Text of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
The Second Amendment, as ratified by the States, reads: 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.
The hand-written copy of the Bill of Rights as passed by the house and Senate and which hangs in the National Archives, had slightly different capitalization and punctuation inserted by William Lambert, the scribe who prepared it. This copy reads: 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.
Both versions are commonly used by “official” Government publications. (Emphasis added by author)
The Sandy Hook school shooting has ignited, once again, the debate over gun control. Before looking at the merits of different sides in the debate, let’s define just who the players are in the discussion, as there are really three sides, not two, involved.
Like Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of Great Britain in 1939, just prior to the start of World War II, there are those in the United States that believe in appeasing aggressors, be they tyrannical governments or neighborhood gang thugs, and who believe there is no need for an armed citizenry, who truly believe getting rid of guns will reduce violent crime and slaughter as in what happened at Sandy Hook. These people, who would rather be peaceful, non-violent slaves rather than passionate defenders of the constitution, are fortunately the smallest in numbers, of the three groups involved in the gun debate, and are the least dangerous to the constitution because, as in every fight, they are ultimately pacifists and appeasers and will not fight, even for something they believe in.
These are the people Samuel Adams was speaking of when he said, “If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
These are the people in the debate who believe in the rule of law, who believe that we are a nation of laws, not of men, and who would win the gun debate were it to be fought with reason and logic. Oddly, this group of people are also the most moderate for that very reason…they believe in the rule of law and the principles ensconced in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. While this group (the author included) generally believe in the 2nd Amendment, they also acknowledge that there is a process by which the 2nd Amendment and legal gun ownership can be done away with…but that abolishment of gun rights should be done through the process of amending the Constitution, not by simply ignoring one of its precepts, if the right to “keep and bear arms” is to be done away with.
The radical left
This group, AKA “progressives” (though they are anything BUT progressive), should not be confused with Democrats, at least not “core” Democrats. These are the collectivists, the “true believers” in a government that should be all controlling, all knowing, and obeyed without question. These are the people Saul Alinsky was talking to in his book “Rules for Radicals” when he called for change at whatever the cost, when he said the end justifies the means…including if it means blood in the streets.
These are the people George Orwell was talking about in “1984”, the controllers in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick movie “A Clockwork Orange”.
What kind of “arms” was the 2nd Amendment talking about, and which people (or People) does it apply to?
To answer the first part of that question you must first answer the second half…who does the 2nd Amendment mean when it says “the people (or People)”? It would be nice if we could dig the founding fathers up and ask them just who they meant when they said “the people”, but even though we can’t, there is plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that they probably meant individuals, and that is not individuals then states. There is absolutely no evidence that they meant for the federal government to have any say at all in who “the people” were who could bear arms:
- Every other one of the 10 amendments that make up the Bill of Rights gives power to the people and limits the power of the federal government. It would be totally foreign to the rest of the Bill of Rights for this one amendment to give, rather than limit, power to the feds. It is, after all, a bill of rights, not a bill of limitation of rights.
- The argument is sometimes made that since some copies of the amendment say “the People” rather than “the people”, the capitalization of “People” indicated it referred to the people collectively, as a group, as more important than individual people. This argument fails on two counts.First, in all the writings of all of the founding fathers there is nothing to suggest, in even the tiniest amount, that the founders put ANYTHING above the individual. All of their writings indicated that the individual was to be the ultimate beneficiary, not subject of, the federal government.Second, even if this capitalization were to indicate the amendment spoke of “the people” as a group rather than individuals, that still gives the federal government no authority over what constitutes the “right to bear arms”. The 10th Amendment is clear:“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”Nowhere in the Constitution is the power to regulate arms delegated to the United States, therefore it does not have that power. Note also that a very clear bright line distinction is drawn between “the United States” and “the States”. The framers of the Bill of Rights were intentionally clear that the two are very, very distinct from one another, not an all encompassing “government” totally separate from the people.The 2nd Amendment was premised on giving the people the ability to fight against a tyrannical government, as the colonies did against Great Britain and King George in the American Revolution. While there was a Continental Army raised by the colonies collectively, and while several of the colonys did raise and lend state militias to the war effort, the American Revolution was fought, in large part, by individuals. A movie is hardly a good choice for demonstrating historical accuracy, but regarding individual efforts in the war, the part played by Mel Gibson in the movie “The Patriot” is accurate in that it shows an individual, apart from a standing army or state militia, arming himself and participating in the war effort.Individuals participating in and helping greatly in the American Revolution is a good indicator of who the framers of the Constitution were talking about when they wrote the 2nd Amendment using the words “the people”.
So, what kind of arms should individuals be allowed to own?
The 2nd Amendment gives individuals the right to own “arms” so they can defend themselves against a tyrannical government, not to hunt Bullwinkle, Rocky the Squirrel, Donald Duck, and Bambi. Given that, the short answer is that an individual should be allowed to own any “arms” he or she can afford. At the extreme, an individual should be able to fight whatever a tyrannical government throws at the people. If a potentially tyrannical government has the ability to use B-52’s loaded with nukes, the people should, theoretically, be able to respond in kind. That is obviously an extreme, unworkable, and unreasonable option.
Equally as extreme, unworkable, and unreasonable, given the purpose of the 2nd Amendment, to defend against tyranny, is to limit the people to anything similar to bolt action deer rifles, shotguns, and Red Ryder BB guns.
Going back to the days of the American Revolution and the thinking behind the 2nd Amendment, the people should at a minimum be allowed to own arms that match what the average Army infantryman carries.
Should guns be registered?
Combined with the question of registration is the concurrent question of background checks. To the first the answer is an unqualified “No!”, and a reluctant “No.” to the second.
Through history it has been the action of dictators to disarm the people and the first step in disarming the populace is to establish where the weapons are…who has them…and registration is an easy tool to use when confiscation time comes. Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro…all disarmed the populace after first requiring that weapons be registered. All ran oppressive, brutal, murderous regimes.
For those who think such could not happen in the United States, another comparison will hit closer to home. We are the most powerful, well educated, technologically advanced, prosperous nation on earth and we have a Republic whose leaders are democratically elected. In 1932 that description fit another country…Germany, the country that within a few short years became the most oppressive, brutal, murderous regime of its time, eventually killing over 50 million people, including 5 million Jews and 6 million other non-Aryans, actions which were made possible in large part because Hitler first disarmed the public.
To fight tyranny the public must be armed, and for the public to be…and remain…armed the government cannot be allowed to track gun ownership.
What about background checks?
Incidents such as the Sandy Hook slaughter and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater killings show that there are people whose mental health issues show they have no business possessing a gun. Add to that group the criminals who have been convicted of crimes of violence and you have a group of people who should be prevented from ever having a gun, and background checks would go a long way to accomplish that. Background checks do present two problems that must be dealt with before they are mandated for every gun ownership transaction:
- It is a hard, cold fact that the federal government tends to always use a sledgehammer to drive even the smallest nail. There is no reason to think that would automatically change if the government set mental health standards for gun ownership. Based on past experience it would be safe to think that rather than put in place restrictions that considered an individual’s circumstance the government would throw as wide a net as possible in order to exclude as many people as possible from gun ownership.For example, it would be a safe assumption to expect a blanket ban on people who have ever been treated for a mental illness as an inpatient at a mental health facility…yet that would exclude people like the author, who voluntarily entered a treatment center for an addiction problem (alcoholism). A rehab center is considered a mental health facility, alcoholism is considered a mental illness, and I was an inpatient for 6 weeks, so I would be excluded under such standards even though I have never exhibited any violent tendencies.A blanket ban on people who are prescribed specific medications…medications that might be used to treat depression or bipolar disease, for example…would be equally abusive of the 2nd Amendment. Many of those medications are also used for the treatment of problems not at all associated with mental illness. The medication that Veep candidate Thomas Eagleton took for bipolar disease in the ’70’s is also used to treat high blood pressure. Do you really think the government can be trusted to make the distinction?
- Second, speaking of trusting the government, a background check should be just that…a background check. It should NOT be a back door method of registering guns by the government building a list of who owns what based on the background check information. Once a seller enters the information for the transaction into a computer there is no reason a Yes/No answer should not come back in SECONDS, not days, and once the seller recieves that information the transaction information should be purged from all databases completely and permanently, and it should be by way of a system that can be verified by outside, private sources, NOT by taking the government’s word that it has been purged. There is no less trustworthy organization in the United States than the federal government…with state governments running a close second.
We DO have a violence problem in this country. All it takes to know that is to look at Sandy Hook. Or Aurora, Colorado. Or Columbine. Or the murder rate in Chicago or New York. Too many people, children and adults, are dying needlessly because of that violence problem…but its not the guns completely. It is a broken mental health system. It is a penal system that incarcerates drug users yet gives murderers little more than a slap on the wrist. It is the huge number of fatherless families with no strong male figure to teach sons how to be men. It is teachers too lazy to be teachers to any but little sponges that sit and absorb, who are unable to handle a child that is a bit active and restless and instead sends him or her to the school nurse, who calls the parent(s) and recommends Ritalin.
There are many things we can do to fix the violence problem in this country. Raping the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is not an acceptable one of them.