My fellow expatriate, Piers Morgan, appears to be on yet another quest to embarrass himself, this time by taking the Constitution’s amendments one by one and demonstrating in public that he has no idea what they mean. In the wake of Bob Costas’s anti-gun rant, Morgan took to Twitter to complain about the Second Amendment:
The 2nd amendment was devised with muskets in mind, not high-powered handguns & assault rifles. Fact.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 3, 2012
For this, he was quickly taken to task:
@piersmorgan It was devised 4 people 2b able 2 protect themselves w same type of weaponry used by those from whom they might need protection— Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) December 3, 2012
To which Morgan responded with the classic:
@caroljsroth Where exactly does it say that in the Constitution – must have missed it?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 3, 2012
And the coup de grâce:
@piersmorgan right next to the word “muskets”— Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) December 3, 2012
As conservatives including myself never tire of pointing out to the uninitiated, the not-unrelated notions that the Second Amendment is either a historical anomaly or that it only applies to, say, hunters are both arrant nonsense. You won’t hear this in school, kids, but the right to bear arms is an issue that not only predates the Second Amendment by a matter of centuries, but one that strikes at the very heart of the relationship between the citizen and the state. Free men who control the government can, of course, bear arms. Slaves cannot. The distinction is crucial, as Dred Scott discovered.
The fact of the right’s codification in the Constitution to one side, it makes no philosophical sense whatsoever for representatives of a government that is subordinate to the people — and to which the people have not surrendered their unalienable rights — to be able to disarm the people, who are their employers. As government cannot be the arbiter of its critics’ words, it cannot legitimately remove from the people the rights that are recognized in the very document to which it owes it existence. Granted, as with all rights, there are naturally questions as to the scope of the right to bear arms. But to limit the Second Amendment to “muskets,” as if the provision is only appropriate in a certain historical context and not an expression of a timeless principle, is not only to forward an unlettered view of history but fundamentally to misunderstand American constitutional republicanism.
Naturally, this was pointed out to Morgan. His response? More arrant nonsense:
Amusing to see pro-gun lobby furiously denouncing my 1st amendment rights to free speech over my opinion of 2nd amendment’s meaning.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 5, 2012
Oh dear, Piers. Way to let the side down, old boy. Nobody is “denouncing” your “1st amendment rights.” They’re denouncing your astonishing ignorance.
Morgan’s is the sort of argument one typically hears from very stupid people who dislike being questioned: “S’only my opinion mate! What about my free speech!?” Well, “free speech” does not mean the right to express your opinion without being called out or denounced, but instead the right to speak without being prosecuted. Think of it like this: Should you be able to call someone offensive names without them having you locked up? Yes. Should you expect them to stay silent while you do so? No.
In a more relevant context, Piers’s predicament is similar to that of Holocaust deniers. (Legally, that is, not morally.) Should it be illegal to spout lies about history? No, of course not, because to make it illegal is to give the state the power to determine what is and is not true. But should one face general opprobrium for one’s ignorance? Yes, sir! And especially when this ignorance is motivated by political considerations.
I’m looking forward to the remainder of the series, in which we are told what the Third and Fourth Amendments mean. Certainly, if I were a soldier, I’d decline any dinner invitations from the Morgan household in the coming weeks.