The 2nd Amendment: “…Shall Not Be Infringed.”

Senate hearing on gun control

Senate hearing on gun control

The 2nd Amendment has been a big topic of discussion, recently -so much so that you’re probably sick of hearing about it, at this point. But, this is an important subject to follow because there’s a lot at stake, here, and many people misunderstand the right to bear arms and the part of our constitution that protects it. I’ve been writing about this subject quite a bit and have touched on several parts of this issue, but I want to take a minute to look at the 2nd Amendment: what it says, where it came from, and why it’s so important.

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.

The word Militia literally just means “military service” -it’s not referring to a collective unit, but rather an individual performing a defense-type service for their surrounding community for common protection. The words “well regulated” are more akin to the words “regular/routine” than what we think of as “regulation”. This is referring to a personal, self-regulation of training and co-ordination with the rest of the citizenry. This whole first part of the 2nd Amendment is really more of a statement of common understanding than anything to do with the actual law, anyway, but we’ll go on.

A free state is simply one not ruled by a monarch. This implies that its citizens are free people, not subjects. Because they are not ruled by force, they must provide defense, themselves -this is why they must be well-regulated (trained and ready) to provide security for this free-state.  The next part is the really important part, and really should clear-up any confusion about this whole thing.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is not being granted, here -that right apparently pre-existed the state as it needed no legal permission to begin with -it was implied. The statement that this right shall not be infringed is the kicker, here -the word infringed means limited and/or encroached upon in any way.

So, what this whole thing is saying is that the government cannot limit your right to keep and bear arms in any way, at all. Don’t believe me? We can look at some other things that might help shed some light on this issue.

Limitations of Power

These amendments are not any granting of rights, they are limitations on what the government can do. While gun control might seem like a reasonable thing, the fact that all of this misunderstanding has led to the current state of gun control should really be setting off some alarms, even if you aren’t already afraid of the rising police state.

The 2nd Amendment is supposed to be a check and balance on the President’s ability to raise and keep an army, but if there’s any more question about the intended purpose of the 2nd Amendment, we can look at other amendments to the Constitution. The next one is a good example -the 3rd Amendment states that:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Note the words at the end. One would think that if the 2nd Amendment was giving or acknowledging any authority to restrict access to guns, it would feature some language like that at the end of the 3rd instead of saying “…shall not be infringed.” I’m inclined to blame all of this confusion on statist brainwashing, but we can write it off as general ignorance and move-on. One more time -limitation of power.

The whole of that Bill is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals… it establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.

-Albert Gallatin to Alexander Addison (1789)

Declaration of Rights

What we call the Bill of Rights is not actually the Bill of Rights -I believe this is an extremely detrimental confusion. The actual Bill of Rights was an act passed by the British Parliament in 1689, -it was motivated by something else known as the Declaration of Rights -a product of the Glorious Revolution. All of this was the framework for our first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the US, but there is a number of huge distinctions between the Bill of Rights and what we commonly call the US Bill of Rights.

Let’s go ahead and look at the law and see if anything jumps out at us:

That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence[sic] suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;

First things first, the Declaration of Rights was not codified or enforced by law, at first -it was just an agreement between the Parliament and the man they were appointing as the new king. Eventually, this right and others were taken from the Protestants by King James II, but then re-enforced when they were adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1689.

Aside from the fact that we aren’t subjects, the part I really wanted to note was the language at the end which obviously allows the right to bear arms to be restricted according to a subjects social class. This was enforced largely by the wealthy merchant class of Britain, so they obviously included this bit at the end to protect what became known as the bourgeoisie from opposition from both the King and the lower class.

There are a lot of obvious differences between this and the 2nd Amendment, but my main point was, once again, if the people who wrote the 2nd Amendment intended on the government regulating that right, they surely would have included such language instead of language that directly contradicts that idea.

Banning Modern Weapons of War

“Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American … The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the People.”
— Tench Coxe (1788)

Most of the laws against guns in US history haven’t actually gone after the citizens ability to own firearms, they’ve gone after the manufacture and sale of these guns. I see this as a sleazy way of undermining the Constitution, but the situation becomes a little more confusing when you look at things like the banning of machine guns.

National Firearms Act (1936)

Common sense might tell you that we banned machine guns, hand-grenades and other modern weapons of war because they were obviously very dangerous in the hands of private citizens -the truth of the matter there is not exactly that we didn’t want private citizens having access to machine guns… we didn’t really want the police carrying them around. People used to be a lot more wary of the government…

Prohibition in the 1920s had created a huge black market, and if you know anything about black markets, you know they are governed by violent force. We hadn’t even started arming police forces until around the turn of the 20th century -they would have been viewed as an army of oppression. Prohibition had sparked an all-out war between the growing police force and the crime it was creating. Of course, the NFA paved the way for future infringements on the 2nd Amendment.

Gun Control Act (1968)

The GCA actually went after gun ownership as it restricted certain individuals from purchasing firearms, and requiring special licensing for all citizens to purchase certain firearms. The 1960s were a crazy time in American politics, and all of this really deserves a much more expanded look at the politics of the time. Regardless, this was another step in the erosion of the 2nd Amendment.

The Brady Act and Assault Weapons Ban (1993 & 1994)

The Brady Act established the requirement for background checks on individuals attempting to purchase firearms. A year later, the Assault Weapons Ban established a definition of an “assault weapon”, as well as several other gun features that were deemed to be for military purposes and outlawed the manufacture and sale of certain weapons and accessories -it had a 10 year limit and has been denied for renewal several times since it ended.

The important thing to remember here is that just because a law was/is passed by a local, state or the federal government doesn’t mean that it’s constitutionally legal. These laws would have to be challenged and brought before the Supreme Court, and they actually were, somewhat recently:

United States v. Emerson (2001)
Parker v. District of Columbia (2007)
District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)
McDonald v. Chicago (2010)

Why is all of this so important?

When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually…I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day.
-George Mason (1788)

If it’s not obvious by now, I’ll try to be as straight-forward as possible: It is dangerous to give the government the authority to regulate your right to defend yourself, and this right has already been encroached upon enough. We aren’t voting away our rights, we’re voting away the rights of other people, and all of it’s completely unconstitutional!

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence[sic], raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
-Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (1787)

I’m not particularly beholden to the damned document -I don’t trust government, at all. But, I do see how this country is being turned against itself, and I hope that you will spread this awareness and encourage others to learn what we’re getting into before we go making any hasty changes and/or decisions. We have enough of a challenge fixing things around here, and things are getting pretty tense with all of this gun talk… everybody just needs to calm down and talk about this stuff.


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