On the Second Amendment

The US Constitution is an amazing document, but like all things made by men, it is flawed. One of those flaws is the overbroad authority given in the second amendment.

I agree with the majority of Americans who believe in a loose construction of the constitution, meaning that one must take into account what the founders were thinking when they wrote sections as opposed to just subscribing to the letter of the constituion. If they had intented Americans to follow the constitution to the letter, and had they had the time, I’m sure the country’s founders would have codified a huge document similar to the US Civil Code to guide us. Instead they chose simplicity, knowing that excess “thought,” as it is, leads simply to more misunderstandings and confusion. Frankly, they didn’t have the time to worry about verbal nuances — they had a country to fight for.

The second amendment guarantees the right of the people to maintain arms. By arms it is meant weapons. In the days of the revolution the only weapons in general circulation were rifles and pistols and the like. No machine guns, no tanks, no grenades, no TNT or explosives (at least not in wide supply), and certainly no Apache helicopters, landmines, or nuclear weapons. In those days war was much simpler, and many less people died and much more slowly. The right of the responsible citizenry of the United States, the majority of whom lived in or at the edge of rugged frontier, to own weapons for self-defense did not seem at all odd. Additionally, allowing the populance to own weapons was a good check against the power of a broad federal government and the tyranny it might bring. That doesn’t mean that people kept weapons in their homes.

A well regulated militia, the constitution states, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed. I believe this was perfectly justified at the time. By “the people” the founders were clearly referring to the citizenry, and by well-regulated miltia they were clearly referring to the state and local militas that were prevalent in the day. In short, if the states don’t agree with the feds, they organize their militias and duke it out. It happened during the Civil War.

Where in there does it say that indivudials have the right to bear incredibly powerful weapons of destruction? I don’t think it does. I agree with the NRA and other organizations that believe people should be allowed to own guns for their own protection from tyranny. But not for personal defense. It doesn’t say that! Loose constructionists should see what the Constitution says, and what it implies. It says that state miltias cannot be outlawed, and in fact should be encouraged. It says that the people have the right to arm themselves. But in context, it does not say individuals should posess hand grenades. The founders saw how the system was being set up, and that is what they believed should continue: weapons arsenals controlled by state authorities, well-regulated militias run by states, and the security of the people in their homes protected by both the state and federal governments.

My point is simple: people have the right to own guns for a specific purpose, but beyond that purpose, even loose constructionists cannot argue for the right to bear arms. If you want a gun for hunting, for robbing, or simply for staring at, that is all well and good, but the federal government has the power to regulate and even outlaw such usage. Just as state governments have the power to regulate all aspects of gun ownership. I encourage states to keep militias, to keep their local national guard, to keep their local police forces and rangers and patrols. Should the federal government have its own military seperate from the states? That question is open to debate, it was not well addressed in the constitution nor in any of its amendments. But one thing should be clear: when Charlton Heston gets mad that people aren’t allowed to carry concealed handguns, his argument, while possibly valid, it certainly not based on constitutional grounds. The constitution does not say anything about grannies carrying handguns, and the constitution offers no support for weapons on our streets.