The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is a mere 27 words long, yet it is unquestionably the most intensely debated, contested, misinterpreted and abused of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights. Recklessly maligned as being out of date in our modern times, it remains one of the fundamental protections for our nation, now as it was then.
Adopted on December 15, 1791 with the other nine initial Amendments, the Second Amendment 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.
One of the most widespread misconceptions about the Second Amendment is that it grants the right to bear arms. In reality, it does nothing of the kind. It merely protects that right. The right to bear arms is considered a natural right, one that is not dependent on the laws or customs of any culture or government. Rights of this kind are also called inalienable or even god given rights, inherent to all persons.
If you read the text of the Bill of Rights, you will find that all of the Amendments are there to protect the individual rights, not to grant them. And, just as critical is who they protect these rights from; the government. The Bill of Rights are not a limitation on what the “people” can do, but on what the government cannot do.
The concept of the protection applying to the “people” is where the Second Amendment is often attacked. Since the prefatory clause says “A well regulated Militia”, it is argued the operative clause protecting the right only applies to the militia. However, as with the rest of the Bill of Rights, the rights protected are all individual – the people – rights.
It is also said that the Founding Fathers could never have foreseen the power of modern weaponry and that they only intended individuals to own muskets for hunting. In reality, muskets were the modern ‘weapons of war’ issued to the military and far more advanced firearms were already available. And just as our First Amendment protected rights today are not limited to what is expressed with a quill and inkwell or a hand-operated press, the Second Amendment is not limited to what was available at the time it was written.
My argument for the Second Amendment in modern times centers on the context of when it was written. Otherwise known as originalism or textualism, it is that the interpretation should be based on what the common understanding of the text to be at the time it was written. Naturally this view is hotly debated. Judges, lawyers, politicians, professors, legal scholars and even our own Supreme Court are not united on this view, much less how the Second Amendment protections should be applied.
I at least choose to believe the Founding Father’s vision for the nation and that for over 225 years, the Second Amendment protection of the right to bear arms, whether or not formally recognized by a court ruling, has applied to the individual, to the people.
The debate and the struggle over the Second Amendment will likely go on long after I am dead and buried. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. As each new generation comes forward, it’s important to have a contemporary recap of the principles that brought us to this point as well as a reminder of how protecting these rights is essential in modern society.
We cannot take for granted the rights that our ancestors fought and died for. We cannot let our rights be stripped away by politically correct thinking or by the elite who are willing to sacrifice the populous so that they can have more power and control. We cannot let our lives or the lives of our families to be offered up to those who would do us harm without a fight.
This is why I fight for those twenty-seven words of freedom known as the Second Amendment.