The 2nd Amendment can spark debates in almost any forum. Recently I have participated in and read many comments even in forums like LinkedIn. The debate on what is the 2nd Amendment for or about has perplexed many a progressive person. The safety versus freedom argument usually is the first to show up. Inevitably the topic of school shootings or child accidental shootings arise and those that have experienced or have perceived to experience this type of situation will go emotionally into the fray from both sides hammering away on talking points no matter the pointless conclusion. So, is debate on social media platforms merely digital food fights that result it nothing more than shouting matches and mudslinging? That in of itself could be a point of debate. Is there educational value in discussing online or debating online with people of differing opinions? Why is the Ad Hominem attack the default strategy? Vicious personal attacks worthy of an episode of mean girls can be found from Reddit to FB to LinkedIn. Do people really understand what it is about? Are we such narcissists that we cannot stand to think anyone else’s opinion is correct or are there people so tone deaf or that suffer from so much cognitive dissonance as to merit a resounding intellectual woodshedding that it must be done publicly as to either shame them or expose to other people that lurk the information? Therein lies my thesis.

Lurkers could be fence sitters that are waiting to be swayed in a direction quite possibly opposite of their initial feelings or reactions. I recently saw an argument presented that the 2nd Amendment was temporary as the colonists were broke after the war and needed an armed citizenry to provide national security until a standing Army could be raised. This was raised by an economist while another railed back that in the Federalist Papers namely 29 there is specific talk about the founders loathing of a standing Army and the abuses of power that can be gained by it. Those that control the ability to wage war control the masses. This is known by those that can compel citizens to fight in their stead. Leaders declare war but rarely fight the battle to conclusion but instead cede power to those trained to do it but are also loyal to the leader. Power is rarely given in any system but most often taken at the tip of a sword or end of a barrel. Power also brings wealth to the holder of that power. They go hand in hand like Gold and Quartz, where you find one, you’ll find the other. So, what does an armed populace have to do with power? Let’s look at past power grabs.

History tells us Julius Caesar didn’t cross the Rubicon at the head of 50,000 minstrels and dancers but instead at the head of an Army heading for Rome. That station of power allowed him to move the Republic to Emperor and move the seat of power from Senate to Dictator. To restore their station and power he was slain on the Senate floor by the Senators. An unarmed man, unguarded in a safe place, in fact a sacred place, that all ended with those famous word’s “Et tu Brute?” in disbelief that his lifelong friend would plunge a knife into his side. He did plunge that knife and thus returned power to the people, right? Well not exactly. Years of family politics, power grabs and war ended in a Triumvirate that kicked off a series of Emperors that ranged from competent to insane ending with Constantine in the Eastern Empire with the west falling to the barbarians they once enslaved. Later Charlemagne reclaimed the seat of power as the first Holy Roman Emperor that was not only leader of the people but leader of the church. A King Priest of sort that set the divine right of Kings in motion in the west of Europe that eventually led to the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215 while Richard the Lionheart crusaded in the Holy Land. This document ordained self-defense as an inalienable right granted man by God and thus irrevocable by the laws of man. Kings only publicly bless inalienable rights seconds ahead of a mob looking to put them in a hangman’s noose. Rome was always regarded as a controlled mob and the leaders of the ancient superpower were skilled at moving the attention of their people, via games or free bread, away from the leader themselves. Every leader knows that if the populace unites and rebels they will surely lose. No matter their military might. That might is only applicable if it can be wielded without remorse and constraint. While we have seen in many societies atrocities happen from a military regime, remember in the United States we have a volunteer military that is a temporary service made up of a large cross section of the country. People with family and ties to a nation have a harder time victimizing that populace. Still the main fear of those in power are the people they subjugate.

Cue that party that wasn’t filmed or tweeted or even had a good keg of beer that became the shot heard round the world. A colony rising in defiance of their King? The gall of these brash men that didn’t want to pay taxes to the crown and didn’t wish to pay homage to historical tradition. How many followed them into glorious battle at the time? Surely the population rose up and overwhelmed the Red Coats, right? Nope. The best information is around 3% of the population fought for the freedoms of the other 97%. This is still the case today. Now comes into question the semantics of the Amendment and the meaning at the time. If you read the founders documents, they felt it imperative to arm the populace in competition with the world’s greatest Army at the time. They also felt it necessary to affect a short but sweet poem to posterity. A love letter if you will for those that would not be subjects but regain the right of citizen. Let’s all read it now, not a haiku but a breathtakingly simply yet complex statement.

So, let’s break it down for a bit, shall we? What does a well-regulated militia mean in the context of 1791 America? According to many dictionaries and many scholar’s it means a well-functioning unit. Many have stated that term, including Justice Antonin Scalia in DC vs Heller, regulated means the state can regulate the transfer and ownership of arms. I find this personally to be a stretch and remain steadfast in my belief as does my accompanying brief from the William and Mary Law review that it means well-functioning and in good order.

The second statement is even more interesting. Necessary to the security of a free state, is that the freedom of the people or the state of freedom or the actual land or is this some display of Schrodinger’s Cat as a Nation and all be true at once? Is National security directly tied to the robust display of force that could be mustered should the need arise beyond police and military arsenals? I would argue yes, it is. All the above, the individual freedom of mind a movement. Freedom from oppression by force of arms or others and the free state meaning the ability to correct course should the state become tyrannical. Many believe that has never happened in America I posit you the Civil War but as the Antebellum South can get you cancelled these days look no further than Athens, Tennessee in 1946 known as the Battle of Athens. This is when free people took up arms against a corrupt politician and system and won their freedom back. Not an inconsequential event by any means.

The third and most beloved statement to all advocates of self-defense the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Wow think about any other statement in our constitution and you will not find such a clear and immutable case for absolute prima facie demands of non-governmental interference as that statement. Clear. Succinct and perfect in its formation and breadth. The sole moment when man and woman can define their rights as protectable by this one statement. Speech, freedom, pursuit of happiness, freedom of movement and freedom of agency over themselves comes from this one statement allowing those to zealously protect their individual freedom by force of arms if necessary. Imagine the depth the founders felt this needed to craft such a statement. Look throughout the Constitution and try and find another point so plainly made and you will be hard pressed although the 1st Amendment is darn clear as well. So, are the Bill of Rights truly rights? Are they limits on Governance or are they Oasis of freedom before one move back into the fray of serfdom? I would posit there are two types of people generally. Those that swim in the oceans of freedom and occasionally land on a government limitation where the chains of the Bill of Rights keep the shark of Government away from your freedom and person. The second are those that swim as caretaker to the shark, attending their every need, filling them full and growing their bloated size only to find occasional beaches to emerge and be free for brief moments. I heard this concept from an Attorney with FPC. Please check them out on Fuddbusters channel via YouTube.

So where do you lie? On a beach of freedom staring into an ocean of government power or on a beach of limitation while watching the shark in the corner moving around those that are weak and bite hem until they bleed? If you serve a demon you will rate a demon’s purse and if you serve an honest person you will rate an honest person’s purse. I leave this today with one thought not of yourself but of the kids. How do you wish posterity to see you and to see themselves? Free or slave? This will determine your area to fight to settle.

So, to conclude this thought, when you have your next discussion online what will be your tactic to “prevail” in the discussion? Will you charge the breach with banners high demanding recognition of your point of view? Will you react to statements and counter arguments? Will you resort to name calling and accusations that will change nothing? Remember you are not speaking to the person you are in the discussion with most of the time. Those willing to publicly scrap about public policy are usually quite set in their ways and are rarely swayed during that argument on the web, but those that lurk and read can most definitely be swayed. Why do they lurk and read yet remain silent? Prudence possibly. Shyness or possibly lack of information to articulate a point. Maybe there are people that have emotional ties to an argument but do not feel comfortable drawing attention to themselves. You could sway a person with your demeanor. This isn’t a criticism of those that discuss these issues on the web, far from it. It is a lesson learned from failing to do exactly what I just advocated for on many occasions. A friend said to me after a recent discussion, “you almost had the day one until you told that person they were insane.” This person is resoundingly opposite of my position on 2A and in fact many of the Bill of Rights.  I had to think about that seriously as if this person that is so opposed to my beliefs were nearly swayed but lost that thought to the Ad Hominem that made me feel so much better did I really come out on top? No, I lost the day in fact. Not because my logic in all other cases wasn’t correct or my examples were not germane or meaningful. Nope. Because all that is forgotten when you cannot contain that impulse to call out what you think is irrational thought or action. Stick to the facts and you will sway the lurker. Stay away from the personal attack as that is a tactic by opposition and trolls to get a reaction. Ignore the Ad Hominem attacks against you in principle but please point it out. A good way I have found is “wow, Ad Hominem against the person, a very personal statement made there.” Then move back to the counter point without taking a shot back. Just a thought, breathe and count to ten before you post.

Dale Thompson