The Right to Bear Arms
The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution is only 27 words, but those words have a huge impact on an American citizens ability to buy, own, and carry firearms. Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, there’s a lot of debate regarding gun control, which goes back to the inclusion of the second amendment in the original Bill of Rights. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, we want to diagnose this hotly debated topic by looking at the facts and what they mean.
The 2nd Amendment reads as follows: “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.”
It wasn’t long after the U.S. Constitution was ratified that the 2nd Amendment was proposed by James Madison to empower state militias. One of the main goals was to prevent the federal government from having too much power and limit its ability to disarm citizens. Things have changed significantly since that time as state militias in their original form no longer exist, having been replaced by groups such as the National Guard. State militias may sound like a strange thing to the average American in 2019, but back when this amendment was written, states were responsible for organizing able-bodied men to protect their towns, communities, and eventually states. So, if state militias are no longer needed to protect individual states, we must look to the second half of those 27 words to understand its importance on today’s citizens.
“The right of the people to keep and bear Arms” - The framers of our Constitution were big on individual rights of citizens to put it lightly. The very things they had been fighting for were to get out from under the authority of an oppressive regime and put the power in the hands of the people. When we talk about rights, the framers originally referred to natural rights, such as free speech, and religious expression, so to account for exemptions relating to firearms, they quickly realized a need for regulation to account for ‘non-natural’ rights. When we say regulation, we’re not referring to it in terms of restrictions, more so a proper set of laws to define parameters around the right of citizens. So, if citizens had the right to bear arms, what is defined as ‘arms’?
Arms are considered to be a very broad term, which has launched a debate around what actually constitutes as one. One thing to consider is that arms have changed and evolved substantially over the past couple centuries, but the principle of defending oneself has remained constant. Just as it’s difficult for us to imagine what a human colony on Mars will look like in the centuries ahead, it was likely very difficult for the framers of our Constitution to imagine how much technology would advance in the development of firearms. Perhaps, this is the reason they defined the term as broadly as they did.
Whatever your stance on the 2nd Amendment, we must look at the words that define it. There are plenty of groups and platforms to debate the interpretation of this amendment, but in order to debate it, you must first read it. We’ll leave the rest up to you.
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