“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.”
As violence continues to take lives and break bodies throughout the nation, the topic of gun violence inevitably turns to the 2nd amendment. Many invoke the 2nd amendment when the topic of gun control enters the arena, where American citizens have the right to posses a weapon, in the name of self defense (as guaranteed by our Constitution).
And also, in the name of Genocide. Let me explain.
It is generally accepted that the original purpose of the 2nd amendment, how we learn about it in our national mythos through school, was (and is) to protect ourselves, citizens, from a tyrannical government, to mobilize and create militias, repel invasion (and insurrection), and a supposed natural (read divine) right to “self defense”.
1776. Well, before that. Seemingly England, as our second amendment actually has roots in English law, but our 2nd amendment comes within the constitution, part of our national consciousness as Americans, which in the mythological sense of our origin story in our contemporary begins with the “discovery” of “America” by Columbus, jumping later to Plymouth Rock, Jamestown, and so on. The be explicit about this, the context in which all this happens is the genocide of the indigenous peoples and nations of the Americas, without, our United States of America does not exist.
But how does the 2nd amendment act as a tool for genocide? The 13 colonies (now states) did not remain the 13, they eventually became 50, plus the colonized Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. But before we reached the Pacific Ocean, the colonists, more accurately called settler colonialists, had to pass through Appalachia, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and amongst all that, nations. The land was not a pristine virgin paradise where nomads wandered, but a land filled with a complex system of roads, villages, towns, cities, countries, federations, and millions of people with a wide array of cultural practices, languages, traditions, and systems of government. And this is where the 2nd Amendment becomes crucial in it not only being a tool for self defense, but the necessary tool for the genocide committed across what is now the US.
Settler colonialists, and their right to bear arms, were essential in expansion, and in their possession of weapons, were the foot soldiers of the US government to wreck havoc. As Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz eloquently states,
“Native People are implied in the 2nd Amendment. Male settlers had been required in the colonies to serve on militias during their lifetime for the purposes of raiding and razing Indigenous communities.”
It is true that settler colonialists used the 2nd amendment for self defense, but also to kill Indigenous men, women, and children. This isn’t necessarily me arguing we need to abolish the 2nd amendment, but just to remind you, that anytime you hear someone invoke their divine right to bear arms, that there is a history with that right, and that history is genocide against the indigenous nations of this land. Because, wether we like it or not, the United States of America, our home, was founded upon the murdered people and stolen land of this continent, every single inch of it.
That is a truth, one that we can no longer deny. But what does that mean today? Surely, we are not using the 2nd amendment to commit genocide. In the coming blog post, I’ll explore why the 2nd Amendment is still, in essence, a tool for the continued genocide against Indigenous People of this land.
P.S. Many would disagree with my premise that we committed genocide against the Indigenous people of the Americas. For further reading that you can do on your own, the following 3 books are essential.
American Holocaust by David Stanner, And Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and for you to whisk away your internalized “virgin paradise” narrative of the continent, read 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. And if you choose to buy these books, please buy them at your local bookstore, not Amazon. Thanks.