The Second Amendment: Does Anybody But Me Understand It?
By Russell D. Longcore
(Editor’s Note: I wrote this and first posted it in 2011. Since then, the Supreme Court issued the Heller decision. With the recent assassination of Justice Antonin Scalia, the 2A may be in play again. But even Nino Scalia, who wrote the opinion, didn’t get it right. I did…as shown below.)
The so-called conservatives say that there should be no restrictions to keep and bear arms for Americans. They say that it’s all about self-protection.
The so-called liberals beat the drum for outright bans on firearms, saying that disarming Americans will make our nation safer.
Both of them are wrong.
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution 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.”
Let’s spend a few minutes using our powers of reason to just simply read and understand.
Take the first two phrases. Any way you rearrange the words, the message is that a well-regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State. The Founders were talking about the thirteen sovereign nations, each considered a State in the same manner as any other sovereign nation around the world. They had no intention that the united States were to be considered a new nation. They were equals to Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, etc…and every one of the European nations used militias. For more about the use of militias in history, visit Militia at Wikipedia.
So the Founders were stating the obvious…that a free State had to have a well-regulated militia to be considered secure. What is “Security?” The ability to defend itself against invasion or aggression by another political entity.
What does “well-regulated” mean? In the common usage of the 18th Century, it meant the property of something being in proper working order. The opposite of a well-regulated militia would be a chaotic assemblage of men with weapons without training.
So, you could restate the first two phrases as: “A militia in proper working order is necessary to the security of a free sovereign nation.” This is especially important when you consider that under the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, the Federal Government was prohibited from having a standing army for more than two years, as well as providing for and training the Militia.
The underlying reason for the Second Amendment was not individual self-defense. The underlying reason for the Second Amendment was the security of the new thirteen sovereign nations. Yes…that meant security even from each other.
Now for the last two phrases…”the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The phrases are starkly plain. You have to intend to misunderstand the words if you do misunderstand them or redefine their meaning. Let’s examine the penultimate phrase.
From whence does the purported right to keep and bear arms spring? Natural law. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are “among these,” not the only ones. (Read What Are Unalienable Rights?) The right of self-defense…to protect one’s self and/or others in your charge from harm…is so obvious it should almost not have to be pointed out. And “arms” are not only firearms. Nearly anything can be utilized as arms, or weapons.
But please consider: at the time of the Revolutionary War, did not the Continental armies possess the same technology of armaments as the Redcoats? Yes. Hadn’t the Colonial citizens owned and used firearms since the early 1600s? Yes! Did the English soldiers have cartridges for their rifles while the Colonials had only musket and ball? No. Musket, ball and cannon were the leading technologies of the day.
Actually, colonials had rifles more modern than the Redcoats. The rifles carried by the British were inferior to the long rifles of the colonials. A large number of the colonial rifles were the Pennsylvania rifles, made by German immigrant gunsmiths with spirally grooved barrels (rifling) that spun a ball leaving the barrel, increasing both its distance and accuracy. The British “Brown Bess” muskets were only marginally accurate to about 100 yards, while the long rifles of the Patriots could reach out easily past 300 yards. Colonials were also “armed” with hatchets, swords, daggers and bayonets. The Colonials also had modern cannon, as modern as anything the Redcoats used.
Did only the King have the ability to build ships, forge cannon and cannonball? No. John Paul Jones was a privateer, which is basically a government-sponsored pirate, preying on English ships. His first wartime command was aboard the ship Providence, owned by New England businessman John Brown. The Providence fairly bristled with cannons.
Yet the issue of advancing technology was not an issue that the framers of the Constitution even considered worthy of mention. These were learned men, and were well aware of the technological improvements that were made in weaponry just in their lifetimes. They knew world history and knew that guns and gunpowder were relative newcomers to the art of war.
Both of the combatants in the Revolutionary War had the same technology in armaments. The Continental armies consisted of fighting citizens, taking up their rifles and pistols, forging cannon and going to war against superior numbers in the British army and navy, but not against superior weapons.
Therefore, when it came time for the framers of the Constitution to write the Second Amendment, they did not even mention the possibility that the private citizen should be prevented from owning the same weapons as the military. Why? BECAUSE THE MILITIA WAS THE MILITARY!!! Could it be that they considered the threat of government tyranny greater than that of citizens owning military weapons? Why else would they write the Second Amendment in the words they chose?
Finally, the last phrase…”shall not be infringed.” The Webster’s Dictionary defines “infringe” in two ways pertinent to this discussion; from the Latin “infrangere”:(1)”to break; to violate or go beyond the limits of: (2) to encroach upon. The “right” is the thing not to be infringed by government. Therefore, the Second Amendment states that the right to keep and bear arms is one that is endowed by our Creator under natural law and shall not be broken, violated or encroached upon. It validates the concept of personal property ownership, in this case one’s own person, and the principle of self-defense.
The Second Amendment is not about hunting, or sports or being disarmed by any government. It’s not really even about personal self defense. The Second Amendment is about the security of a free State, and the necessity of a militia in keeping that state free.
So a proper understanding of the Second Amendment begs the BIGGEST question of all: If NONE of the states of the United States of America are sovereign any more, but are rather subservient to the Federal government in Washington DC, and the states have no need for militias, isn’t the Second Amendment entirely irrelevant?
I hope and pray that someday secessionists and state independence movements will fully embrace and openly discuss The Power Of The Sword.
Secession is the only hope for humanity. Who will be first?
DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.
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