By Joe Lehmann | USA
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.” (1).
What it means:
Broadly speaking, the Second Amendment protects two distinct rights. First, it protects the right of the citizens to form a militia for the protection of society. Second, it also protects the average citizen’s right to own and use weapons, independent of military service of any kind.
Where it came from:
English history is littered with support for the individual right to arm themselves. Judge William Blackstone in 18th Century England described the right to bear arms as indispensable. He gave two reasons for this: First, self-preservation for the individual, and second, resistance to oppression. This Republican view of the link between arms and freedom influenced all of the Framers. (2). During debate on the Constitution of Virginia, Patrick Henry supported the right of individuals to bear arms; “the great object is that every man be armed…everyone who is able may have a gun.” (3). James Madison also made clear that the real deterrent to government tyranny is an armed populous; “The advantage of being armed…forms a barrier against the enterprise of ambitions, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” (4). In order to protect the fledgling nation of the United States, the Framers realized that an armed population is necessary for the defense of a free state against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Why it is important today:
The importance of individual defense never goes away. Although intelligent minds can disagree about the extent to which an individual can wield firearms, there is no substantial argument for the banning of weapons or exorbitant and nebulous restrictions such as a ban on “assault weapons.” (5). With government encroachment on Second Amendment rights in Chicago, Washington DC, California, and elsewhere, it is imperative that Americans appreciate that “…the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms…” (6). With threats from criminals, religious fanatics, and domestic terrorist groups (7),”…the right to keep and bear arms [is] essential to the preservation of liberty.” (8). The purpose of the Second Amendment has not changed through its years of existence: protect of an individuals life, liberty, and property from the oppression of another individual or of a misguided group. Although this freedom is not absolute, the idea that “…when called for service, these men…were expected to appear bearing arms supported by themselves…” (9), is still enshrined in the Second Amendment. It is imperative that the American populous does not cave to fear and surrender one of their main Constitutional rights.
(1) U.S. Constitution, amend. 2
(2) 1 ANNALS OF CONG. 778-80 (J. Gales ed., 1834).
(3) Don B. Kates, Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment, 82 MICH. L. REV. 204, 229 (1983).
(4) THE FEDERALIST No. 46, at 310, 311 (James Madison) (Modern Library ed., 1937).
(5) New Firearms Legislation, State of California – Department of Justice – Office of the Attorney General (2016), https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/bullet-button (last visited Jul 5, 2017).
(6) District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008).
(7)Anarchist Extremists: Antifa, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (2017), https://www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/analysis/anarchist-extremists-antifa (last visited Jun 28, 2017).
(8) McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010). (Thomas, J., concurring).
(9) United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).