The words look simple enough, but for liberals and conservatvies they might as well be writtin Chinese and German and read by Ugandans.
For liberals, the words “well regulated Militia” jump out like a neon sign. To them, this means the Second Amendment only provides for an organized military force under the authority of the state – the National Guard. Of course. Liberals naturally see government as the essential source of almost any civic services.
Conservaitves tend to focus on the statement, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This means that no law is constitutional that would prevent an individual from owning a gun. Period. I see no articulated exceptions. The right to “keep and bear” shall not even be “infringed” much less taken away.
We have to understand that the Second Amendment was written when personal weapons were almost the full range of armament. I know. There were a few cannons around, but that was it. We did not have bazookas … hand grenades … rocket launchers … fighter jets … and atomic bombs. The new technology, and all the perils personal possession today presents, led to a broad public acceptance of some level of regulation. This is the slippery slope that the right and left wingers slide down in a form of free fall. The words “…shal not be infinged” seems to mean no regulation. Then, how do we rationalize regulations?
Even as a society that revers the Constitution, we are not about to allow our neighbor, sane or not, to store platoon level munitions in his basement. Although growing up, one of my neighbors did have an authentic gatling gun in his yard as a decoration.
Apart from some regulations, the Second Amendment cleary allows ownership, personal possession. We are entitled by Constitutional right to “keep” arms, as in our home, and “bear” them in open display. So, no regulation can deny us ownership. We can regulate in the absense of specific prohibitions, but we cannot use “regulation” as a vehicle to prevent us from keeping and bearing arms.
We know, with great certainty, that the founder’s did not provide for a militia as an alternative to personal gun ownership. It would take a fool, and a great distortion of history, to argue that the founder’s language even implied the creation of the militia as an opportunity to disarm the general public. They considered the gun as much a tool as a weapon. Hunting was not a sport but a from of shopping in the days before Sam’s Club. Guns were an integral part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” envisioned by the men of Williamsburg.
The liberal position loses out, I believe, because they do not recognize both rights preserved in the Second Amendment. Conseratives see the right to maintian a state standing militia as being separate from the right to personally “keep and bear arms.” Liberals say the militia language trumps the personal right, but nothing in the Amendment seems to support that theory.
Those who argue that the Second Amendment does not confer the right of individual self protection have not studied that founder’s commentaries on this subject.
"No free man shall ever be debarred for the use of arms."
"Those who hammer their guns into plows, will plow for those who do not."
They viewed the gun as an essential tool of self protection in a nation were danger lurked in every corner – whether conflicts with native Americans, attacks by wild animals, family feuds and the ever-present criminal class. There is no doubt that the “original intent’ was for every citizen to be able to own and openly carry guns. They did even consider regulations, such as registration, background checks, trigger locks and owner-only hand grips. They belived in an unfettered right to own, wear and use a gun at will. Sure, we have fettered that a bit with regulation, but the fundamental right remains
Contrary to some criticism, the Court did not create new law, but strictly adhered to more limited definition of the terms and the ancient explanations of the signers of the Constitution. Critics cite the 1932 decision as conferring unlimited regulatory rights over guns, including banning and confisction. The current Court can only be accused of “judicial activism” IF you accept the 1932 decision as constitutionally correct. In a sense, the Court is correcting that past error.
It is perfectly legitimate to argue that times have so changed that the Second Amendment must be amended, itself, or abolished. In the past, we changed the Constituion to allow for the income tax (BIG mistake). We changed the Constitution to prohibit the sale of demon run (BIG mistake), and then we passed another amendment to reinstate the individual right to liquor up on Friday night at the local pub (corrected BIG mistake). But, until such time as we the people change the Second Amendment, it stands -- and the Court honored its obligation to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.