “fire” shouldn’t be prohibited by law, but wilfully inciting a mass panic should be. 

  4. Those who argue that police departments should have an unlimited cache of weapons, and that the individual does not have the right to bear any arms are missing the point that the US Constitution is SPECIFICALLY about the rights of the individual and not about those of the State. IN addition, the straw man argument about yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre does not compare to owning a weapon. Yelling such in a theatre is an act which in and of itself creates a hazard to the public at large, whereas the act of gun ownership does not create such. If that were so, the 50 million or so gun owners we have in the United States now would have massacred the entire remainder of the populace by now. Does it hurt ANYONE for another person to walk down the street with a concealed or unconcealed weapon? The answer is unequivocally “no”, and that can truly be seen by the simple fact that where gun laws are relaxed, people move about in society regularly while carrying their weapons without any harm to the persons not carrying unless the person carrying a gun (either legally or illegally) decides to break another law already enacted.

    1. Give it time.

      I’m not sure where you get your numbers but I think they’re a bit high. The core of your argument is sound: eventually, gun owners will kill a lot of people though probably not everyone. I’m not saying your country isn’t trying, they certainly do seem to be giving it the old college effort, what with more firearm related deaths than any other place on the globe, but I think your assesment of having massacred “the entire remainder of the populace…” is a bit optimistic.

    2. “Yelling such in a theatre is an act which in and of itself creates a hazard to the public at large, whereas the act of gun ownership does not create such.”

      That’s just it. It does create a hazard. Even if you just consider accidental deaths and suicides, surely it’s foolish to deny that the gun is inherently dangerous?

      1. …” surely it’s foolish to deny that the gun is inherently dangerous?”

        When I see those Orwellian bumper stickers that say “GUNS SAVE LIVES”, I want to stick on an asterisk and another sticker that says ” * Except when used as directed.”

  5. If there was another body of the same mass as the Earth, orbiting the sun exactly in-opposition to the Earth, we would absolutely be able to detect its presence, due the gravitational effects that extra mass would have throughout the system. Just sayin.

  6. Whoops on the other thing.

    And, man do I love it when they bust out Brandenburg

    Anyway, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Bolling distorts in his pursuit of the funny, as he appears to suggest that Free Speech and Gun Rights are like a see-saw, and that you’d have to yield the one in order to enable the other. 

    ‘S pretty apparent that the US is pretty extreme in its defense of both.  I AM a First Amendment nut job, and don’t really think that my impassioned defense of the First makes me any more receptive to the entrenching of the Second.  It’s definitely unfortunate, but still, I’d rather deal with the consequences of strong defense of both, than of neither.

    1. I don’t think he’s saying that at all.  I think he’s just kind of trying to point out the ridiculousness of the NRA/”cold dead hands” lobby by showing how ridiculous their arguments look if we applied them to the 1A.

      (edited for grammar)

    2. But you do recognize there are reasonable exceptions to free speech protections, such as libel, slander, and incitement, do you not?

      That is the point of the cartoon.  Even “1st amendment nutjobs” like you or me can see there’s valid restrictions to be made on the 1st amendment.

      1. Well, put it this way . . . the last time I was talking about free speech on boing boing, I was talking about the right that that Innocence of the Muslims asshole had to make his film. 

        So, define reasonable exceptions, and I *might* agree.

        I had something else here about exceptions I’d make in general for slander because slander and libel are civil actions, and I am more worried about what the *state* might do to limit our freedoms with criminal penalties, but at the end of writing it, I came to realize that you can sue someone for slander or libel, but you can’t sue a gun shop for selling a gun to a mass murderer.  So I’m not sure what that does to my point above.  Probably invalidates it and probably makes Bolling look smarter than I thought he did.  But what I’d say in this comment here is if that’s the case, we’ve made too many restrictions on the first amendment already.

        Anyway:  Incitement, maybe, once in a great great while.   But the burden of proof on any court attempting to limit our free speech should be monumental. . . . and in criminal courts, at any rate, it has been.

      2. But you do recognize there are reasonable exceptions to free speech protections, such as libel, slander, and incitement, do you not?

        In theory, yes.  But it’s really hard to draw the lines, and our government is so ridiculously corrupt that any exception is likely to be interpreted to the benefit of wealthy corporations and to the detriment of everyone else.  Right now there’s a six-year-old child of color who has been charged with a criminal offense in Maryland for pointing his finger at another child and (allegedly) saying “bang”.  Meanwhile Fox News blatantly lies for political purposes and incites all kinds of problems, and gets rich in the process.  So I don’t know if absolute free speech wouldn’t be better for us.

  7. All of this defeatism. “The government has all these weapons that are better, so everyone should just lay down and die and not even consider resisting a totalitarian regime”. 

    First of all, that’s really sad. 
    Second of all, most of these stuff they have requires pilots/drivers. If your Super Raptor pilots defect and/or don’t agree with the policies they are being pushed what then? You can just hop in a tank and drive it. Most of the guys I know in the military are just average guys and most are gun owners. If the government ever decided to push policy that violates their oath (folks in the military swore an oath to protect the constitution, this means that you have to put up with those doofuses with guns you don’t understand and they have to accept your right to post websites about how dumb they are, and most will) these people will at least abandon their posts (leaving drones, planes, artillery, tanks, etc without a control method) and at most start raiding armories and fighting back. Especially heartwarming is talking to groups of special forces guys. They are by nature resistant to rules and they’re treated like they’re special so they’re more likely to speak up. Or blow something up.

    1. “The government has all these weapons that are better, so everyone should just lay down and die and not even consider resisting a totalitarian regime”.

      Have you ever once anywhere heard someone actually advocate this position?  Or are you trying to figure out what people who disagree with your opinion could possibly be thinking?

      Putting words in people’s mouths is a pretty damned stupid way to debate, especially if you want those people to listen to you.

      Here’s my take: guns in the hands of US citizens are much more dangerous to other US citizens than to the US government.  A totalitarian regime is almost out of the question in the USA (too many competing interests).  If a totalitarian regime did take over in the USA we would be better off co-opting the tactics of insurgency that are actually successful like roadside bombing and sabotage rather than engaging in direct firefights with better-equipped and better-trained soldiers.

      Your “second of all” is kind of silly.  Any sort of action that would cause a mass defection of the US military simply wouldn’t be taken by a totalitarian-to-be because it would kind of ruin their plans to be dictator.  In fact, under totalitarian regimes the military are usually given special privileges and are subject to fewer rules than under rule of law so your special forces guys would probably be especially happy under such a system.

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