The Second Amendment. Isn’t it time to move on?
The Text of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The wording is clear, the history is clear, and the intent is clear. The “controversy” over its “meaning” exposes the shabbiness of the entire tradition of leftwing intellectual discourse. Rather than opting for an honest discussion on the merits of the Second Amendment those on the Left choose to argue against its meaning by either claiming that it doesn’t say what it says or by suggesting that the rights enumerated in the US Constitution are not inviolate. It may come as a surprise to some, but there was a time when those on the Left constantly referenced the various rights guaranteed by the Constitution, per their interpretation, and claimed to be their most ardent defenders. Of course that time is long past and they are increasingly being exposed as the statists and advocates of totalitarianism they have always been.
Arguably their largest setback, in terms of the Second Amendment, came in 2008 when the Supreme Court struck down a Washington, D.C. law, saying:
It was not until 2008 that the Supreme Court definitively came down on the side of an “individual rights” theory.1 Relying on new scholarship regarding the origins of the Amendment, the Court in District of Columbia v. Heller2 confirmed what had been a growing consensus of legal scholars – that the rights of the Second Amendment adhered to individuals. The Court reached this conclusion after a textual analysis of the Amendment,3 an examination of the historical use of prefatory phrases in statutes, and a detailed exploration of the 18th century meaning of phrases found in the Amendment. Although accepting that the historical and contemporaneous use of the phrase “keep and bear Arms” often arose in connection with military activities, the Court noted that its use was not limited to those contexts.4 Further, the Court found that the phrase “well regulated Militia” referred not to formally organized state or federal militias, but to the pool of “able-bodied men” who were available for conscription.5 Finally, the Court reviewed contemporaneous state constitutions, post-enactment commentary, and subsequent case law to conclude that the purpose of the right to keep and bear arms extended beyond the context of militia service to include self-defense.
Frankly, aside from those with a slave like agenda, the decision and basis on which the case was decided couldn’t have been less controversial. Unfortunately, due to the Left’s obsession with destroying the concept of individual rights, a guaranteed right in the Constitution continues to be a matter of discussion. Although it is true that an article by Tom Head I am about to reference was published prior to the aforementioned decision (District of Columbia v. Heller2), I would suggest that there is still something of value to be gained by taking another look. In the article he suggests that there are three different interpretations vying for supremacy. Obviously only one of them has now been recognized as relevant by the Supreme Court, but as recent events have shown, even the opinion of the Supreme Court seems to have made no difference to those who continue to assault the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. In all honesty I am far from the most vocal defender of the various rulings of the Supreme Court, but it strikes me as rather dishonest for those on the Left to use the Supreme Court only when they so choose. In any event, the three competing interpretations according to Mr. Head are as follows:
- The civilian militia interpretation, which holds that the Second Amendment is no longer valid, having been intended to protect a militia system that is no longer in place.
The Supreme Court made it clear that it did not agree with this interpretation. The real point is not that the Supreme Court was able to actually read the Constitution and accept what it found, which is important enough in this day and age, but that the “interpretation” has absolutely nothing to support it. A review of the Second Amendment proves this conclusively.
In the first place, if we assume for the sake of an argument that the reason “,,,the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (with or without the comma)” was because the people of the time needed to protect themselves against wild animals, the absence of wild animals would still not negate the right as clearly enumerated in the Second Amendment. The right to “keep and bear arms shall not be infringed“….period.
In the second place, what seems to have been completely forgotten is that the existence of a “well regulated militia” was an integral part of the Founding Father’s world view. The argument which asserts that the right to “keep and bear arms” has been rendered invalid because we no longer have a militia somehow fails to ask the more important question of what ever happened to the militia in the first place. The “well regulated militia” was an integral part of ensuring that the “Land of the Free” stayed that way. If “we, the people” are the government then on what basis do some of us have the right to keep and bear arms while others do not? Are we afraid of ourselves? As the Founding Fathers were certainly aware, there is a major difference between a “standing army” and a force made up of otherwise normal citizens. I would suggest that the real question we should be asking ourselves is at what point did it become necessary for the government to divorce itself from the very people who ostensibly are the government.
Thirdly, there are numerous practical reasons that we might wish to consider returning to a real “citizen’s army” which would not only make the present discussion moot, but also provoke a discussion as to what kind of country we truly wish to pass on to our children. Every one of our rights is dependent on the ability to ensure that those rights are respected. A more complete treatment of what these reasons are requires more than a couple of sentences in this particular article, but suffice it to say that they include a more responsive government and a much less expensive price tag attached to the country’s defense.
- The individual rights interpretation, which holds that the individual right to bear arms is a basic right on the same order as the right to free speech.
The Supreme Court chose to recognize this interpretation and thus the writings in favor of the decision are more than enough to support it. There is, however, one rather ironic point which I would like to provide a response to those who ask if the Second Amendment applies to the States, as well as the Federal Government. The irony lies in the fact that whether or not the right to keep and bear arms was originally an individual right, which I believe it was, the so-called “Incorporation Doctrine” certainly makes it one now.
- The median interpretation, which holds that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right to bear arms but is restricted by the militia language in some way.
The median interpretation? Here we have the famous attempt to suggest that taking away a right “just a little bit” is a moderate and reasonable position. As previously stated, there is no support for this position in the wording of the Second Amendment. Let’s take another look:
Once again, read the wording and ask yourself what happened to the well regulated militia which is necessary to the security of a free state.
Some other thoughts by Tom Head which I have found to reflect the views of quite a few others and I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Head…
In my opinion, it would not be at all inconsistent with the letter or spirit of the Second Amendment to regulate the circumstances under which one can own firearms. And a basic part of any firearm regulation standard that acknowledges the “well-regulated militia” clause should be safety training.
I continue to wonder at the ability of some to read the words “shall not be infringed” and claim that “…(regulation would not be) inconsistent with the letter or the spirit of the Second Amendment”.
The well-regulated militia referred to in the Second Amendment was, in fact, the 18th-century equivalent to the U.S. Armed Forces. Other than a small force of paid officers (primarily responsible for supervising civilian conscripts), the United States that existed at the time the Second Amendment was proposed had no professional, trained army. Instead it relied almost exclusively on civilian militias for self-defense–in other words, the rounding up of all available men between the ages of 18 and 50
Very true, but then he moves on to what he sees as “self-evident” without ever really taking a look at the issue…
Clearly, a well-regulated civilian militia is no longer a military necessity. Does the second clause of the Second Amendment still apply even if the first clause, providing its rationale, is no longer meaningful?
I question the first assertion, and certainly answer the question in the affirmative.
A final revealing article should I not return to the subject in the near future…..
Another day, another poll showing a majority of Americans favor many of the proposed gun control measures being discussed in Congress right now. Today’s poll comes from the University of Connecticut and the Hartford Courant, which found that majorities of American nationally favor requiring background checks on all firearm purchases, thus closing the so-called gun show loophole (84 percent); support reinstating the ban on assault weapons (57 percent); and back banning the sale of high-capacity magazines (53 percent).
It does not matter! We are talking about a right guaranteed by the Constitution enumerated in plain English to ensure that the right could not be infringed upon simply by enacting legislation.
Just an interesting article on the same subject….and yet you saw it here first…..:)