Photo of the day

From In Focus week in photos:

U.S. Secret Service agents brace themselves against the prop wash from Marine One as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at the Wall Street Heliport in New York on September 27, 2015.

About that “well regulated militia”

Nice piece from Adam Gopnik:

Like it or not, according to this argument, the Constitution limits our ability to control the number and kinds of guns in private hands. Even the great Jim Jeffries, in his memorable standup on American madness, says, “Why can’t you change the Second Amendment? It’s an amendment!”—as though further amending it were necessary to escape it.

In point of historical and constitutional fact, nothing could be further from the truth: the only amendment necessary for gun legislation, on the local or national level, is the Second Amendment itself, properly understood, as it was for two hundred years in its plain original sense. This sense can be summed up in a sentence: if the Founders hadn’t wanted guns to be regulated, and thoroughly, they would not have put the phrase “well regulated” in the amendment. (A quick thought experiment: What if those words were not in the preamble to the amendment and a gun-sanity group wanted to insert them? Would the National Rifle Association be for or against this change? It’s obvious, isn’t it?) [emphasis mine]

Now, you can go on and on about how the “militia” is really the people and all that.  Which of course is why we see “militia” all over the rest of the Constitution– right? :-).

Gopnik continues with a nice summary of John Paul Stevens dissent in the 2008 Heller case which gave us the modern “right” to own a gun a scant 7 years ago:

Stevens, a Republican judge appointed by a Republican President, brilliantly analyzes the history of the amendment, making it plain that for Scalia, et al., to arrive at their view, they have to reference not the deliberations that produced the amendment but, rather, bring in British common law and lean on interpretations that arose long after the amendment was passed. Both “keep arms” and “bear arms,” he demonstrates, were, in the writers’ day, military terms used in military contexts. (Gary Wills has usefully illuminated this truth in the New York Review of Books.) The intent of the Second Amendment, Stevens explains, was obviously to secure “to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.” The one seemingly sound argument in the Scalia decision—that “the people” in the Second Amendment ought to be the same “people” referenced in the other amendments, that is, everybody—is exactly the interpretation that the preamble was meant to guard against.
Stevens’s dissent should be read in full, but his conclusion in particular is clear and ringing:

The right the Court announces [in Heller] was not “enshrined” in the Second Amendment by the Framers; it is the product of today’s law-changing decision. . . . Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding . . .

Justice Stevens and his colleagues were not saying, a mere seven years ago, that the gun-control legislation in dispute in Heller alone was constitutional within the confines of the Second Amendment. They were asserting that essentially every kind of legislation concerning guns in the hands of individuals was compatible with the Second Amendment—indeed, that regulating guns in individual hands was one of the purposes for which the amendment was offered.

And say what you will about this so-beloved “right” of individual, unfettered gun ownership.  It’s basically a 7-year old right hanging by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.  That can change:

So there is no need to amend the Constitution, or to alter the historical understanding of what the Second Amendment meant. No new reasoning or tortured rereading is needed to reconcile the Constitution with common sense. All that is necessary for sanity to rule again, on the question of guns, is to restore the amendment to its commonly understood meaning as it was articulated by this wise Republican judge a scant few years ago. And all you need for that is one saner and, in the true sense, conservative Supreme Court vote. One Presidential election could make that happen.

Of course, even with the current 2nd amendment interpretation we could do a lot to ameliorate the worst effects of guns.  We should.

Women do it better

Legislate, that is.  I’ve recently been covering women in legislatures in my Gender & Politics class and it’s pretty hard not to conclude that our government would simply work better if we had more women legislators at the state and federal level.  Here’s the nice summary infographic from a Bloomberg piece on the matter:

And words:

The current, 114th Congress has a record 104 women—but that’s 104 of 535 lawmakers in all. (And somehow we’re supposed to cheer.) But what if these things are connected—that men are less likely to introduce legislation and cut deals than women? It turns out that women have been considerably more likely than their male counterparts to get bills through, and to achieve that near-unicorn of modern Washington: bipartisan agreement.

The numbers, as published Thursday by a new startup called Quorum, founded not a month ago by two Harvard seniors, seem to bear this out. Over the last seven years, in the Senate, the ‘average’ female senator has introduced 96.31 bills, while the ‘average’ male introduced 70.72. In the House, compare 29.65 for women, and 27.2 for men. And women were more likely to gain cosponsorship: In the Senate, women had an average of 9.10 cosponsors,  and men 5.94. In the House, the difference was smaller—but women still proved better, or more interested, in sponsoring together: Female Representatives averaged 16.84 cosponsors, and men 14.64…

Women are also more likely to cosponsor with other women than men are with other men. From the 111th Congress to the present one, the typical female senator cosponsored 6.29 bills with another female senator, as opposed to 4.07 bills cosponsored by male senators with a male peer…

There’s also good evidence that women legislators do a better job communicating with their constituents.  And they do a better job (not surprisingly) getting issues that affect women and families onto the political agenda.

So, just vote for women– right?  Not that simple.  The biggest problem is not that women lose, but not enough women run.  That’s not easy to change.  It’s not only society’s attitudes about women and politics, but how women have internalized those attitudes.  So, time to start telling your daughters they should grow up to be politicians.  We’ll all benefit from better government.

%d bloggers like this: