Editor’s Note: “Advanced Technology and The 2nd Amendment” is a two part article. Part Two will be published on 09/30/13.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0815724500″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51egssANGsL._SL160_.jpg” width=”107″]The 2nd Amendment To the United States Constitution gives U.S citizens the constitutional right to bear arms. One common justification given for the 2nd amendment is as a defense against tyrannical government, where citizens have a method of defending themselves against a corrupt government, and of taking their government back by force if needed by forming a citizen militia. While other reasons are sometimes called upon, such as regular old individual self-defense and the ability for the citizenry to act as a citizen army in the event their government goes to war despite being undertrooped, these justifications seem to be less prominent than the defense-against-tyrannical-government argument is.
This may have been fine when the Amendment was first conceived, but considering the changing context of culture and its artifacts, might it be time to amend it? When it was adopted in 1751, the defensive-power afforded to the citizenry by owning guns was roughly on par with the defensive-power available to government. In 1751 the most popular weapon was the musket, which was limited to 4 shots per minute, and had to be re-loaded manually. The state-of-the-art for “arms” in 1791 was roughly equal for both citizenry and military. This was before automatic weapons – never mind tanks, GPS, UAVs and the like. In 1791, the only thing that distinguished the defensive or offensive capability of military from citizenry was quantity. Now it’s quality.
Technological growth has made the 2nd amendment redundant if one agrees that its purpose was to give citizenry the ability to physically defend themselves against a tyrannical government; this follows from the relative inequality in defensive capability between government and citizenry. The types of weapons available to citizens no longer compare in defensive and offensive capability to the kinds of weapons available to the military. Law lags behind technology; what else is new?
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00746W3HG” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/410bhJuI-VL._SL160_.jpg” width=”117″]This claim would have been largely true as early as WWI, which saw the adoption of tanks, air warfare, naval warfare, poison gas and automatic weapons – assets which weren’t available to the average citizen. Military technology has only progressed since then. Indeed, the wedding of military assets with industrialization and mass-manufacturing that occurred during WWI may have entrenched this trend so deeply that we had no hope of ameliorating such technological disparity thereafter. This marked the beginning of the military industrial complex, which today assures that the overwhelming majority of new technological advances are able to be leveraged by the military before they trickle down to the average citizen through industry.
None of this will be a problem if advances in technologies-of-post-scarcity (e.g self-replicating molecular assemblers and self-replicating fab-labs) progress to the point where all cost becomes attributable to the information in the design of a given product. The average citizen currently doesn’t have access to the types of manufacturing and processing assets needed to create advanced weaponry; such assets are only available to the military. But if veritable means of post-scarcity came into the picture, then the only hope military would have of keeping proprietary access to certain technologies (that is, of making certain technologies illegal to use and own if you’re an average citizen) would be to keep the designs of such weapons confidential – a possibility in turn undermined by the trend of increasing transparency due to the increasing ubiquity of communications technologies, which some think will culminate in full-on sousvellience – in which case confidentiality is out of the question.
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