“Yeah, too bad the right to bear arms is written into the constitution.”

After sharing a link to someone else’s political opinion, a friend of a friend replied with the favorite of many unreasonable arguments: the second amendment.

I have never been known for patience but I am frequently described as argumentative—one of my more ambiguously valued qualities. So in a herculean display of willpower, I sighed regretfully as I nudged the lock button, forcing my screen into a pouty darkness.

Less than a minute later, in some sort of righteous fugue state, I found myself cheek-deep in the glow of a phone-sized, facebook warzone. Clinging helplessly to the last threads of my restraint, I wrote only:

“For a well-regulated militia*”

Let’s pause for a moment because I want to be clear on something:

I was aware of my actions and the likely consequences. I was conscious of the fact that political discussions rarely (if ever) engender positive change when they’re carried out heatedly and recklessly via social media.

So there’s that. Resume play:

Five red flags pinged into existence.

“Friend-of-a-friend commented on your link.”

“Friend-of-a-friend commented on your link.”

“Friend-of-a-friend commented on your link.”

“Friend-of-a-friend commented on your link.”

“Friend-of-a-friend commented on your link.”

First, a link to Google’s definition of the word “militia:”




a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.

  • a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities, typically in opposition to a regular army.

He followed that up with a thin-sliced, swiss-cheese elaboration, saying:

“‘The right of the PEOPLE to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ You must first understand what a militia is.”

As my lunch break had come to a swift and thankless close, I responded by saying I wouldn’t be able to engage while at work. A bullshit move by most accounts, but true nonetheless. He called me out for it, claiming my withdrawal was suspiciously timed since he’d just replied with facts; softening things by saying “you just didn’t know what a militia was…”

I offered to converse with him later and he clarified by saying he’s not looking for that.

So a couple of things:

The first is that the proffered definition still fails to explain how untethered, untrained, and objectively disagreeable citizens can go out, as if to pick up milk, and return with an assault rifle.

Google defines a militia as people who are “raised from the civil population.” This, in no uncertain terms, implies a separation; a group that is consciously and skillfully brought to a higher level of understanding, expertise, and perspective. Only then, it says, could such individuals be fit to serve as supplements for the even more highly trained professionals in an emergency.

For now, I’ll ignore that the very next definition suggests the same term can also be used to describe rebel insurgents, or those engaging in “terrorist activities.”

Instead, I’ll compare and contrast because, as with a medical diagnosis, I find second and third opinions to be invaluable.

So let’s ask

“a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.”

And maybe Merriam Webster?

“a group of people who are not part of the armed forces of a country but are trained like soldiers”

It’s the “trained like soldiers” thing I just can’t seem to get past; the implication that these men and women must prove themselves to be competent and qualified. It’s the insistence that these forces are similar to our reserves—military quality but called upon only when absolutely needed.

Called upon. By the group they belong to, which is overseen and regulated to ensure that the community it serves remains safe.

It would not be unlike me to get too hung up on a single word, though. It would not be unlike me to delve so deep into the heart of our language that a point was lost in the process.

So on that, I’ll simply say that in fact…I do understand what a militia is. And no: that does not satiate the waves of questions that bubble from the sobbing lips of survivors; friends and families who can’t seem to understand what a militia has to do with a terrorist assassinating the ones they love. The ones who were exhibiting no signs of clear, or present danger.

The second and more deeply disturbing thing was that this friend-of-a-friend denied further conversation.

I am not always easy to talk to. I can ramble, I can preach, and I can certainly condescend. Raised lovingly by a family of Jewish lawyers, my point of defense would never be to claim that I am a comfortable opponent. But I am also open to discussion. In my house, steak was served with a side of debate and further analysis. Carbonated questions flowed with ease, and we never settled on answers so much as prompted responses.

This friend-of-a-friend called me out for what he perceived to be a cowardly retreat. He cyber-sneered with the implication that I’d run just because he’d presented facts.

I beg to differ.

I returned to my job because no one was paying me for a verbal shakedown. I was expected to write and/or call the people who ignored what I wrote last week.

But in this moment I’m not being paid at all, so I’d just like to ask…how dare you?

People are literally dying. In the streets and in churches, in nightclubs and in the schools that you and I have just recently outgrown. There is blood everywhere, on everyone because 200 years ago our forefathers, who were in the middle of escaping oppressors of their own, were wise enough to say they thought we should protect each other.

Who are you protecting?

From behind that veil of privilege and willful ignorance, who around you have you saved today?

“They’re taking our guns. Dad said we could always have our guns. It’s our right. We deserve guns, you can’t take them, you can’t take them, you can’t take them…

If you could turn off that Shining-esque wall of insanity for one moment, would you consent to a conversation in which no one proposes to take anything from you?

Keep your firearms.

Go to sleep at night feeling safer, or live in a natural balance with the environment by hunting for your own food. But prove you know how to use them. Prove you’re mentally capable of identifying a threat, and that you’re self-actualized enough to recognize that doesn’t include people with opposite opinions or inclinations.

And then keep proving it.

Prove it every day—by using your weapon only in a true emergency. Submit to the regulations that apply to the group you’re constitutionally bound to identify with. Respect them. Respect them because this country wasn’t built off those two lines, but by the men who wrote them. Men who were fleeing persecution and judgment—the unrighteous oppression of harmless freedoms like who we love or what we pray to. Respect the rules written by men who sought a more perfect union.

You are clinging to a promise you don’t understand, and even knowing that…it’s still not being taken from you.

So keep your guns, but give back the conversation.