"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 Constitution
Thursday, June 26, 2008 was a red-letter date for freedom. In a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court found that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms. Although the decision was 5-4 in favor of the individual right (which is disturbing) the fact that we finally have a definitive declaration from the court on this important right is absolutely thrilling! An excerpt from this ruling:
“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” - District of Columbia vs. Heller
For decades, this fundamental right has been under assault by gun control groups and like-minded politians throughout the country. Their main claim is that the Second Amendment is a "collective" right of the States to arm and train individuals to serve in state militias. Because of the rise in gun violence over the last century, they claim that the government not only has the right and ability to regulate firearms ownership - it has the obligation to do so.
I have never really understood this rationale. When the constitution was framed and the amendments proposed, one of the framers big concerns was the effect of standing armies on personal liberties. The fighting of the Revolutionary War began as the result of a standing army marching to disarm the citizens of Lexington and Concord Massachussetts. The colonists knew that if they lost their weapons, they would be completely at the mercy of a government that was proving itself to be hostile to their liberties. Rather than laying "supinely on [their] backs... until [their] enemies [had] bound [them] hand and foot" these brave men stood and resisted, and "fired the shot heard 'round the world."
As the realities of nationhood settled in it became clear that the government would need to maintain an army and a navy, even during peacetime, to keep us secure from invasion and to maintain order within. To safeguard the people's rights from a government with a standing military, the Second Amendment was written. The brave and brilliant men who formed our nation had firsthand knowledge of how private arms ownership was a protection for liberty, and they wanted that liberty passed on to the generations that would come after them. As you read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights it becomes obvious that the Founding Fathers were concerned with individual liberty first and foremost, and the governments they created were only important and meaningful to them insofar as they protected those liberties.
My own personal interpretation of the Second Amendment has always been this: "Because the security of our nation requires the maintenance of well regulated militias (i.e. standing armies), the rights of the people (i.e. law abiding private citizens) to keep weapons for their defense against tyranny (i.e. a government run amuck or evil individuals) shall not be taken away."
(I am not a legal scholar so obviously my thinking may have legal flaws, but I think that this is a reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment. Then again, since when have lawyers been reasonable?)
As I contemplate what could possibly motivate someone to take away this fundamental right of American citizens, I can only come up with two reasons:
- They are too cowardly to take personal responsibility for their security and want someone else to take care of them or,
- They have designs against our other freedoms and need to take away this one first so they can do so "safely".
Thursday's decision was a huge step in the right direction, but there is still much to be done. This ruling, while setting a precedent, only overturns the gun bans in Washington D.C. For freedom to continue its march, we need to overturn all of the onerous gun ban laws across our country. As you read this, the National Rifle Association and other pro-2nd Amendment organizations are filing lawsuits in Chicago and other liberal bastions to overturn these egregious assaults on our freedoms. For more information please visit http://www.nra.org/