A FOOTNOTE TO THE SECOND AMENDMENT
It is a little known fact of American history that Ezekiel Isaiah Huckabee, venerable forefather of erstwhile Arkansas governor and eternal Christian gun aficionado Michael Dale Huckabee, attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. Acting in his capacity as a nascent white-male voter residing in the dawning republic, Ezekiel Huckabee submitted to James Madison the following proposed component of the hotly debated and highly controversial Bill of Rights:
The periodic slaughter of school children being necessary to the appeasement of Moloch,
the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear weapons of mass murder shall not be infringed.
For reasons not difficult to imagine, Citizen Huckabee’s draft of the Second Amendment proved unacceptable to Mr. Madison, even after Huckabee replaced the pagan appellation “Moloch” with the more acceptable term “Jesus Christ.” As we all know, Madison countered Huckabee’s opening bid with a markedly different version of the prerogative in question.
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.
Needless to say, Huckabee was outraged, as we can infer from the following colloquy, faithfully transcribed from the Federalist Papers, that famous collection of essays arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution.
CITIZEN HUCKABEE: A “FEDERALIST PAPERS” PLAY IN ONE ACT
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: “A well regulated militia”? Nothing doing, Mr. Madison. The phrase conjures up images of rational men banding together and temporarily employing firearms to fend off a common foe.
JAMES MADISON: Collective action is precisely what I had in mind, Mr. Huckabee. Hence my locution “the right of the people,” as opposed to your “right of the individual citizen.”
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: There’s no such thing as “the people,” sir. On these shores we have pantywaist freethinkers, pacifist Quaker loons, armed Christians, chained black chattel from West Africa—the list goes on and on—but no entity called “the people.” At least make it “well regulated militias,” not “a well regulated militia.”
JOHN JAY: In my view a nebulous network of private gun-toting fraternities would be, by definition, ill-regulated.
JAMES MADISON: Our new country will need a standing army. No doubt about that. But in a future invasion by the embittered British, a well regulated militia or two—working in tandem with Federal troops—might prove essential.
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: Don’t you understand, sir? The real menace emanates from the sort of strong Federal Government you’re so hell-bent on promoting! I’m talking about tax collectors pounding on our doors in the dead of night! Bureaucrats and functionaries confiscating our rifles in broad daylight! Publically funded atheist schoolmasters poisoning young minds with Thomas Paine!
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: Stop your damn whining, sir. You’re fortunate that a Bill of Rights is even on the table. If it were up to me, I’d tie Mr. Madison’s proposed amendments to a rock and drop it in the Delaware River.
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: “Well regulated militia.” “The right of the people.” Rubbish. We can’t allow the camel of gun control to get its nose under the tent of our sacred freedoms! I won’t stand for it!
JAMES MADISON: Bite me, Huckabee.
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: At the very least, let’s add this sentence. “An arms-bearing citizen who stands his ground and fires his weapon at an aggressor or aggressors shall not be prosecuted.”
JOHN JAY: “Aggressor or aggressors”? I pray you, sir, who do you have in mind?
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: Have you never confronted a Negro boy armed with a cloth hood? Absolutely terrifying! Have you never been surrounded by twenty screeching, chattering, highly excited school children? It’s overwhelming!
JOHN JAY: This colloquy has outrun its usefulness.
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: Very well, but I mean to have the last word!
JOHN JAY: Put down that pistol, Huckabee!
JAMES MADISON: Don’t shoot!
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: Go gunning for Burr instead! You’ll save me a heap of trouble!
JAMES MADISON: Look! Out the window! Jesus Christ himself, coming on a cloud!
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: Splut! Splut! What the hey?
JAMES MADISON: Gotcha!
EZEKIEL HUCKABEE: To blazes with you, Madison! You grabbed my gun away!
JAMES MADISON: I’ve had lots of practice lately, snatching sharp knives from the hands of my two-year-old stepson. And now, Mr. Huckabee, sir, I’d say you’re due for a time out.
J’ACCUSE, NRA! J’ACCUSE!
Every time I glimpse the cover of Dalton Trumbo’s astonishing antiwar novel, Johnny Got His Gun, I marvel at the deadpan audacity of the title. The source, of course, is George M. Cohan’s quintessential patriotic song about the Great War, “Over There.”
Johnny, get your gun,
Get your gun, get your gun,
Take it on the run,
On the run, on the run.
Hear them calling you and me,
Every son of liberty.
Hurry right away,
No delay, go today,
Make your Daddy glad
To have had such a lad.
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy's in line.
Flash forward from Flanders Field to Newtown, Connecticut. At the risk of doing a disservice to the victims of the Columbine, Capitol Hill, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson Supermarket, Oak Creek, and Colorado Movie Theater massacres, I would argue that recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have presented us with a whole new order of the outrageous.
As far as I can tell, Adam, Nancy, and Peter Lanza were a kind of National Rifle Association poster family. Okay, sure, Mom and Dad had recently split up (the NRA is into paranoia, not divorce), but beyond that anomaly the Lanza family did everything the organization told them to do, the better to protect their God-given freedoms.
“Come on, Adam, honey! Mama’s takin’ you to the range!”
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there,
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware,
We'll be over, we're coming over,
And we won't come back till it's over
Tool around the NRA website, and you’ll encounter the ethos that evidently held the Lanza family in its thrall—though perhaps the content will be modified in days to come. It’s a simple message, really. America is a nation under siege. We are encircled not by a foreign power but by a penumbral enemy not easily distinguishable from the Federal Government itself, especially now that Barack Obama occupies the White House. (Note the Obama Alert 2012 newsletter.) The only logical response to this state of affairs is to purchase a great many pistols, rifles, and assault weapons, learn how to use them, fill your house to the rafters with ammunition, and make ready to stand your ground. (Be sure to visit the NRA Women’s Network, complete with a lovely little feminist featurette called “Packing Pretty & Girls Guide Weekend.”)
“The range, darling! That’s how much Mama loves you! I’m packin’ pretty, Adam!”
Johnny, get your gun,
Get your gun, get your gun.
Johnny, show the Hun
Who’s a son of a gun.
Hoist the flag and let her fly.
Yankee Doodle do or die.
Pack your little kit,
Show your grit, do your bit.
Yankee to the ranks,
From the towns and the tanks.
Make your Mother proud of you,
And the old Red, White, and Blue.
The subtext of the NRA website is not difficult to decipher. Guns are absolutely the coolest things on the planet, bar none. Guns make better friends than Golden Retrievers. Guns are more fun than the world’s most elaborate HO model train layout. Guns are more thrilling that drawing to an inside straight-flush and getting the exact card you needed. Guns are more gratifying than the entire run of Playboy enterfolds published between 1953 and last month. Guns are more awesome than all the Hubble Space Telescope images put together. Guns are everything The Phantom Menace should have been but wasn’t. Guns make you feel like Clint Eastwood just rang you up and offered you a speaking part in his next movie. Guns should be discussed in hushed tones of veneration, or they should not be discussed at all.
“Let’s go, Adam, honey! If you’re very, very good, Mama will let you fire the Bushmaster!”
In his first statement to the press, Peter Lanza asserted that he was “struggling to make sense” of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Sorry, Mr. Lanza. The whole thing makes perfect sense. There’s nothing to figure out. Your family picked the wrong religion. The church of the NRA was never your friend—and now you know why.
“That’s right, Adam, sweetheart, the Bushmaster! The one that does all the work for you!”
True, Adam Lanza apparently had some sort of cognitive disorder. (He may have been on the segment of the autism spectrum once called Asperger’s syndrome.) But so do tens of thousands of other young men. The difference is that many of them are lucky enough not be to growing up in NRA households.
“The range, Adam! The range!”
So Johnny got his gun.
And Adam went to the range.
And the rest is history.