When I talk about gun control, I?m not talking about putting safety locks on guns, requiring the registration of firearms or even performing limited background checks to ensure that potential gun owners aren?t repeat violent offenders. Such measures are for the most part benign attempts at making our nation a safer place.
What I am concerned with are attempts to ban the common citizenry?s ownership of firearms. Far too often, guns are made the scapegoat for many of this nation?s problems.
In the deluge of statistics concerning gun violence, it is easy to forget that law-abiding citizens who purchase and register their weapons through conventional means are not the problem. We forget that the guns ending up in the hands of violent gangs and criminals have often been gotten through illegal means, and not through these regulated channels of firearm purchasing.
In our haste to find a quick fix to the problem of firearm violence, we neglect the fact that the rate of illegal procurement of firearms would not be impacted significantly by banning handguns or automatic weapons. Such laws and regulations only ban the said weapons from those who would acquire them legally, the very people least likely to use them for criminal purposes.
The Second Amendment reads that ?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.?
There is no evidence from the writings of the founding fathers, early legal commentators or pre-twentieth century Supreme Court decisions indicating that the Second Amendment applied only to members of a well regulated militia or that the sole purpose of the amendment was preserving a state?s right to keep militias.
One does not have to belong to a well-regulated militia in order to have the right to keep and bear arms. The militia clause is merely one rationale for preserving the right.
The founders were expressing a preference for a militia over a standing army. Even if today?s well regulated militia were the National Guard, the Second Amendment still protects an individual?s right to keep and bear arms.
The right to arms is about giving the citizens of the nation a way to defend themselves from tyranny or corruption. There is always the possibility that governments may become tyrannical.
As the military might pervert its power to the injury of citizens, the people confirmed their right to keep and bear their private arms. This is not a property right, but a right to defend themselves against the possibility of tyranny.
Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is prohibited, liberty is on the brink of destruction
The Second Amendment was meant to accomplish two distinct goals, each perceived as crucial to the maintenance of liberty. The first goal was protection from tyranny and the second goal was to guarantee the individual?s right to have arms for self-defense.
This right is a legacy of the English Bill of Rights, and there is also plain evidence from American colonial practice, the debates over the Constitution and state proposals for what was to become the Second Amendment.
In keeping with colonial precedent, the American article broadened the English protection. English restrictions had limited the right to bear arms for Protestants and made restrictions on what weapons were available to others as well. The English also included the provision that the right to have arms was to be ?as allowed by law.?
Americans swept aside these limitations and forbade any ?infringement? upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
These privately owned arms were meant to serve a larger purpose as well, albeit the American framers of the Second Amendment, like their English predecessors, rejected language linking their right to ?the common defense.?
When the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression, those private weapons would afford the people the means to vindicate their liberties.
And that represents what the Second Amendment is all about the protection of liberties, not just the right to own a gun.