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Democrats, ‘Party of Intellectuals,’ Have a Second-Amendment Blind Spot

| February 28, 2018

muskets of capt. john parker second amendment

The muskets of Capt. John Parker. (NYPL digital library)

By Nancy Smith

The Florida Democratic Party strikes me as a spotless leopard right now. Aren’t these the folks who in 2016 called themselves the Party of Intellectuals and joined Hillary in crowing about their superiority to “deplorable” Republicans?


Then, why, when it comes to the Second Amendment, are they so blithely ignorant about American history?

Why do they blow raspberries at the “gun lobby” — aka, the National Rifle Association — when in any historical context, the NRA has more right than it has wrong?

 But on Monday, there they were again … Senate Democrats continuing to hammer away at the “gun lobby” after their amendment to ban semi-automatic weapons failed to pass the Senate Rules Committee.

FDP Executive Director Juan Penalosa fired out an angry press statement after the meeting: “While teachers, students and activists watched on, Republicans … once again proved to the world that (they) … stand against the courageous efforts of Parkland students to put an end to mass shootings in Florida.”

The FDP wants a ban on more than a dozen types of assault-style firearms and it’s using the deadly actions of a cold-blooded killer who was hiding in plain sight for years, to play on the raw emotions of Parkland students and families and further its agenda.

Now, my husband and I never owned a gun and neither did any of our kids. But we always understood why our Founding Fathers put the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights, and it wasn’t so we could hunt ducks and shoot clay targets.    

What happened that the Party of Intellectuals cares so little about historical accuracy? Maybe it doesn’t really matter about the Bill of Rights anyway. It was written a long time ago in a textbook far, far away. 

If they want to believe “well-regulated militia” means the National Guard — as the gun control crowd insists we interpret the Second Amendment — who’s going to look it up and prove us wrong?

We live in a world that has allowed history and the understanding of it to drown beneath a wave of other information. True, you don’t have to know who’s on a $100 bill to spend it. But the intellectuals and university eggheads know — or, should — exactly what drove our Founding Fathers to adopt the Second Amendment.

By all accounts, of all the powerful memories and emotions the Founding Fathers brought to the constitutional debates, none was stronger than their fear of standing armies. As David Young, author of “The Origin of the Second Amendment” observed: “The necessity of an armed populace, protection against disarming of the citizenry, and the need to guard against a select militia and assure a real militia which could defend liberty against any standing forces the government might raise were topics interspersed throughout the ratification period.”

In other words, the Founding Fathers didn’t want Americans powerless against their own government.

Read the James Madison Research Library and Information Center’s “History: A Drafting and Ratification of the Bill of Rights in the Colonial Period.” It’s not as boring as it sounds and it explains perfectly that “In colonial times, the term ‘well regulated’ meant ‘well functioning’ — because this was the meaning of those words at that time.

“…Even if the opening words of the Amendment, ‘A well regulated militia …’ somehow would be interpreted as strictly limiting ‘the right of the people to keep arms,’ nevertheless, a properly functioning militia fundamentally presupposes that the individual citizen be allowed to keep, practice, and train himself in the use of firearms.”

Here’s what Richard Henry Lee, a mentor to many who signed the Constitution, wrote on Jan. 25, 1788: “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves … and include,” according to the past and general usage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms …”To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”

There’s no shortage of historical accounts of why the founders wanted us to bear arms.

A lot of Americans think fantasy baseball stats are more important than the timeline of the American Revolution. No one needs to remember the Proclamation Line of 1763 because Google can spit out the answer in a second on the Web. Only, who even cares to ask Google?

Try to imagine if one day the Left got its wish and the NRA board of directors suddenly “evolved” on gun rights. At a stroke they changed the focus of the “gun lobby” to gun safety, hunting, and target shooting; trap and skeet became more important than assault-weapons bans or concealed carry. Would America change?

Of course not.

Within days, millions of frustrated and angry gun owners would coalesce behind one or more competing organizations, the lobbying machinery would rebuild, and the country would be right back where it is today. Only thing is, a different organization would be leading the charge.

I keep trying to make this same point about the NRA and I will again here:

The NRA is powerful because it is an effective part of a larger community, because it persuasively expresses the will of its members and allies. It represents those who understand and adhere to the central truths of American “gun culture.” 

As our forefathers insisted, each American possesses an unalienable and inherent right of self-defense, a lawfully armed citizenry is a free citizenry, and no government ever constructed has merited the total trust of its people.

That’s what the Second Amendment means.

The Left can challenge the NRA all it wants, but until it defeats those ideas, it will not transform American attitudes toward guns. Republicans, thank heaven, understand that. In the Left’s fight for gun control, the great bogeymen aren’t the leaders of the NRA or state and national Republican leadership, they’re the Founders of our country.

I support Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Republican leaders in the Legislature who look to limit the access of semi-assault weapons for minors and those, like Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, who never should have been near a deadly weapon.

Many organizations and people with hands-on power failed Cruz and the shooting victims. And I feel relieved that the Florida House has moved to scrutinize every last one of them. 

nancy smith sunshine state news columnistNancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.

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19 Responses for “Democrats, ‘Party of Intellectuals,’ Have a Second-Amendment Blind Spot”

  1. Pogo says:

    @Nancy Smith

    Pants on fire as usual. Hey, let’s share all the wealth:

    Demonizing Marion Hammer and the NRA Won’t Prevent Another Parkland
    By Nancy Smith

    Lefties, blah blah blah, etc.
    http://sunshinestatenews.com/story/piling-marion-hammer-and-nra-wont-prevent-another-parkland

    Today’s opus? Lefties, blah blah blah, etc. Lefties, children, was a slur made popular by upstanding lowlifes like this mentor to trump: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Cohn – something to remember when you hear a GOP flack talking about trump’s Democrat roots.

    This is really choice: “…I support Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Republican leaders in the Legislature who look to limit the access of semi-assault weapons for minors and those, like Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, who never should have been near a deadly weapon.

    Many organizations and people with hands-on power failed Cruz and the shooting victims. And I feel relieved that the Florida House has moved to scrutinize every last one of them.”

    C’mon Smith, you can be more specific than that:

    DCF investigation

    “…The DCF investigation came four days after Cruz’s 18th birthday, meaning he could legally purchase a rifle.

    “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for,” the DCF report reads…”
    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-school-shooting-nikolas-cruz-cutting-snapchat-20180216-story.html

  2. Sherry says:

    I don’t even know where to begin in response to this article. Nancy Smith. . . you are an intelligent person. . . . why is it that you do not understand the definition of the words “REGULATED MILITIA” in the Second Amendment? The word “REGULATED” means that laws will govern the right of gun ownership.

    When the second amendment was written there were no “automatic” , rapid fire guns that equate to weapons of mass destruction. Therefore our founding fathers did not, could not conceive of the horrific massacres in our school and gatherings, much less take them into con consideration.

    Democrats don’t want to take ALL guns away. . . we just want some “sanity” in the way they are “REGULATED”. As it says in the second amendment!

  3. Veteran says:

    So an 18 year old can join the Army, go to a war zone, and use a fully automatic weapon but can’t buy a semi auto? There are no age restrictions in the second amendment. The Las Vegas mass murderer was 64. So I guess we ban sales for everyone under 64!

  4. knightwatch says:

    So, Nancy, are you saying that the murders of innocent kids, teachers, movie and festival-goers and mall shoppers with freely bought and sold weapons of war are worth the trouble just in case some Tea Party/Republican nut job thinks he or she just might have to shoot up the government?

    You are one sick puppy.

  5. John DeWitt says:

    Sherry,

    Do you realize the 1st Ten amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights? The Bill of Rights was written by James Madison in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, the Bill of Rights lists specific prohibitions on governmental power and pertains to individual rights. People might not realize the context in which the use of the word militia was used during that era. We think today of a militia being the National Guard, but in that era, ordinary citizens were the militia and the country did not have a permanent standing Army. I would not consider owning firearms a particularly good defense against an oppressive regime within our own system of government. But I would consider well armed citizens an absolutely fantastic defense against an invading country and also a great means of defending my own property from looters after a natural or manmade disaster. It is also my right to protect my home from intruders. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it suggest guns should be used only for target practice or hunting. The common denominator in all these mass killings be they by guns, bombs, knives, or vehicles is either terrorism or mental illness. We have done much as a country to combat mental illness but not much to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill/ We have no problem restricting a mentally ill persons other freedoms such as driving a car, but due to HIPPA privacy concerns law enforcement is often not even informed of the status of mentally ill people. It breaks my heart every time I hear about mass shootings. What puzzles me is why we can’t all get together and come up with reasonable and mutually agreeable solutions. Part of the problem is hurling insults back and forth. I will just respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the 2nd amendment. Mass shooters always go after the perceived weakest targets. I would also add that if it makes anyone feel safer they can post a sign in their front yard that their house is a gun free zone. Let’s see if those homes get fewer break-ins and burglaries!

  6. Anonymous says:

    just to understand this…we should also have access to the same arsenal as our full time army to keep the possibility to rise up in arms to our government if they subvert the rights of the people and the US constitution?

  7. Sherry says:

    @ Veteran. . . unless you are saying we are “at WAR” with each other, and our communities need to be turned into battlefields with “UNTRAINED/UNEVALUATED” civilians ,your words make no sense at all. Of course, maybe that’s just what you think and desire.

    Automatic and semi-automatic weapons are meant to kill large numbers of humans and need to be banned, period!

  8. 45 calls says:

    First of all, thank you Pierre Tristan for your boldness and work
    to give venue for publishing her op-ed. Agreed, true freedom of the press.
    I absolutely have opposite views on most topics that you hold,
    but thank you for the bulwark of free speech by publishing this.

    As pertaining to the Parkland murders, the Broward county sheriff was
    negligent. Sheriff Israel sought higher office by reducing the amount
    of crimes being reported, while not reducing the crimes being committed.

    This is fraud by deceit and contribulatory negligence, bordering on third degree manslaughter.
    This perpetrator was a know and self revealed threat to commit such a crime over social media,
    39 plus police calls to his residence; as I said before, the ruse of reducing crime statistics, yet not the crime, his phone call to the Broward country sheriff’s office, where he asked for help and numerous occasions of being a threat to himself and others were not sufficient to detain him.
    The aftermath of these deaths, families shattered and our human right of self defense being degraded are the results of a self serving, illegitimate sheriff. It’s ironic how that the second amendment was put in the bill of rights to preserve our ability to protect ourselves against such, yet some come to the conclusion that our country needs less of the second amendment for public safety.
    Thank you Tristan for the opportunity. Peace to you!

  9. gmath55 says:

    They are Democrat because they are way too irresponsible to own a gun,
    and know that my local police are all I need to protect me from
    murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service
    that get police to my home in order to identify my body after a
    home invasion.

  10. Pogo says:

    @Nancy Smith

    Hope had to resign to be closer to the safety of a bathroom – just in case. A messenger of your caliber is just what your dear leader needs now. Stand your ground next to him.

    @Marion Hammer’s eunuchs

    Something to entertain you while you clean your replica pistols:

    https://youtu.be/inn5nTmVzE4

  11. Michael Bolchunas says:

    @ 45 calls… I am same way as you, never agree with anything Pierre writes… Thank you Pierre for puting this up!

  12. PCer says:

    I am a democrat, I own a gun, I have my cc license. I DO NOT SUPPORT THE NRA. They are a right wing nut job lobby and have twisted words and history to meet their objective which is to sell more guns and make more money. They are the lobby for the gun manufacturers, not for the 2nd Amendment. If you don’t believe that, then I have bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. If you support the NRA, then you have blood on your hands.

  13. Florida voter says:

    Wow. Just. Wow. Let’s all consider a few points:
    1) There are already restrictions on what weaponry civilians can own, so as it is, our military could completely wallop any city or even state with mortars, tanks, attack helicopters, etc. Assault rifles won’t protect us from that.
    2) People want home defense, but … a great means of home defense is illegal: short-barreled shotguns (less than 18 inches). Asking for assault rifles to be legal due to “home defense” but not asking for “sawed-foo shotguns” to be legal seems to be a double-standard and asking for the less efficient home defense weapon.
    3) Pistols are nice because they are small. Rifles are nice because they have good accuracy over long distances. Assault rifles are specifically designed to kill as many people as quickly and easily as possible.

    Why are assault rifles legal and not grouped with illegal weaponry such as rocket launchers? (okay, rocket launchers are legal if you obtain specific ATF permits)

    4) High capacity magazines are designed so that someone can fire more bullets faster without reloading. If you need more than 9 rounds for “home defense” or if you need a 15 round magazine for hunting: you need to be a better shot. Why are these tools that are specifically designed to aid in the killing of more people quicker still legal?

    5) We live in the information age. Firearms no longer ensure a “free state,” information does. Forums like this, websites like FlagerLive, are the new “weapon.” How many corrupt politicians were removed by firearms last year? How many by information?

  14. Did anyone hear about the teacher in georgia that opened fire in a school for no reason and noone was injured? says:

    Sounds like the democrats are staging again….adding to their stats.

  15. From my cold dead hands says:

    Sherry you are highly misinformed.first off as the author of the article wrote in those times well regulated meant well working and effective. Second to say are during the time of our forefathers there were not automatic weapons is untrue. It may not of been mass produced but the puckle gun was an automatic gun that was in exsistance at the time… all weapons are designed to fire a projectile at an object with animate or inanimate. Also after the well regulated miltia part it’s separate by a comma and goes on to say the right of the PEOPLE to bear arms…yes in whatever fantasy world you live in if you ban those guns mass shootings will stop. But in the real world ,in real life and not some pipe dream,it will do nothing to stop mass shootings.paris has banned most all firearms especially fully automatic and semi automatic rifles yet a few years ago two men with fully automatic weapons opened up killing not just the unarmed civilians but the unarmed police as well.and the police who showed up with guns were out gunned.not to mention if one can’t find a gun they can just as easily rent a box truck and kill 90 people just like in France last year…so just because you want to be a cowardly sheep doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be…… You liberals don’t understand your going against the one right we have that protects all the rest. And for those who say good luck fighting a military with tanks ,bombers,etc etc well Al quida has been giving our highly armed and technically advanced military a good run for it’s money for well over a decade now..rice farmers in Vietnam did a damn good job on them too. Not to mention it wouldn’t be our military that would force tyranny on the people or disarm them.over 95 percent of them took an oath to defend the Constitution and would die for it even after their service.the other 5 percent who are considered traitors wouldn’t have a chance.so you’d have united Nations troops on u.s soil doing the dirty work.and they are a joke…so in summary good luck with your pipe dreams and pushing bills which will ultimately send our country into another civil war…we already on the brink of one..just keep pushing. When our country looks like bahgdad you can take the credit. Hell look at chiraq I mean Chicago. Strictest gun laws in the country and 80 people on average shot and killed every week……

  16. smarterthanmost says:

    @ Florida voter: “Why are assault rifles legal and not grouped with illegal weaponry such as rocket launchers?”

    Which assault rifles are legal, please name them.

  17. Florida voter says:

    @ “From my cold dead hans”
    Your self-contradicting / selective comment is why I posted the points that I did.

    1) Yes, “regulated” meant trained together and well functioning, but our Supreme Court decided that the training and any sense of togetherness could be ignored, so yes, our 2nd amendment has gone far beyond it’s intent. While we’re on the topic of using 1790-ish vocabulary, let’s look at the word “people.” At that time, “People,” people,” “Men,” and “men.” Yes, lowercase SOMETIMES referred to individuals and uppercase SOMETIMES referred to the population as a whole, but that is not reliable even among the founding father’s writings (compare the Preamble of the Constitution with paragraph one of the Declaration of Independence). Commas are also extremely unreliable, due to the fact that there are (at least) 14 versions of the 2nd Amendment that were ratified, and no two are identical, having one to four commas and different capitalization. Moving beyond capitalization and commas, You yourself point out that “regulated” means “trained and well-functioning.” It is reasonable, then, to read the 2nd amendment as ensuring local municipalities can maintain a “trained, call as needed” army. You advocate reading the 2nd amendment in it’s original context, yet you conveniently ignore the “trained and well-functioning” portion and insist that “people” refer to individuals, rather than society as a whole.

    2) You feel that the 2nd Amendment can ignore any threat form the U.S. military (see the “it wouldn’t be our military” sentence), yet it was exactly the government-sponsored military that the militias of 1770-1780 were fighting. You claim that the UN forces “are a joke,” yet you highlight the effectiveness of weaker armies in guerrilla warfare against our own military. You also imply that the ongoing fight with “Al quida” (supplanted by ISIS) and the lengthy and ineffective “action” in Vietnam were impeded by the effectiveness of military arms, yet you ignore political difficulties that limited effectiveness. Which is it? Do we need to be able to “secure a free State” from internal or from external forces? Do we need free access to advanced weapons designed solely to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible, or can we stand with significantly weaker arms?

    3) You imply that the only reason to “ban” guns it that we (only liberals who are not gun owners) think that if we ” ban those guns mass shootings will stop.” I, for one, do not own a gun, yet I think (based on actual research, not fantasy-land believes) that if we can get reasonable national restrictions on the general populations’ gun ownership, and if we can maintain those restrictions, then we will see a drop in gun violence … in a generation of two. What is reasonable? You give the impression that we are only advocating for a complete ban on all guns, yet in my earlier post I clearly give reasons for rifles, pistols, and “sawed-off shotguns” (currently banned). I spoke against guns that are “specifically designed to kill as many people as quickly and easily as possible.” I also questioned the need for “high capacity” clips. (Yes, I understand that both “assault rifle” and “high capacity” are poorly defined). Will those bans prevent mass attacks? no. Will those bans reduce mass attacks? maybe. Will those bans decrease the lethality in the attacks that we see? probably. Do such bans prevent “home defense?” not if we still allow handguns (under restrictions) and shotguns (again, under restrictions).

    4) You think that the 2nd Amendment is “the one right we have that protects all the rest.” I say no. That right is the 1st Amendment linked with our current ability to spread information. The Russians know the potential of information. The Chinese and North Koreans restrict their People’s access to information because they know the power of information. On the whole, information is more powerful than guns. (on the micro scale, that might be reversed)

    Our “free state” is maintained by information, not rifles.

  18. Florida voter says:

    @smarterthanmost
    As I said in my second post (written before your post March 2, 2018 at 8:24 am was approved) “assault rifle” is poorly defined. Going with most common definitions, however:
    “AR-15” — many different versions, but all generally based on the “M16” (which was actually a version of an older AR-15, but with semi-auto, 3-round, and some with full-auto capacity) or previous AR-15s that were based on the M16 — the M16 (several versions) is definitely an “assault rifle” but it’s illegal (I believe)
    “AK-47” — either a slightly altered knock-off or one made before 1986.
    several others (really. Lots of manufactures with Lots of names).

    The 1994 federal assault rifle ban shows just how hard it is to define “assault rifle” in a good and technical manner, but the above two families of rifles (AR-15, AK-47) are legal and reasonably defined as “assault rifles.”

  19. Sherry says:

    Definition of the word REGULATE:

    control (something, especially a business activity) by means of rules and regulations.
    “the Code regulates the takeovers of all public companies”
    synonyms: supervise, oversee, police, superintend, monitor, check (up on), keep an eye on, inspect, administer, be responsible for

    Definition of the word MILITIA:

    a “military” force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
    “creating a militia was no answer to the army’s manpower problem”

    a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities in opposition to a regular army.
    (in the US) all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.

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