Appearing on The Glenn Beck Program on BlazeTV, right-wing revisionist David Barton visited with guest host Tim Ballard to talk about guns and religion in America – you know, the thing President Obama is not allowed to talk about.
As a matter of reference, the Second Amendment 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.” With that in mind, listen to Barton’s take.
Watch the video courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
In the case of the Second Amendment, the Founding Fathers didn’t call it the right to keep and bear arms the way it’s written; they called it the ‘biblical right of self defense.’ So the ultimate goal of the Second Amendment is to make sure you can defend yourself against any kind of illegal force that comes against you, whether that’s from a neighbor, whether that’s from an outsider, whether that’s from your own government. And in the case of the American revolution, if the Founding Fathers had not been able to take on that illegal British government coming in…so for them, it’s not a matter of, ‘oh you got too many bullets in your magazine.’ It’s whatever the government’s got we’ve got to have the same thing, because if they’ve got an AK47 and we’ve only got a BB gun, this is not a deterrent. So the whole purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure you have equal power with whatever comes against you illegally. So at that point, that has gotta control the gun debate.
Barton, who thinks the American Revolution was an act of “biblical rebellion,” claims that the Founding Fathers did not refer to the Second Amendment as the “right to keep and bear arms” even though it is quite explicitly stated in those exact terms.
Significantly, the Second Amendment does not refer to the “biblical right of self defense.” Certainly, the Founding Fathers could, if they had so chosen, written it with the Bible in mind, but they did not.
Of course, the guns and religion crowd Obama is not allowed to talk about, love the Bible and self defense. You don’t have to Google long to find an abundance of sites dedicated to the biblical principle of self defense Barton alludes to.
The problem is that the Founding Fathers did not allude to it. Demonstrably, the Founding Fathers were not much concerned with what the Bible said since they never mentioned it in either the Constitution nor its attached Bill of Rights.
David French, looking at the question at Patheos, concludes that “Essentially…gun control represents not merely a limitation on a constitutional right but a limitation on a God-given right of man that has existed throughout the history of civil society. ”
Because the Bible says so.
The problem is that the Bible was relevant in the ancient world only to a very small piece of a very small stretch of land between Egypt and Syria. What the Bible says is, in a word, irrelevant to any discussion taking place in a pluralistic modern liberal democracy. The Constitution, not the Bible, is the law of the land. The Founding Fathers knew this; why don’t conservatives understand it?
This leaves us to arguments about the intent not of God or Jesus or anyone pretending to speak for the divine, but to the meaning of the Second Amendment. It seems obvious from the wording, as Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens put it,
“right to keep and bear arms” protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia. Had the Framers wished to expand the meaning of the phrase “bear arms” to encompass civilian possession and use, they could have done so by the addition of phrases such as “for the defense of themselves”
David Barton argues that the Second Amendment is supposed to be a deterrent against our own government, which opens up a whole world of possibilities for gun-loving, government-hating, Bible-thumping, aberrochristian Tea Partiers.
I had this conversation with my son’s nurse yesterday, when she was talking about the gun debate online. Though she is a Fox & Friends viewer and I’m an MSNBC guy, we agreed that citizens don’t have to own every type of weapon made. To make my point, I mentioned rocket launchers as what I thought was a fairly far-out example. And sure, it might be fun to fire a .50 caliber sniper rifle, but how many applications does it have outside the military?
But David Barton made my point for me. According to Barton, any weapon the government possesses must be available to citizens. So yes, put that TOW anti-tank missile and that M134 Minigun on your Yule list right away. Why shouldn’t you be able to blow up tanks and armored cars, or your neighbor’s minivan when they park on your property, or hose down a bunch of atheistic liberal or icky brown scum when their partying gets too loud?
Again, facts intrude: Jews of the Bible did not own war chariots, the Tiger tank of the Bronze Age. Only the Jewish government owned war chariots. The Jewish kings and high priests no more than any government, wanted its citizens armed with the latest in military technology. Why else did David have to take on Goliath armed with nothing but a sling? He was a shepherd, not a soldier. He didn’t need a war chariot to protect his flock from predators; a sling served.
Yes, now we’re getting ridiculous, but the ridiculous is has become the private domain of David Barton.
Gun control is a question that allows for no easy answers. People tend to see it in black and white, as pro-gun and anti-gun, but there are many positions to be found in between those two extremes. There are many people who own or approve of gun-ownership who believe there should be limitations on gun ownership.
In fact, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday, “a bare majority now favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban on gun ownership by ordinary citizens and more than six in ten favor a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles.” A bare majority of 52 percent. According to Republican math, 52 percent is a mandate – at least when the answer is the one they want to hear.
Contrary to David Barton, this is also a debate that can only be answered in a constitutional context. Appeals to the Bible are misplaced and ill-reasoned. David Barton knows very well that the Constitution and not the Bible is the law of the land, forcing him to forge a connection between the two in order to make biblical Mosaic law relevant. As should be obvious, he’s reaching. I mean, really reaching.
The trouble is, here as with his blatant attempt to suborn a deistic Thomas Jefferson as a modern Evangelical, these efforts fall flat in the face of facts. Barton’s desperate attempt to replace “right to keep and bear arms” with “biblical right of self defense” is a case in point. It is all there in black and white, what the Founding Fathers called the Second Amendment. Only the most extreme wishful thinker could believe a word of what Barton is saying.
Sadly, there are many self-blinkered extremists who, like Barton, draw the entirely wrong conclusions from America’s history. We’ve seen time and again how the First Amendment is used to claim that an amendment banning establishment of religion actually establishes Christianity as the state religion. In the case of the Second Amendment, Vermont state Rep. Fred Maslack somehow manages to claim that an amendment that permits gun ownership actually mandates gun ownership.
According to the Patriot Action Network,
Maslack recently proposed a bill to register “non-gun-owners” and require them to pay a $500 fee to the state. Thus Vermont would become the first state to require a permit for the luxury of going about unarmed and assess a fee of $500 for the privilege of not owning a gun
Maslack read the “militia” phrase of the Second Amendment as not only affirming the right of the individual citizen to bear arms, but as a clear mandate to do so. He believes that universal gun ownership was advocated by the Framers of the Constitution as an antidote to a “monopoly of force” by the government as well as criminals.
David Barton, in a tweet, called this a “novel approach” to the gun ownership debate. It is certainly that, in so far as it turns the intent of the Second Amendment on its head.
You begin to get a picture of what conservatism’s fantasy America would look like, and it would not be anything we would recognize. David Barton, reprehensible as he is, is only the tip of the iceberg, a disease but also a symptom afflicting the body politic.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.