Politics & Prejudices
Straight shooters
All I want is a weapon of mass destruction

By Jack Lessenberry

Published: January 19, 2011

"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

Those are the actual words of the Second Amendment to the United
States Constitution, held sacred by our nation's gun nuts.

They are powerful words indeed, regardless of the fact the clause is
poorly written, and clearly means something different than almost
everyone thinks it does. No matter that many of its fervent defenders
don't even know what the Second Amendment really says.

True, others have memorized and can unthinkingly recite these words,
sort of like Roman Catholics in the old days repeating Latin
incantations they didn't understand.

Language and the meanings of words change over time, but it is clear
that what adoption of the Second Amendment really meant was that
people should be allowed to have weapons (arms) in case the government
had to quickly throw together a militia to drive off marauders, or put
down some local illegal uprising, like the Pennsylvania farmers who
rebelled over whiskey taxes a couple of years later.

Naturally, it logically follows that the citizens ought to be able to
keep these arms in their homes, as in, on two hooks over the
fireplace, since most people didn't have anywhere else to put them to
begin with, and many used their rifles to go hunt dinner, much of the

Bear in mind too that the nation in which the Constitution and the
Bill of Rights were written was a collection of small, rural states,
with a total population of slightly less than four million people
about the size of metropolitan Detroit today. High-tech arms meant a
single-shot musket, accurate to within a hundred yards or so, maybe.

Once you fired it, it took close to a minute to reload. If you shot it
more than a few times in a row, it was apt to overheat and misfire or
blow up in your face. This was not seen as a weapon of mass
destruction, but more like a household appliance one could use for

So it was logical to stipulate that the citizens had "the right to
keep and bear" arms, when these were the arms. What's crazy is that
these words, written for practical reasons in a primitive, largely
rural world, are today being used to justify making it legal for a
mentally troubled person to buy a high-tech weapon of mass destruction
and turn it on helpless civilians.

Anyone who thinks the framers of the Constitution intended that is, to
put it politely, crazier than a shithouse rat.

Nobody I know has remarked on this, but what's going on here isn't a
problem of rights so much as a problem, first of all, of language,
specifically, the word "arms." Throughout much of history, "arms"
meant bows and arrows and pieces of metal that men whacked away at
each other with, at close quarters. Then came gunpowder.

The Founding Fathers may have expected continued improvements in
weaponry. But none of them could have imagined anything like Jared
Loughner's Glock, a weapon of mass destruction good for one thing
only: killing.

There is more difference between a Glock and a Revolutionary War-era
musket than between a musket and a stone club. Maybe even between a
musket and the pistol Sirhan Sirhan used to shoot Bobby Kennedy in a
hotel in 1968.

Had Loughner had a normal pistol, he might have gotten five or six
shots off before being subdued. Instead, he killed or wounded 19
people within seconds, and might easily have got even more, if he
could have gotten a second clip into his gun.

Nobody in their right mind thinks the Founding Fathers would have
wanted to make it possible for this sick young man to spray a peaceful
crowd with lethal ammunition. Yet that's what all sorts of ideologues
and ignorant fools, some of them on the nation's highest courts,

All this really stems from a problem of semantics. Specifically,
allowing the term "arms" to be applied to anything that kills people.
Someone, somewhere, needs to come up with some way of defining "arms"
in a common sense way. We also need, I think, to stop using the term
"gun control," which immediately polarizes everyone, and ends anything
like rational give-and-take.

These two steps may make it easier to move on and enact some sensible
regulations. This won't be easy; someone has to stand up and defy the
political power of the National Rifle Association, a group run by
fanatics who are determined to block any limitations on weapons.

Otherwise, we are going to continue to be doomed. More than 10,000 of
us a year, anyway; the number killed, like little Christina Greene, by
gun violence. Another 85,000 or so are shot and survive, like
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

If that's the world we are willing to settle for, very well. If you
are young and poor, you are probably more vulnerable than I am.

But even so, if that's the case, I have one demand that the NRA should
find reasonable. I want a personal, five-kiloton nuclear weapon. If a
mentally disturbed kid who was expelled from community college has the
right to buy a Glock, then, damn it, I should be allowed a nuke. I
have a master's degree and a responsible work record. Even with a
Glock, there's a chance someone attacking at night might hurt me or my
little red dog and manage to escape.

With a personal nuke, they wouldn't have a chance. Well, sure, there
would be collateral damage, like much of Huntington Woods. But you get
collateral damage with a Glock or even a .38, all the time. Just ask
Jim Brady. The NRA often says that an armed society is a polite
society, which ought to mean that a society where everyone has a nuke
on their belt, in their handbag or in their back pack would be a
society that makes Miss Manners proud.

How can any of us be denied one? Doesn't the Second Amendment
guarantee our right to bear arms? Can you say, logical fallacy? Hold
that thought. Common sense, here we come.

End of the beginning? For years, Matty Moroun has gotten away with
virtually anything he wanted, from illegally seizing part of a city
park to buying off legislators to prevent construction of a new, badly
needed, internationally owned bridge.

Last week, however, something happened he wasn't expecting, thanks to
a hero I've never met, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards. For
a year, Moroun and his goons have contemptuously ignored a court order
to demolish illegal structures he built on land he does not own. When
Dan Stamper, Moroun's top employee, showed up in court, the judge
threw him in jail for a few hours.

Edwards didn't let him out till crews showed up to begin work agreed
to in the bridge company's contract with the state. That doesn't mean
the battle is over. The Ambassador Bridge mogul keeps losing in
federal and state courts, but fair play is not in his vocabulary.
Moroun, an 83-year-old billionaire, has repeatedly shown he'll do
anything he can to serve his greed at the expense of the public
interest. Yet finally, someone in authority stood up to him. Next
time, let's hope some judge puts Moroun himself in the slam, not
merely the Mouth of Sauron.

That would be worth living long enough to see.

> Email Jack Lessenberry

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