In the wake of another gun-related disaster, feelings are intense in arguments for and against gun control. The one argument that is never questioned is that “gun ownership is a Constitutionally protected right”. But is it really?
The actual words of the Second Amendment, and of the sections of the U.S. Constitution on which that right is assumed, are never written or spoken in the debate. It may be enlightening to actually read the Second Amendment, and those parts of the Constitution that refer to it.
The Second Amendment is only one sentence: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
If you read it carefully, it has a meaning other than the simple “right to bear arms.” It conditions that “right” on the need for readily available armed recruits for a well-regulated “Militia” (note the capitalization). Those Militia provide the security of our free state. What well-regulated Militia is it referring to?
We need to read the Constitution to find that out. Article 1 gives Congress the power, “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States.” Notice the “them” in that quote. Congress may call forth “the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.” The Constitution also states that, “The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several states, when called into Service of the United States.”
The states’ Militia were originally needed to provide both the security and law enforcement of each state, and for the new nation that had no standing army and no police forces. A well-armed citizenry was needed at that time to have readily available recruits to the states’ Militia in times of any state or national emergency. The states’ Militia were an important fighting force in the Civil War. After the Civil War, the name Militia was changed to National Guard.
The nation now has well-equipped standing military forces and multiple police forces. The Militia/National Guard units now serve as a backup force for national and state emergencies. It should be obvious that an armed citizenry is no longer needed to provide ready recruits for the Militia. It should be obvious that an armed militia, of any type, is not going to overthrow the government. It should also be obvious that a citizenry, armed with the powerful guns available today, is a threat to our civilized society. There is no mention of the citizens’ need for self-protection.
Why is a single sentence so completely misunderstood? Because most men “want” it to mean something else. Most every male, from kid to old man, enjoys a heightened feeling of power and exhilaration when in possession of a gun. Eighty-five years ago, I was exhilarated by the six-shooter cap gun that I had in my holster. It was the same kind of exhilaration that 7-year-old girls got from their dolls.
Those feelings don’t change as we mature. The more powerful the gun or guns, the more heightened those feelings.
The federal courts should interpret the Second Amendment as a relic of the past, that is no longer applicable to gun control. But the court system has been so skewed, that the proper interpretation may only come from public dialogue. That public dialogue desperately needs a fact-based interpretation of the Second Amendment.
MARLIN REINHART, JUPITER