A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
This is arguably the most misunderstood provision in our Bill of Rights. It is arguably the most vague, in its wording. And it is definitely, at least in part, confusing to us today because it refers to a society long gone. Yet it is also very important, and very much needed–perhaps more now than ever.
We read the phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” without even knowing that it is just part of this amendment–thus we tend to take it out of context.
The phrase “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” is unfamiliar to us today, because our society has changed. Our nation’s founders had won their independence from a nation in which the military could be used by the government against the people of the nation itself. And they wanted to make sure this would not happen in the new nation they established. So they gave the people the right to form their own militias–groups of armed civilians–to defend themselves and their communities against the Federal Government if necessary. These militias began as community militias. Yet they eventually converged into state militias.
Remnants of these state militias still exist. Every state has its own chapter of the National Guard, for example. Yet over time, as we have come to trust our nation’s military not to turn against us, the militias have become less significant.
However, there is one word in this arguably outdated section of the Second Amendment that is very significant in our application of the next section: regulated.
Because “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is used in context with “A well regulated Militia,” we can validly conclude that some regulation is expected in our right to keep and bear arms.
And our right to keep and bear arms has always been regulated–by the governments of the States. Each state in the United States has always had some regulation of gun ownership and usage.
In the last century, this regulation has applied primarily to handguns. One verse of a well-known Lynyrd Skynyrd song begins with “Handguns are made for killin’, they ain’t good for nothin’ else…” And this is generally true. Shotguns and rifles are good for hunting–I’ve used them myself, for deer hunting. But handguns are good for nothing but killing people–that has always been their purpose. And because of this, handguns are good for self-defense. The need for self-defense is as primal as the need for hunting. And though hunting is no longer necessary in most societies today, self-defense is–and always will be.
But I don’t have a handgun. I don’t need one. Though crime is increasing in my neighborhood, it is still relatively safe. I have no children to protect, no wife to protect. And I’m a huge son of a bitch who has a death wish anyway.
My dad has a handgun though. He got a handgun permit in the 1970s. And I remember the hoops he had to jump through to get one. He had to give a valid reason, first of all. He mentioned that he had a wife and children–that wasn’t enough. He mentioned that he went fishing often–that wasn’t enough. He mentioned that he had to drive to work late at night through one of the most crime-ridden parts of town–that was enough.
Then he had to get three letters from non-relatives attesting to his character–one from his minister.
It is said that when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. This is true. And it is said that adding more gun laws will do no good, when the gun laws already in place for decades are not enforced. And this is true.
When the Second Amendment was ratified, the only firearms were muzzle loaders. There were no cartridges–no bullets as we know them today. There were also no clips–no magazines. Every firearm, from a musket to a dueling pistol, had to be loaded painstakingly for every shot.
Surely, the framers of the Constitution could foresee some evolution in firearms. They may have envisioned self-contained cartridges, for example. But I doubt they envisioned clips, magazines–containers by which several shots could be fired in seconds.
What if they had? A 30-06 hunting rifle–I think they’d be okay with that. A double-barrel shotgun, even a pump shotgun–I think they’d be okay with that. Even a revolver–I think they’d be okay with that.
But what about an assault rifle–a weapon not only designed to kill people, but to kill dozens of people in seconds? I don’t think the framers of the Constitution would be okay with that.
My dad was a longtime member of the NRA, and he felt it to be a necessary group for the protection of our Second Amendment rights. But after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a young man (twisted and brainwashed by his twisted and brainwashed mother) used assault rifles to kill twenty first-graders, along with several adults, my dad was appalled at the NRA’s position on assault rifles–as was I.
And when a representative of the NRA called my dad the following January, asking if he would like to renew his annual membership, my dad asked him this question: “What is the NRA going to do about these assault rifles?”
The NRA representative said, “Nothing.”
And my dad said, “Then forget it.”
When my dad, who is far more right-wing than I, refuses to renew his membership in the NRA, there is definitely something wrong with the NRA.
Nothing was done, after the Newtown shooting, to keep monsters like Adam Lanza from obtaining guns–even assault rifles.
And nothing was done, after the Charleston shooting, to keep monsters like Dylann Roof from obtaining guns. But something was definitely done about Confederate flags. Republican governors, county commissioners, and mayors all over the American South gave into the demands of anti-Southern, contrarian Democrats, and ordered the removal of all Confederate flags–in an act of mass government censorship, and an indirect violation of freedom of speech. This was a major capitulation–obviously to ensure a better chance for a Republican presidential victory in 2016. But it was also a diversion.
Roof had taken advantage of loopholes in gun laws to obtain the handgun with which he murdered nine people. But instead of risking any offense to its NRA base, by simply calling for the closure of these loopholes in gun laws, the Republican Party called for the removal of all variants of the Confederate Flag–everywhere. Of course, the Republican Party definitely risked serious offense to its Southern American base, in doing this. But sadly, it seems to have been a lesser risk.
Now another shooting has taken place, the second in a week. And though I know very little about this, it appears that the perpetrators are homegrown terrorists who happen to be Muslim.
And the Republican Party will almost certainly create a diversion here too. Rather than risk offense to its NRA base, it will target Muslims, just as it targeted the Confederate Flag. Instead of asking how these mass murderers so easily obtained the guns they used, the Republican Party will tell Americans how it will persecute Muslims who are already here, prevent any more Muslims (Syrian refugees) from getting here, and slaughter Muslims over there–in the most veiled word usage, of course.
Understand–I despise the Democratic Party as much as I despise the Republican Party–the Democratic Party uses diversion too. But regarding the issue of gun regulation, it’s the Republican Party.
Our right to keep and bear arms is a necessary right. But we must constantly examine this provision of the Second Amendment. We must realize that unregulated gun ownership and usage is as dangerous as over-regulated gun ownership and usage.
And we must constantly ask ourselves–as with all other provisions in our Bill of Rights–“What would the creators of this amendment (those who gave this right to us) expect of us?”