By Tyler Bauer
This is the second of many blog posts that will be taking a deeper look at the various amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as proposed amendments to the United States Constitution which failed. The text of each amendment is taken from constitutionus.com and information on failed amendments is taken from www.lexisnexus.com.
The Second Amendment
What it Says
“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.”
What it Means
The meaning of the Second Amendment is perhaps the most widely-debated of all of the amendments. Many people read into it what they want to believe. Those who oppose private gun ownership will say that “well-regulated” justifies gun laws and regulations. Furthermore, they will say that “Militia” only refers to the military. This is all wrong, though.
“Well-regulated” clearly means “well-trained” in this context. Claiming that “well-regulated” means “controlled by government-enforced laws” contradicts the latter part of the sentence, which states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Furthermore, a State that is regulated (in the law/restriction sense of the word) is not truly free, which would contradict the amendment’s intention to secure a free State.
“Militia” does not refer to the United States military. How can I say this with such certainty? Well, the Constitution includes the words “Army,” “Navy,” and “Militia.” Notice that each term carries its own meaning. If this amendment referred only to the military, it would have been written with “Army” and/or “Navy” rather than “Militia.”
So, what is the Militia? It is never fully defined in the Constitution. However, the Constitution refers to the Militias as belonging to the States on multiple occasions. So, at the very least, the Militia is not under the control of the federal government. Additionally, it is not referred to as an Army or Navy of the States, so I don’t think it can be understood to be what is now the National Guard, either.
Now, let’s look at “being necessary to secure a free State.” This sentence fragment serves as further proof that “Militia” refers to regular, everyday citizens such as you and I. A free State cannot be secure if only government forces (such as the military, police, etc.) have a right to keep and bear Arms. (Don’t believe me? Venezuela banned private gun ownership in 2012 and things have gone downhill ever since.) A well-armed populace would be able to resist such a tyrannical government, and the right to keep and bear Arms is essential to keep a potentially tyrannical government at bay.
“The right of the people to keep and bear” is fairly clear-cut. “The people” clearly refers to all people in the United States. If it didn’t, the Second Amendment would have used “the Army” or some other limiting term. Keeping obviously refers to ownership of Arms, and bearing refers to the ability to carry and/or use Arms if necessary. I think this is the least controversial part of the Second Amendment.
What are “Arms?” Some will “Arms” consists of only muskets and flintlock pistols. I’ll admit that muskets and flintlock pistols are cool, but they aren’t the only Arms covered by the Second Amendment. I believe the Second Amendment applies to ALL Arms, such as guns, grenades, missiles, and literally any other weapon. At the time the Second Amendment was written, the Revolutionary War-era musket was the most lethal Arm ever created. Why shouldn’t this protection apply to the most lethal Arms we have today? Your right to free speech doesn’t only cover your speech if it’s written on parchment with a quill pen dipped in ink, so why should the Second Amendment stop at muskets? I believe citizens should be able to own any weapon(s) they want, as a populace that is as well-equipped as the government presents an opponent no tyrant would want to face.
“Shall not be infringed” is also pretty clearly-written, but for some reason, people still argue over its meaning. What part of “shall not be infringed” is so hard to understand? The government should not infringe on one’s right to bear Arms, and any gun law or regulation is an infringement.
Why it Matters
I think the Second Amendment’s importance is pretty clear. As the amendment’s text states, our right to keep and bear Arms is necessary to keep a tyrannical government at bay. Just look at any mass killing committed by any government. I can almost guarantee you that the victims did not have a right to keep and bear Arms or, at the very least, did not have the right to keep and bear the same Arms as the government that killed them.
I am well aware that the right to keep and bear Arms is inherently dangerous. Freedom is always dangerous, and I understand that this may worry some people. But answer this: Do you prefer dangerous freedom or peaceful slavery? I know which one I prefer.