We hear a lot about the rights under the Second Amendment, so dear to the hearts of so many people, so I thought I should read it again. I must not have been remembering it correctly, since I thought it addressed maintaining a militia. Here it is in all its glory:
“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.”
If that sentence were on the SAT writing section, there would be choices for rewriting it, with the correct one eliminating the weak gerund of the verb “to be” and the passive voice, bringing clarity and directness to the message, to read as follows:
“The people have the right to keep and bear arms in order to maintain a well regulated militia, which is necessary to the security of a free State.”
Even in 18th Century syntax, there is no question what the import of this sentence is. Any lawyers out there who have ever drafted a document? I have drafted many, and when a lawyer writes a modifying phrase like, “A well-regulated militia being necessary,” he or she intends to convey that what follows is modified by that phrase. Actually any grammarian-writer would recognize that. The Second Amendment does not say, “Hunting being necessary,” “Shooting ranges being necessary,” “Handling deadly weapons to boost a diminished ego being necessary,” it says a well-regulated militia being necessary. The right to bear arms is conditioned upon the necessity of a militia. Is there any question about what the word “militia” means, here is the definition:
A military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
A military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities, typically in opposition to a regular army.
All able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.
The Supreme Court, in its 5 to 4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (and its evil progeny McDonald v. Chicago), disregarded logic, grammar, drafting intent, and the context in which the Amendment was written in order pursue a political agenda. The Court had its work cut out for it, trying to find words in a sentence that were not there. Somehow, the Second Amendment did not mean that the right to bear arms was for the purpose of maintaining a militia, but was a general right. Four so-called “justices” made one whopping big mistake, but it is of course not the first time, as history has shown, that a political agenda, bias, and willful ignorance have held the day in a Supreme Court decision. In so ruling, the Court missed a chance not only to deliver a legally defensible and rational opinion, but the opportunity to save lives.
There are the nut cases out there who would take the Second Amendment at its real meaning and argue that we still might need to rise up in arms to defend ourselves against the government of the United States. That was a precaution that someone back in the 18th Century at the debates over the Amendments wanted and that might have had some relevance at the time, given that the colonies had just fought a revolution and the new ruling government was an experiment. Whether or not it made sense then, times have changed; having a regulated militia is no more necessary than slavery (that other necessity of 18th Century America). However, most defenders of gun ownership wave the Second Amendment flag as the basis for their right to have firearms for their pleasure, supported by that dastardly Supreme Court decision.
Even if we kept this antiquated provision, every single right we seek to enjoy is severely limited. There is no rational basis for not constraining this purported right to the utmost extent. However, the proposals for limitations are weak becasue they do not reallydo enough to solve the problem, and being weak are subject to attack—so let’s just face it. Limitations will not do. The Second Amendment has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any. It has fostered horrible violence, death and fear; it is a child killer. Get rid of it. And fine if hunting goes out with it. The world would be a better place anyway if non-human killers (fondly called “hunters”) found a less violent and cruel way of feeling good about themselves.