Opinion » The Rant

Honor the 3rd Amendment!



For most of my adult life, I have been a staunch and passionate supporter of the 3rd Amendment. If I'm a single-issue voter, I'm a 3rd Amendment guy. No matter what else Congress or the courts say, I refuse to allow anyone or anything to trample upon my 3rd Amendment rights.

So, the next time the government tries to force me to quarter a soldier in my home during peacetime, they can pry the front door keys from my cold, dead hands. The feds don't provide rent or board, nor bath supplies or uniform cleaning services, not to mention how those troops scruff up your rugs with their boots and cigarettes. I don't care what the dad-blamed gub'ment says, I ain't quartering no damn soldiers in my house. I am protected by the 3rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states, "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner (sic), nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." 

My mother used to invite a couple of sailors from Millington over for Passover every few years, but that was a far cry from quartering. In fact, after my mother's Passover meal, the sailors probably would have preferred to have been quartered. And due to the density of the matzo balls, when they awoke, they may have felt like being drawn and quartered.

If this all sounds ridiculous, it is. The Supreme Court has never decided a case on the basis of the 3rd Amendment. Since Congress passed the amendment in 1789, constitutional scholars and politicians alike have conceded that the law is too antiquated to be applicable today.

For a bit of history, however, we have to crack open our American history textbooks to Chapter One and check out the French and Indian War of 1754. When the Brits, with the help of their colonial musketeers, finally kicked out the French in 1760, they decided they needed to stick around for a while to police the new territories. Americans chafed at having to billet the Redcoats. They preferred local militias for their protection rather than professional soldiers. To further incite the colonists, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Act of 1765, which not only required the settlers to provide housing, but also "provisions, firewood, bedding, and beer." The resulting rebellion against the presence of British troops and the high taxes imposed by the Crown to pay for the war culminated in the Boston Massacre of 1770 and led to the American Revolution.

Before the Bill of Rights was ever written, the state of Virginia passed their own Declaration of Rights in 1776, declaring "That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state." The Founding Fathers trimmed it down for the 2nd Amendment, passed in 1789, which said, "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 infringed."

Do you see what's happening here? The 2nd Amendment is merely a watered down version of the Virginia Declaration, which dealt with the regulation of militias and never once mentioned a Constitutional protection for firearms. The colonists believed that full-time, paid soldiers were only necessary to fight foreign enemies. For other emergencies, a militia of ordinary citizens who supplied their own weapons and received part-time training, could be depended upon. Even then, there were laws for the registration of civilian-owned guns deemed appropriate for the militia, sometimes with inspectors going door-to-door. Because of the fear of standing armies living among them, there were even certain laws requiring firearm ownership.

The kicker is that the antiquated and forgotten 3rd Amendment was passed by Congress, and then ratified by the states, on the exact same two dates as the 2nd Amendment. So, if we're to apply the same logic to the 2nd Amendment that the founders used for the 3rd, everyone is required to purchase a musket, which must be properly cleaned and registered with the Federal Government. The owners of same weapon must periodically assemble for inspection and military training. In time of war, the government has the power to press them into service and regulate the militias. I didn't say that; the Constitutional Convention did.

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So the entire NRA argument about the absolute American right to own any type of firearm is bullshit. The gun cultists conveniently forget the "well-regulated militia" part, ignore the context of the times, and revere the "shall not be infringed" phrase. Even with all the Founders' brilliance, none could have envisioned modern military-style weapons or allowed them to fall into the hands of the untrained and unregulated. 

Since the most recent slaughter in Parkland, Florida, a new consciousness has arisen. Young people are rightly appalled at the ease with which any social misfit can acquire a killing machine. After each mass shooting, gun sales go up, weapons manufacturers' profits rise, shareholders reap financial rewards, and the NRA is handsomely funded by the all-American gun cartels. It's really not about the 2nd Amendment at all. It's about profit margin. The NRA is now merely a lobbying group for American arms dealers.

The "most popular rifle in America," according to the NRA, is the Colt AR-15, with over eight million sold. This semi-automatic rifle, and other brands similarly designed, were prohibited by the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, along with large capacity magazines. Since the ban was allowed to expire in 2004, mass shootings have spiked. Consider the most recent stomach-churning massacres: 26 babies at Sandy Hook; 14 murdered at an office Christmas party in San Bernardino; 49 killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando; 58 slaughtered at a Las Vegas music festival; 26 gunned down in a church in Sutherland, Texas; and now, 17 teenagers murdered in their school. They all share something in common. Each heartless killer used an AR-15 styled rifle as the weapon of choice.

Yet the NRA rolls out the same tired defenses to protect gunmakers and their profits. The 2nd Amendment is as primitive as the 3rd when it comes to guns, but this is the year the NRA may finally have met its match. Who could have believed it would arrive in the form of a children's crusade? Go ahead and keep your long gun or handgun. But if nothing is done to re-instate the Assault Weapons Ban, your children are coming to bust up the NRA and send their paid congressional lackeys packing. 

Randy Haspel writes the Recycled Hippies blog.

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