In recent times no amendment within our Constitution has garnered as much discussion as those vague and arguably archaic twenty seven words comprising the Second Amendment. It is invoked by guns rights advocates as if it was delivered sacred and explicit, from the same infallible hand that dealt Moses the Ten Commandments.
I do not claim to be a Constitutional scholar, but, in all modesty, I am the proud owner of a modicum of common sense. And this common sense and nothing else will be my authority as I share my Second Amendment thoughts.
I would venture that many people who get giddy and glassy eyed at the mere mention of the Second Amendment have never read it. I must admit that decades elapsed from my first introduction to the amendment until I reacquainted myself with it just a few years ago. I was stymied as I once again read the words. I examined my Constitution booklet to be certain it was not some truncated Cliffs Notes version. Such a pivotal amendment casting such a wide shadow of influence must be- well- longer and more detailed. No. It is one brief sentence. Here it is:
“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 a basic rule of writing that in a listing of items, the most important or dominant item is listed first. Hence, when reading the ingredients on a can of soup the most abundant item (usually water) comes first (if it is a can of chicken soup, you can bet chicken will be listed last.) The same principal applies to movie screen credits. If the movie is “Mission Impossible”, a safe bet is that Tom Cruise’s billing will be on top.
Why would our our Founders begin the Second Amendment with reference to, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”… and subordinating “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms”…? Again, my scholarly credentials bow before my common sense, but I have read a bit regarding late 18th Century American militias. Their primary function? Not to defend against foreign invasion, but indeed to quell slave and Native American rebellions. Logically, I would posit, the right of the people to keep and bear arms was for the purpose of facilitating these “Well regulated Militias”.
Exactly what did the Founders mean by arms? What arms were existing at the time? Quite a variety, including broad swords, knives, tomahawks, pikes, bows and arrows and, yes, guns. But gun technology was in its infancy. The guns available were muzzle loaders, painstaking to load and reload and not always reliable. The Founders, in fact, made no reference to fire arms. I would posit that a Colonial era psychopath, intent on wreaking carnage in a Sunday school, would yield a higher body count with, say, a broadsword. A weapon such as an AR-15 would be inconceivable to the Founders.
And so the Second Amendment has evolved for many from what it states into what the NRA and its minions want it to state. And what they want it to state might appear as:
“The right of the People to keep and bear Any and All
Firearms, in Any Form, Number or Magnitude, in Any
place and under Any circumstances, shall not be infringed.”
Shh- be still and silent. That odd, unnerving sound from beneath the ground; could it be the Founders, twisting with dismayed incredulity within their graves?