Friday, September 23, 2016

How the real 2nd Amendment holds the key to solving today's police violence (it's not what you think)

Today's Folly is brought to you by Bathrobes Pierre.

I have to say real 2nd Amendment, because the widely-accepted NRA view is uninformed by the context provided by the amendment's opening clause, "A well-regulated militia ..."

The result of this misinterpretation is an anarchic situation that is quite the opposite of a well-regulated militia. In this landscape of firearms and fear, the police have responded--out of necessary self-preservation, some say--with increasingly violent and militarized tactics that serve only to add to the fear and uncertainty, particularly when they skew along racial lines.

I write as a student of history, not as a legal scholar. But this has particular value when it comes to the 2nd Amendment. As I have written in numerous places, the militia of the Founders was a required civic duty, mandated and regulated by state law. It was not very popular duty, and better-motivated volunteer units gradually rendered the civic militia moribund, so that it was pretty much dead by the time of the Civil War.

What in the world does that have to do with police violence? The 2nd Amendment was inspired by a distrust of professional standing armies, which our militarized police forces in effect have become. They represent the complete alienation of the police function from the body of the citizenry.

That was not the case when there was a civic militia. These often participated as auxiliaries assisting in police functions, most notoriously in slave patrols in the South. There wasn't much money, and professional police forces were small. Citizen participation was essential.

Today we are awash in money, but it is being wasted at the expense of civic virtue. The belief of the Founders in the value of obligatory civic participation and the dangers of an over-reliance on a professional, militarized police are being borne out today. We need a revived civic militia to be part of a law enforcement function that returns some of the burden and responsibility to the citizenry at large.

Simply put, the states would require militia duty the way they require jury duty. Police would no longer carry weapons, but would always be accompanied by a small patrol of citizens, residing in the area being patrolled, among whom would be the only people authorized--with appropriate training--to carry weapons abroad (outside of hunting). There would be no more open carry or concealed carry except in this regulated militia context. Voila--a well-regulated militia doing work it was designed to do.

I believe that one result of the use of bands of local citizens in a required (not volunteer), regulated law enforcement function--by bringing more eyes on the street and more hands on deck--would be less reliance on firearms and a much-reduced incidence of police violence.

Reviving the civic militia in this way would have a huge, positive effect on law enforcement and on patterns of citizen involvement. Simple, yes; easy, hahaha!

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