“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.” – 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
We’ve all read these words and seen them. We have heard people pontificate over and over about how the 2nd amendment gives us the right to have and carry arms, or that it only gives those in a well regulated militia that right. In light of all of the angst and hand-wringing after the tragedy in Connecticut last week, I think it’s high time that we actually read the words above to see what they are saying. Once we cede a right to the government, it’s very unlikely we’ll ever get it back.
Before we do, however, it is CRITICAL that you remember that the Constitution doesn’t GIVE us anything. It is the definer of the limits on the government. It is NOT a limit on you and me. So first and foremost, the 2nd amendment does not give us the right to have and carry guns. It prohibits the government from taking that right away from us. See the difference?
Ok. So let’s move on: Tell me what this sentence would mean to you:
“A great loaf of bread being desired by everyone in the house, the right of the people to keep and use flour shall not be infringed.”
Does that mean that the ONLY reason we can have flour is to make a great loaf of bread? Of course not. Any normal person would read this to mean that we have the right to keep and use flour with the outcome being that we may make a great loaf of bread. In fact, you have a right to keep and use flour, even if you produce an awful loaf of bread. Also, it says nothing of using that flour to bread our chicken or to thicken the gravy, but it’s understood that from the perspective of the writer, the defining function of the flour in this context is to make a great loaf of bread. If this were in the constitution, you’d have to say that you have the right to keep and use flour, and that the government couldn’t prevent you from keeping and using that flour, even if you couldn’t make a great loaf of bread. The limit is on the government, not on the flour user.
So carrying this forward to the 2nd amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms will have the effect of providing a well regulated militia. It is not exclusionary. Nowhere does it say that we can’t use those firearms to hunt or target shoot. It also doesn’t say that we can’t use those firearms to provide protection against those who would do us harm.
Most importantly, if you remember the core premise of the Constitution and the bill of rights, you’ll remember that the 2nd amendment limits the government, not the people. The very idea of a ‘constitution’ is to explain what constitutes the government. It does not anywhere define limits on the people. It’s a document that explains how the government works and what it can and can’t do. In the case of the 2nd amendment, this means that regardless of whether we hunt, shoot skeet, or want to protect ourselves, that because we want a secure free state, the government cannot prevent you from keeping and bearing arms. In fact, there doesn’t even need to be a well regulated militia, but if there is, it is the government’s job to regulate that militia. If the government does not see fit to maintain a militia, that still does not allow the government to limit the ‘RIGHT’ of the people to keep and bear arms.
Remember – when you allow the constitution to become a document that defines the people’s rights in any way, you become bound by the government’s interpretation of those rights. The bill of rights is ultimately a definition of the line the government can’t cross, not where our rights end.
One last thought: You might think that the ends justify the means – that if we give this right away and let the government decide that we should all be stripped of this right, that it’s a good thing. But what will you do when they come after the rights that YOU hold dear? Like the freedom of speech? Or the freedom of assembly? Or the freedom of the press? Or the freedom from self-incrimination? Be very careful when you are picking and choosing your freedoms, or you may find you have none left. The U.S. wouldn’t be the first country to give away it’s freedom.