The year is not important. But it was a long time ago, at least 230 years.
The country possessed many wonders. There were waterfalls, rocks, rills, woods, templed hills. There were raccoons, small nervous bears that were forever washing their hands like tiny Ladys Macbeth. There were armadillos. There was even syphilis and Christianity, both thoughtful gifts from Europe. But when one surveyed the country from above, something seemed to be missing. What was it?
Suddenly, thunder rumbled. In the hall in Philadelphia where they were gathered to write a Constitution, and also in Virginia where George Mason was crafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights (confusingly, these events were in different years, but theologians assure me this is possible), the delegates shuddered, and Benjamin Franklin had to rub James Madison’s back soothingly and murmur to him so his hands stopped shaking enough to be able to start taking notes again.
“BEHOLD,” said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.
“I’M GIVING YOU THIS,” the hand said. “A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY.”
“What is it?” the delegates asked.
“JUST TAKE IT,” the hand said. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.”
“What’s it for?” the delegates asked.
“KILLING,” the hand said. “INDISCRIMINATELY. CHILDREN, TEENAGERS, GRANDMOTHERS, PARENTS ON THEIR WAY TO PICK UP THEIR KIDS FROM SCHOOL. TODDLERS. I GUESS YOU COULD USE IT FOR HUNTING, BUT NOT IF YOU WERE PARTICULARLY GOOD AT HUNTING.”
“Like a musket?” someone asked.
The voice laughed long and loud and rumblingly. “ONLY IN THE LOOSEST SENSE,” the voice said. “FOR BEHOLD, THIS CAN FIRE 600 ROUNDS PER MINUTE.”
“This seems like it could be useful in a war,” Mason said, not unreasonably.
“I DON’T MEAN IN WAR,” the voice said. “THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. I MEAN, IN PRIVATE HOMES AND ON CITY STREETS AND UNLOCKED IN CABINETS IN HOUSES WITH TODDLERS IN THEM, AND IN THE HANDS OF POLICE OFFICERS.”
“Oh,” the delegates said. “Uh, well.”
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME THAT YOU HAVE THIS,” the voice said.
“Is this for the well-regulated militia?” someone asked.
“NOT REALLY,” the voice said. “DON’T GET DISTRACTED. IF ANYONE TRIES TO RESTRICT IT TO THAT, SAY NO. SAY I GAVE YOU THESE. SAY THEY’RE FROM ME AND THEY’D BETTER NOT TRY TO TAKE THEM.”
“I have a slight question,” Benjamin Franklin said.
“STOP ASKING QUESTIONS,” the voice said. “AND IF ANYONE EVER SAYS, ‘THERE ARE TOO MANY, THESE ARE TOO DANGEROUS, WE DON’T WANT THEM ANY MORE, THE MILITIA THING HAS REALLY WANED SO IT SEEMS LIKE MOSTLY THEY ARE USED TO CAUSE ACCIDENTS IN THE HOME, TO INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT PEOPLE WHO WANT TO END THEIR LIVES WILL BE ABLE TO DO SO, AND TO DECREASE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN AND CIVILIANS,’ YOU MUST SAY NO, BECAUSE I TOLD YOU SO AND I AM PLEASED TO BEHOLD THIS GREAT WORK.”
The clouds began to close. These objects began to rain from the sky in a great profusion. Large and small, shiny and dull. They fell onto the table until you could not see the Constitution underneath them.
The voice receded in a great rumbling.
“Wait! Do you think the electoral college is a good system?” Madison yelled after it. But there was no answer.
The objects lay there in a pile on the green felt-covered table. Nobody would touch them for a long time.
“How do we," one of the delegates started, then stopped. “Uh, how do we indicate all of that, in the Constitution?"
Madison sighed. “Let’s just put in the militia thing,” he said. “All of that may well happen, but I am not certain we should give it a head start.”
Franklin sighed. “This is why I’m a deist.”
That is as far as the notes go on the day when God gave us all this God-given right.
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