Regarding the Second Amendment and what it means to me:
My thoughts are simple. The term ‘infringe’ is pretty straightforward. To infringe means to limit, to undermine, to encroach upon, or to break. ‘Shall not be infringed’ means shall not be limited, undermined, encroached upon or broken.
The original intent of the Second Amendment was to ensure that the populace was able to take on the government. This intent is made clear in some of the Federalist papers, particularly 29 and 46, written by Hamilton and Madison, respectively. Sure, some might find it untidy or distasteful, but the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written by men who had just fought an armed revolution. Today, we say ‘oh, but they were not talking about machine guns, etc.’ In 1789 the Army had muskets and cannon. Citizens could own muskets and cannon. Washington himself outfitted three naval vessels that were used during the Revolutionary War, several other shipowners became privateers under Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and privately paid for their ships to be armed.
The notion of ‘gun control’ was born in the post-Reconstruction South, to keep guns out of the hands of blacks. It was not until the 20th Century that the Federal government began to even regulate, let alone ban, weapons. First, in 1934 they began regulating the sale of fully-automatic weapons. Didn’t ban them, merely said you have to pay a federal tax and you have to register them. In 1938, violent felons were barred from owning or possessing firearms. In 1968, laws were passed regarding age, criminal history and mental incompetence. In 1972 the BATFE was formed to regulate firearms, among other things. This law also expanded the types of felons that were prevented from owning firearms. In 1986 Congress made it illegal to own any machine guns manufactured after the date it went into effect. They also banned armor piercing handgun ammunition, for being ‘cop killing’ bullets. Then there was the ‘assault rifle’ ban, passed in 1994, which subsequently lapsed. We both know that semi-automatic weapons are not assault rifles, they are NOT select-fire weapons. That would be like calling ANY self-loading, semi-automatic firearm an assault weapon, even a revolver. The ‘assault weapon’ ban was more concerned with a firearm’s appearance than its functionality. If you don’t believe me, Google ‘Franchi SPAS-12’ and ‘Franchi SPAS-15’. The -12 was not banned, the -15 was. Similarly, if you Google ‘AR-15’ and ‘Ruger Mini-14’ the Mini-14 was not banned, but the AR-15 was. Functionality was nearly identical, but they looked quite different.
Really, what it boils down to is simple: What does ‘shall not be infringed’ mean? Our Founding Fathers fought a war to bring this nation into the world. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were started when the British Army sent a force to Concord to seize powder and field pieces being stored there by the Colonials. The ‘shot heard ’round the world’ was fired because someone tried to take away someone else’s cannon, because the first someone decided it was too dangerous for the second someone to have. That first someone subsequently got their asses handed to them and the second someone became the United States of America.
Americans don’t remember their history, they choose to ignore the lessons it teaches. Americans today don’t believe the Founders and Framers knew what they were doing. I must profoundly disagree with this assessment. It is true that the Framers did not have the ability to see into the future, they could no more predict the Apollo missions to the moon than they could the atomic bomb. The Framers were more concerned with the principle of an armed populace being able to resist the Federal government, and/or a standing army, than they were with the notion of how powerful the weapons in question were.
Here are a couple of other quotations, during the time of the ratification of the Constitution, which underscore that principle:
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined. – Patrick Henry.
Whereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it. – Richard Henry Lee.
“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens.” — The Federalist, No. 29 – Alexander Hamilton
“What, sir, is the use of militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. . . Whenever Government means to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise a standing army upon its ruins.” — Debate, U.S. House of Representatives, August 17, 1789 – Elbridge Gerry
“No free government was ever founded or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state…. Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.” – State Gazette (Charleston), September 8, 1788
This begins the debate over the term ‘militia’ in the Second Amendment. The initial intent of the term was not what we consider the National Guard, rather it was the people itself that were considered the militia. The USC defines the term militia for purposes of Federal Law:
10 USC 311
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
So, under Federal Law, all male citizens, from 17 and 45, are members of the militia, either the National Guard/Naval Militia or the unorganized militia.
In the 80s and 90s, the big push from gun control proponents included reliance upon the ‘well-regulated militia’ language in the Amendment. Their stance was that the militia had been absorbed by the National Guard, which, as I pointed out above, the Founders and Framers, and later even Congress itself, prove false. The intent was not that a government-controlled group be the militia, rather everyone was to be the militia. As Madison stated in Federalist No. 46, and Hamilton in No. 29, this large body of armed citizens is the ultimate counter to a standing army, which the National Guard and Reserve units are now a part of.
Depriving the unorganized militia (John Q. Citizen) access to the same level of gear and weapons is to also deprive the People of the very protection the Second Amendment was intended to provide: The People’s ability to resist, with force of arms, the government’s ability to use force to infringe upon the Peoples’ liberties. There was no requirement that they be in the military, or to have ever served in the military, or even be available for duty in the military in time of war. See the State Gazette quote above.
I understand that many of our fellow countrymen are uncomfortable with this proposition, but the intent behind the Second Amendment is rather inescapable. I sympathize with, but strongly disagree with, those who believe adding greater restrictions upon the Second Amendment will somehow make America, and Americans, safer. Previous attempts at gun control merely underscore the fact that reducing gun violence by fiat does not work, it not only fails to effectively reduce access to firearms, but it also fails to address the issue of the underlying violence itself.
In fact, according to the FBI’s own statistics, in recent years firearms sales and private ownership have skyrocketed, yet violent crime associated with firearms has not; in fact, it has gone down. California and New York have some of the highest rates of gun crime, despite having some of the most strict (from my perspective, draconian) gun control laws in the United States. If greater legislation doesn’t create any sort of suppressive effect upon gun violence, then what is the point of further restricting access to firearms? Just like the well-founded notion that outlawing drugs does not reduce the incidence of addiction, just like the attempt to prohibit the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol failed miserably, so, too, do attempts at gun control.
I know, I am one of those whackjobs who took the time to study our history, to read the words of those who fought for the creation of the USA. I am one of those inconvenient jerks who can answer emotional arguments with facts, figures, and quotations. Despite the impassioned pleas of some, despite whatever emotional justifications those folks can come up with, I have always stood, and will always stand, athwart the path of any who would attempt to disarm the public. I continue to support organizations that are striving to roll back the gun control laws that are on the books right now. Some of my forebears actually fought the British in places like Concord and Bunker Hill. They supported this right, and I am honored to count myself among their number.