Thom Hartmann has just published a new book entitled “The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment.” Thom is a progressive radio host, and he is brilliant. If I could only live in his mind for 10 minutes, I would forever be happy.
Before you turn off at the sound of “progressive,” understand Thom is a great historian; and no matter where you fall on the Second Amendment, there is plenty you can learn about the history of gun ownership in the U.S.
I remember being at a press conference at the White House and hearing then-President Obama saying to the press corps that you could not do racial change “on the cheap” and essentially by electing a black man, all the problems would be solved. The same is true for gun ownership, and Thom Hartmann has the back-up in his book to prove it. We can support the Second Amendment all we want, but the facts are that there have been more mass shootings recently than there ever was.
What he shows in his book is that gun ownership gained popularity as a way that slaves could be held down so there would not be any uprisings (what was known then as slave patrol militias). Earlier, guns were used against American Indians. In his research he shows how many of our “fathers” of liberty – Jefferson , James Madison and Patrick Henry – were people who allowed slavery. The issue that arises is whether this is considered a “local matter.” Obviously, this “local matter” became a national matter with the Civil War.
Thom’s research includes James Madison’s first draft of the Second Amendment, which says “The right of people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed; a well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country, but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.” The word country was later changed to state.
Later, after the Civil War, there were ways the states voted to protect white supremacy in the South. Thom Hartmann shows where this affects all of us, as the Supreme Court decided in recent times to give corporations the same rights as people. He also talks about money and how money has influenced who has a right to manufacture and purchase guns. We rarely talk about money and guns, but Thom has managed to show how money has influenced not only ownership, but the manufacturing of guns.
Hartmann goes on to talk about the election of 2016, an election most of us were able to vote in. Near the polling places, people were holding guns, showing that they had a right to carry. He says, “It’s hardly surprising that open carry has become the new white hood” (referring to what we know as the Ku Klux Klan).
He traces the evolution of Ronald Reagan and the gun laws of California; but most important in his book are the chapters dealing with the Heller decision of the Supreme Court, and the comparison of gun laws to car laws and even the kind of paint that can be used on children’s toys. The famed case was in 2008 and the full name is District of Columbia v. Heller. Although the finding did allow people to keep arms, it was decided that guns and ownership of guns could be regulated.
So, as Thom Hartmann points out in “The Hidden History of Guns,” there are many regulations on cars, including the wearing of seat belts. He lists three things most states have ensconced in their laws with cars: establishing ownership, proving competence (i.e. taking a road test) and requiring liability insurance. Why, he asks (and properly so), can’t these three principals be used with guns? Establishing title should be obvious, and we know that gun show rules allow people to get around the background check rules, and having gun owners have to pass a written and shooting range test is also obvious, as should be liability. However, we allow people to own and possess guns without requiring any of the above.
He wisely points out that even the kind of paint used on children’s toys is regulated, but we have not done anything to regulate guns. You can be pro-Second Amendment and pro-gun, but you should read Thom Hartmann’s book to get the full history. It is well researched and can help anyone’s understanding of how we got here and what we can do about it.