Unethical Quote of the Week: Donald Trump’s 2nd Amendment Position Paper

constitution_gun

“The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.”

—The first sentence of “Protecting Our Second Amendment Rights Will Make America Great Again ...Donald J. Trump on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” released today.

You can debate the various policy ideas in this typically simplistic approach to a complicated problem; that’s not my purpose. My purpose is to point out that a position paper on the Second Amendment that begins by misstating that amendment while saying the amendment is “clear” cannot and should not be taken seriously. Nor should its author.

Is he stupid, and not know that it is ludicrous to state what is not the text of the amendment with the emphatic “Period” ? Is he ignorant, and unaware of the wording of actual amendment that he proceeds to say “is America’s first freedom”? Or is he lying, using a false version of the Second Amendment to mislead his many followers who either haven’t read the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, or can’t read at all?

The Second Amendment may be many things, but clear is one thing nobody with any knowledge of the subject believes it is. It is not clear. It is, by far, the least clear of all the amendments, and that is why it is still controversial after centuries. The fake Second Amendment that Trump’s position paper uses is clear; too bad that’s not the real one. If the Second Amendment read “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon,” it would be clear, and opponents of gun ownership wouldn’t have any argument except to insist that we repeal  it.  The real Amendment, however, reads,

“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.”

That could mean the same thing, or it might not. It would seem it was intended to mean something else, otherwise why wasn’t it worded as in the Trump version? The seas of ink that have been spilled over the interpretation of that strangely constructed sentence could flood Texas, and educated, thoughtful people who are honest, erudite and not simpleminded (unlike Trump) have written provocatively on the subject, often disagreeing, as in..

Has Trump read any of these? Of course not! If he had, he wouldn’t misstate the supposed subject of his position paper, which any of the scholars who wrote the research papers above would have told him cannot be discussed intelligently or honestly without at least trying to explain (or explain away) that troublesome first clause. Trump, as he does with all things, attempts to solve a problem by dishonestly framing the issue and acting as if the complexities that make the real problem a problem don’t exist. Then he tries to make sure everyone is as ignorant as he is.

“Protecting Our Second Amendment  Rights Will  Make America Great Again” never once states what the Second Amendment actually says. Instead, it falsely states that the Amendment is 13 words shorter than the 27 words that comprise it, in an attempt to mislead readers….or perhaps because it author has never read the Bill of Rights. That’s a real possibility.

The position paper doesn’t give them a fair or complete knowledge of the Second Amendment, but it tells them all they need to know about the integrity, intellect and character of Donald Trump.

31 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week: Donald Trump’s 2nd Amendment Position Paper

  1. wow. I am not very bright, but that sentence is pretty clear to me. democrats like to debate what the meaning of “is is,” but I do best with facts, history and the nature of man.

  2. “The Second Amendment may be many things, but clear is one thing nobody with any knowledge of the subject believes it is. It is not clea”

    And I don’t see this at all. It seems to me that for the vast majority of our history, we understood what this meant, and only since busybody leftist gun haters showed up have any claims of the 2nd Amendment’s ambiguity started surfacing.

    • It’s still not clear. For the vast majority of our history, owning guns was just a given, and nobody saw any reason for regulation of any kind. Then came machine guns, and the end of the frontier. From an Engish language perspective, the words aren’t clear. Just because we once agreed on what they meant, that doesn’t mean they are clear, if the language sustains other positions. When there were militias, the Amendment meant something else too.

        • Side issue! I’m not going to debate what the Second Amendment means: I’ve written about its ethical importance to the entire structure of the founding documents before here. The amendment embodies the core American ideal that individuals, not governments, are the ultimate captains of their own fates, and that a government may not disarm the public, lest the government abuse its power and its mandate.

          The point of the article, however, is that you can’t cheat and not deal with the details of an issue by pretending they don’t exist. Everything is simple to Trump, because he’s a lazy and undisciplined intellect and he appeals to lazy intellects. In fact, in a modern context, his view of the Second Amendment may be too absolute, but I am not that far from agreeing. That’s still not what the article is about.

          It’s about ignoring the problems in a tough issue by pretending they don’t exist. Trump does this with everything, but this is a screaming example: he misstates the Amendment so he doesn’t have to do the hard job of justifying his position, or even thinking critically about it.

          You can’t respect or trust someone like that. You don’t want someone in power teaching that as responsible problem solving either. Sometimes he may be right and sometimes he may be wrong, but what he’s doing is just deciding issues without really understanding them. I am pro-Second Amendment, but I am disgusted by those, like Trump, who are pro-Second Amendment by misrepresenting or not knowing what it says, and not considering why others who have thought seriously about the issue have a different interpretation.

          • No doubt. I wasn’t arguing a pro/con 2nd Amendment – I know your stance and I’m certain you know that I know your stance. My link is merely to indicate that there’s plenty of reason to believe the 2nd Amendment IS clear in its meaning. And yes, concern over the motive of the relatively recent anti-2nd Amendment attacks IS enough to question whether or not their assertions of ambiguity are valid. And yes, if we seem to fully understand the meaning of something for so long it is hard to accept someone claiming it isn’t easy to understand and whether or not their motives of making such assertions are actually in good faith.

            • The clearness issue is much more basic than that. A 7th grader would get marked down for a sentence with a clause like that in it, because it violates basic tenets of coherent and unambiguous writing. The language is only clear if you make decisions about what no good author will leave up to the reader. Unclear prose cannot be clear in meaning. Clear is clear. I know what I THINK the 2nd means, but I cannot be 100% confident. A clear statement wouldn’t leave any room for argument at all. (“Arms” is unclear all by itself.)

              The House version helpfully quoted by Michael R. is hardly better.

              “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the People, being the best security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

              What does “being” modify, “militia” or “people”? Why is that comma after “arms”? When it’s set off like that, it could mean that the “right” and the “militia” are synonymous, limiting the right severely.

              • It would seem that as “composed of the body of the People” helps define “militia”, that “being” modifies “militia” (though vicariously it also modifies “People”, though only as those People are the Militia) therefore an apparent redundancy left out of the final form.

                The right isn’t limited severely when one considers that the entire Body of People able to bear Arms *IS* the Militia (which it would seem EVERYONE understood) ergo, for the vast Majority of our history the Amendment was clear and only became “unclear” when busybody gun hating Leftists needed to advance their citizen-disempowering cause.

  3. The meaning of the 2nd should be clear from its historical context, and from the supportive writings at the time it was enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Militias then were informal, as where the Concord farmers together took up arms, and employed them, to prevent British regiments’ confiscation of their community’s ammo and arms storage, absent which we arguably might not be having this discussion today. Bearing arms at the time meant having equivalents to the “Government’s” arms, i.e. flintlocks and the like. Now, the concept of equivalence brings up some scary concerns about only the government having access to the superior firepower. Only the vast number of law-abiding citizens, who can freely exercise their 2nd amendment rights, provides some semblance of balance. From its historical context, it should be obvious that the intent of the 2nd was for citizens to have sufficient protection against a reappearance of a tyrannical state, not just for subsistence hunting. But that’s fine, argue that I, and other reasoning and law-abiding people, have no natural right to self-defense, and see where that gets you. Really, if you want to figure out what the Founding Fathers meant, ask yourself if they would have permitted an interpretation by the British Crown that those in the current American government would like to attribute to themselves. Trump’s right on this one, Jack, and you’re wrong. (Being a “simpleton,” I follow Albert Einstein’s admonition, that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”)

    • Just saying it’s clear, Peter, when legal scholars have disagreed vehemently for decades, is no argument. You are just indulging your confirmation bias. You WISH it was that clear. So do I, but I have the integrity and sophistication to accept that it is not. (Trump has neither, plus he’s faking it. He probably dictated this in 15 minutes.) As a lawyer to a physician, I’m telling you: you are just plain wrong. If it was clear, Trump would have used the actual Amendment, not a clear, fictional version. It is NOT possible to simplify the Amendment, any more than the Constitution. The exact language, not a summary, not a precis, is what matters, and any judge, lawyer or law scholar would tell you that. Did you read the linked essays? At least a couple?

      A simplified Moby Dick isn’t Moby Dick. The same goes for the Constitution.

      • I am fully aware that there has been long-standing controversy about the interpretation of the 2nd. I am also of the opinion that not everything that the Supreme Court SAYS is constitutional, upon promulgating their decisions, and actually DOES conform to the Constitution and the intentions of its Founders. I fall under the category referred to as “strict constructionist,” primarily based on my belief that the Founders had a very focused view of what tyranny was, a very clear idea of the foibles of human nature, and a very clear idea of how to “future-proof” the new government they intended to design. Saying that, I do agree that Trump should have quoted the 2nd in its entirety, before specifying his views of how to defend it, the substance of which, apparently, you have decided not to address. We can get into the more recent SCOTUS decisions which have, I believe, been more consistent with his interpretation if you like.

        • As I have written in this thread more than once, the fact that my interpretation of how we should read the 2nd is a lot closer to DT’s than it is to Mike Bloomberg’s, though an absolute NO infringement version would be excessive. Even a blind squirrel will find a nut: Trump gets no points from me on this, especially since I think he’s pandering, since he panders on everything.

          If you agree that Trump should have quoted the 2nd in its entirety–“should” meaning “he had an obligation and it was grossly dishonest and irresponsible not to,” then we are in substantive agreement.

          My ethics views on the Amendment itself are not relevant to this post, but were stated—CLEARLY– here. Maybe you missed it. Now THIS would be gutsy for Trump to say:

          “The right to be free creates the opportunity to be irresponsible, and ethics is the collective cultural effort to teach ourselves, our children and our neighbors not to be irresponsible without having to be forced to be responsible at gunpoint, with the government holding the gun. I know it seems harsh and callous to say so, but I am not willing to give up on ethics—the belief that enough of us can do the right things even when we have the freedom to do the wrong things—to prevent the occasional school massacre or murder-suicide.I think that is giving up too much.”

          I’ll expect credit if he does.

          • He did, in essence. He said we should reinforce the background check methods we already have, and to enhance their reliability by including mental health records, where relevant. As to being “grossly irresponsible and dishonest” by not quoting the 2nd to the letter, I think he should have done so, but don’t agree with your premise. The Donald is, at this point in the debates, a “big picture” person, and not a policy wonk or legal scholar. I’ll be sure to offer your name to him, when the time comes for the more detailed discussion.

            Like Hugh Hewitt, you’re trying to entrap him on niceties and details, and missing the big picture— that he speaks out loud what many of us Americans have been thinking and saying to each other for quite some time. As for pandering, you are 99.94% wrong, of course, He is strong in the polls precisely because he does NOT pander to the press, to CAIR, to the liberal media, to the illegal immigrant interest groups, to no one. Until you understand this, you will not understand his standing in the polls. And until you understand that his appeal is to much more than the knuckle-draggers that you characterize us as, you have no hope of “getting it.”

            • “Big picture” is a nice way of saying “faking it.” These are complex issues that seem a lot less complex when you ignore the details. The fact that dumbing stuff down has worked so far isn’t an excuse for it. Sure, it’s easy to make people agree with your view of the Second Amendment when you make sure they don’t know what it really says. You are seriously endorsing that strategy?

  4. Peter, as an ex-pat (living in Guatemala) I’ve been blessed to have gained a somewhat different perspective on the overarching trajectory of the United States of America, please excuse the oversimplification as this is not the place for a more detailed analysis. Point being, upon reading your historical knowledge harking back to a group of “Concord farmers [who] together took up arms, and employed them, to prevent British regiments’ confiscation of their community’s ammo and arms storage…” I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. Not to get distracted on nonessential periphery issues (unique to Jack Marshall’s stance), I have a simple question to pose. Why are the dramatically and emotionally stirring histories, marking mountaintop events in the American timeline, always dusted off in a shallow guise to rally the troops to push through a particular agenda rather than addressing the issue face-on and in thoughtfully objective ways? This phenomenon occurs on both sides of the gun issue(s) The thin veneer of this tactic isn’t worth even addressing, yet one needs to as its gained way more traction then is warranted. If, as your words evidently echo the countless masses, “we” [the American citizenry] need “you” [those bearing arms] to sufficiently protect us “against a reappearance of a tyrannical state,” then please turn in all your weaponry to the nearest authority as you and your friends have epically failed. Please use your acute skills in research and US history to overlay the current political regime’s power and influence atop those tyrannical states staining human history the world over. I believe that you’ll find that the various types of those regimes are paralleled in present-day America, albeit to varying degrees. The economically-skewed [enriching the wealthy elites], philosophically-twisted [producing consumers over culture-advancing citizens], morally-bankrupt [merely observe popular culture] and all powerful tyrannical state is already here (as evidenced in the previously mentioned three “symptoms”) and all the millions of .50 caliber Desert Eagles hidden under pillows across the Land did nothing to avert its take-over. Let’s not lose the forest through the trees, so to speak..

    • Wonderful post, but I have no idea what nonessential periphery issues you are referring to. Donald Trump’s fakery isn’t a nonessential periphery issue; candidates and demagogues misleading the public and using agitprop and slogans rather than facts and analysis to persuade and debate are not nonessential periphery issues; honesty and language are not nonessential periphery issues. Those were the focus of the essay, and not, in fact, the Second Amendment, which is a legitimate issue, but which was peripheral to the point. Those who say something is clear when it isn’t and who warp the question to fit their answers are not trustworthy and make intelligent discourse nearly impossible.

      I’m not going to respect the opinion of someone about the 2ne Amendment if he shows no evidence that he’s read it or done his homework, and I have. Even if he agrees with me.

      • Jack, Thanks for your reply to my post. However, please excuse the confusions, I was directly addressing the response posted by “Peter” regarding the lack of direction the pro-gun lobby uses based on “protecting us from a reemergence of a tyrannical government.” I was supporting your argument.

        • I know that Dana…I was just quibbling about the “nonessential periphery issues” parenthetical. As I said, it’s a superb comment, and not because I agree with it. Thoughtful, well-written..that’s what we aspire to here.

    • “Please use your acute skills in research and US history to overlay the current political regime’s power and influence atop those tyrannical states staining human history the world over. I believe that you’ll find that the various types of those regimes are paralleled in present-day America, albeit to varying degrees. The economically-skewed [enriching the wealthy elites], philosophically-twisted [producing consumers over culture-advancing citizens], morally-bankrupt [merely observe popular culture] and all powerful tyrannical state is already here”

      Probably nonsense, but if it isn’t, it isn’t new nor unchangeable. The FOUNDER’s even experienced such frustration…read this excerpt from the Declaration:

      “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

  5. Isn’t his opinion that the amendment is clear a valid interpretation, if you disagree with it? There are a lot of people, including lawyers, who believe that.

    • Christ. NOT IF HE DOESN’T HAVE THE HONESTY TO DEAL WITH THE AMENDMENT AS IT IS WRITTEN!!!

      Why is this so hard to understand? If he wants to make the case that the Amendment as it exists is clear, fine: Go ahead. He didn’t do that. He AVOIDED doing that. If someone didn’t know the real amendment, they would assume that the man running for President does, and presented the right words, since that’s what the position paper is about!! He presented a clear variation of the amendment that doesn’t exist!

      That’s dishonest. That’s irresponsible. That’s unethical, and really, really stupid.

      Clear????

  6. If they had adopted the House’s wording, it probably wouldn’t be as ambiguous.

    “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the People, being the best security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

    The Senate didn’t like the part about religiously scrupulous people being exempt from military service, so that part was dropped. Unfortunately, they also dropped the “composed of the body of the People” as well. I think they thought it unnecessary to specify at the time.

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