By: Allan Wallace
“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 ratified on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our new Constitution. The first two phrases of the Amendment constitutes a justification for the last two phrases which are the meat of the Amendment.
The Amendment is written plainly to those who know our history and know something of the history of American English. But there are some of the words and phrases that could use some explanation:
The term “militia” has changed a bit in meaning since the time in which the Bill of Rights was written. Back then a Militia was a loose assemblage of citizens with their own guns and ammunition, coming together to protect their neighbors and community (or by extension, their State or Country) from any entity who threatened their peace and Freedom. The thing they needed to protect themselves from was not stated, but the founders always intended it to include their own government, should it become destructive of freedom.
“Well regulated” simply meant that they should have leadership and act as a unit, as opposed to fighting independently, like lone wolves. They may have been led by a military leader chosen by their local or state government, or by someone they choose from among their ranks. But, a Militia was never intended to be led by the Federal government, nor to become a standing army of any kind.
The other word in the Amendment that some consistently, and perhaps purposefully, misinterpret is the word, “infringed”. Some of those who want to by-pass or destroy the Second Amendment, interpret it as meaning “completely undermined” or “made null or void”. The actual meaning, the one in use when the Second Amendment was written, is “to be encroached upon, limited or restricted”. Think of infringement as eating away at something from around its fringes.
Infringement has already occurred. For many decades government has eaten away at our Second Amendment rights bit by bit. And, every time there is a new incident of violence there is a renewed call for further infringement, even though there has rarely been a proposed infringement that would have prevented the violence. Nor has limiting legal ownership of guns ever prevented a criminal, who by definition ignores laws, from using a gun in an illegal act.
The Second Amendment is second after the six enumerated freedoms in the First Amendment and alone in its own separate amendment for a reason, because the founders thought it was that important, so important because the liberty of the people can sometimes only be protected by the ability of the people to rise up against an invader, or against a government that has become too oppressive.
The Declaration of Independence states, “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”. For this to have any meaning at all, “the People” must have access to the same weaponry that the government can use against them.
I may at a later time flesh out each of the points mentioned here in a longer article, but these are the basics. And, it is offered to celebrate The Bill Of Rights Day, December 15, 2015.