Saturday, December 01, 2007

Repeal The Second Amendment?

Yesterday the editorial staff of The Harvard Crimson, the Harvard University student newspaper, called for the repeal of the Second Amendment. While I will leave it to others to dismantle their poorly constructed argument I would like to point out the sweeping and sad historical illiteracy on display here.

This is the first sentence of the editorial:

“Written in an age in which minutemen rose to dress and fight at a moment’s notice, the Second Amendment was no doubt motivated by a young nation’s concern for its own safety and stability.”

And here is a history lesson from of Rand Simberg:

“The most key motivation was the very recent memory of the battle that set off the war, in Lexington and Concord.

What set off that battle? The British troops had marched from Boston toward Concord (as Paul Revere was riding through the countryside rousing the citizenry) to seize the armory and confiscate the weapons stored there. Had the militia (i.e., able-bodied men in the area) not had their own, they would have had nothing with which to fight them, had the British troops actually been able to carry out their orders.

That's why the Founders thought it important that people have a right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment is a last-ditch insurance policy against a tyrannical government, something of which the sophomores in Cambridge (not very far from either Lexington, or Concord, and the location of one of the ancillary battles) are apparently incapable of conceiving. Or if they do, they probably imagine that it's the Bush administration.

The more I think about it, the more appalling it is that Harvard students could be so ignorant of American history, not just because it's supposedly such an elite institution, but because that particular bit of American history took place almost literally in their own back yard, as the British retreated to Cambridge (where Harvard was, as it is today). And afterward, Gage attempted to confiscate all the private weapons of the citizens of Boston.

What does this say about the state of American higher education today?

I wonder if anyone involved in that editorial could even describe the circumstances of the battle that kicked off the revolution?

It just occurs to me that, given their ignorance of history, the sophomores may defend their editorial on the basis that the "Americans" were rising up against a foreign government, thus making their point about the amendment being for the defense of "America" and is thus no longer needed, since America now has the most formidable armed forces in the history of the world.

Of course, they were doing no such thing. The "Americans" were British citizens (even though they couldn't vote and had no members of Parliament, but were taxed nonetheless--remember "No taxation without representation"?) rising up against their own government. "Americans" as we understand them today did not exist in 1775. Again, that thought too was very fresh in the Founders' minds.”

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