In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and the hospital shooting in Tulsa, and the roughly 20 mass shootings that happened in between, the predictable has once again happened: stalemate between those who advocate absolute rights to gun ownership and those who want to pass either background checks, some kind of “red flag” law, or in other ways attempting to limit the ability for some people to buy guns.
In the course of these arguments, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is often used and often abused.
I have interviewed numerous people who have run for various political offices over the years, and many of them have told me they want us to “get back to the Constitution.”
Pretty much anyone in politics will tell you he or she reveres the Constitution regardless of the person’s political stripes. Typically, more liberal people will tend to see the Constitution as a “living, breathing document” while more conservative people will adhere to a more “strict constructionist” view, wanting to follow the Constitution as written rather leaving it up to interpretation.
For the purpose of this column, I’m going to take a more “strict constructionist” view, taking the words from the Constitution itself rather than attempting to “interpret” the Second Amendment through the lens of court decisions through the years.
In addition, it is probably pertinent to point out the weapons used at the time the Second Amendment was written. In battle, the “Brown Bess” and Charleville muskets, as well as American-made muskets, were used. With skill, the user could get off as many as two to three rounds a minute.
Long rifles were also used, although their use on the battlefield was limited; dense smoke from the muskets made targeting difficult, and the complicated reloading process made it difficult to fire it with frequency.
Finally, bayonets were used in close contact.
With all of that in mind, let’s get started with the text of the Second Amendment.
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.
The Second Amendment was written in a time when much of the country consisted of “citizen soldiers.” It was written that “every citizen was a soldier, and every soldier was a citizen.”
The first and 13 most-ignored words of the Second Amendment explain why it was written: to keep a State free, a well-regulated militia was necessary. Therefore, the the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
But what is a militia? How is that defined.
Our good friend, the Constitution of the United States, has an answer to that as well. We need look no further than Article I, Section 8, where the powers of Congress are enumerated. Among the powers of Congress are:
“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
“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, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”
Congress is granted the power to call forth the Militia when needed, and to provide for organizing, arming, and discipline. In other words, “well regulated.” However, because the Militia was a creature of each state, each state had (has) the ability to appoint officers and conduct training in line with the dictates of Congress.
Make note there is nothing in the Second Amendment about hunting. The Second Amendment is clearly written to govern military matters pertinent to defending the country.
So if anyone questions whether it is appropriate to have a law that would, for example, ban an 18-year-old who cannot legally buy beer or a handgun, and who cannot even rent a car, from purchasing two military-style rifles and more than 300 rounds of ammunition, the answer is clear.
The Second Amendment not only allows for such a law, it demands it.
The Constitution is clear that the Militia be disciplined and trained, and the well regulated Militia is the purpose of the Second Amendment.
And had such a law been in place in Texas, it is very possible that the 19 students and two adults in Uvalde might now be enjoying their summer vacations, and their families and friends wouldn’t be dealing with unimaginable grief and trauma.
There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the United States since the start of 2022. The one thing they all have in common, by definition, is that someone had weapons they shouldn’t have had.
So yes, it’s time to take the Second Amendment seriously. Because no one is truly safe at school, at a concert, in a grocery store, in a hospital, in a shopping mall, in a downtown shopping district, outside a nightclub, at an arts festival, at a graduation party, near an apartment complex, at a house party, at a car show, at a memorial service, at home, in a casino, in a motel, at an Easter party, at church, at a trail ride, on a subway, or many other places, until we are serious about preventing unhinged people from getting their hands on weapons of war. (The preceding is a partial list of where mass shootings have occurred in 2022.)
The Second Amendment allows it, and the Second Amendment demands it.
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