- Posted March 12, 2013 by
There Was Never an Intent For an Individual Right to Firearms
The Second Amendment is one of the most controversial amendments in the Constitution, if not the most controversial. It wasn’t always so, it has only been in the last several years that the meaning of the amendment was changed by the courts to grant citizens a broad right to firearms. However, this is not what the founders had in mind. So, what were they thinking?
The Second Amendment was thought for:
- Repelling invasion;
- Suppressing insurrection;
- Participating in law enforcement;
- Enabling the people to organize a militia system
Having a standing army, a professional military force, was seen by the Congress of the newly born America to be a tool of tyranny, and therefore a thing to be avoided. It was also feared that more powerful states could wage war against other states to expand power and to gain resources.
For example, the original constitution, today called The Articles of Confederation, states:
“No vessels of war shall be kept up in time of peace, by any state, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the united states, in congress assembled, for the defence of such state, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up, by any state, in time of peace, except such number only as, in the judgment of the united states, in congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such state; but every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accounted, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition, and camp equipage.”
Why did it include the qualifier that Congress be the judge of necessary forces? Because they didn't want, for instance, New York annexing New Jersey. This, by the way, was also the blueprint for the Second Amendment.
Therefore the several states would be permitted only to raise a militia of non-professional citizen soldiers. This is kind of how the revolution was won. But the system didn’t last long.
It was nearly a failure during the Whiskey Rebellion when three states couldn’t muster a militia and a draft had to be instituted.
The militia system completely fell apart after the war of 1812 where the White House was burned and American forces were defeated in several major battles on their own soil.
In the Constitution, there was never a plan to have a standing army.
Article I, Section 8 still reads:
“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”
There is no militia today. And the states do not appoint officers. The old form of military system is dead. This is what the Second Amendment was meant to ensure, however. Which is why the amendment originally read:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person."
And the second version:
“A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.”
The United States Congress was enforcing the idea that state militias of private citizens were the best form of military because they knew that it's nearly impossible for the citizens to rise up against an organized, professional military. A military like the one the British had, a military like the one we have today. A military that the citizens could not possibly overthrow.
This is also why, up until recently, all case law has allowed the states to regulate arms. It is clear what the founders intended. They did not intend to take regulation away from the states, in fact the opposite is true, just as they did not intend to have a professional national military.
After the revolution we were a confederacy of 14 separate individual states (yes, 14, I am counting Vermont). That didn't work, so we got a new constitution, our current one, and we became more like one state, and now we are as one state, not fifty.
If the states decide to license all gun owners, or have ownership requirements, such as training, then that is the right of the state. It could be argued that such is also the right of Congress.
It's clear that the Second Amendment, much like the Third Amendment, and like the wording of Article I, Section 8, is arcane. The Constitution was not handed down by a divine power, nor was it inspired by one. In particular, the Second Amendment was to ensure that the federal government could wage war, but the military power would be preserved to the individual states. Thinking along those lines has long since been abandoned.
What is particularly interesting about the Second Amendment debate is that it puts conservatives on the wrong side of the big government argument. They don't like big government telling the states what to do, except when big government wants to tell the states that they can't regulate firearms, or allow people to get gay married. It's an absurd contradiction, to say the very least. In fact, the very amendment that conservative justices on the Supreme Court used to push guns, the 14th, is one that many prominent conservatives would like to see repealed.
Anyone for states’ rights should be in support of the state having the ability to regulate the arms of its own residents and the sale of firearms and ammunition within its own borders. Anyone against activist judges should decry the recent Supreme Court interpretations of the Second Amendment, as it is far from what its authors intended. It was designed for national security.
We in the United States no longer have amateur militias. We have professional police and the most advanced, and most expensive by far, military in the history of the known universe.
I can't say with certainty whether Madison would approve of America's 21st century war machine, but I can say for sure that if he were here today he would reject the Supreme Court's interpretation, and be puzzled as to why the United States isn't fighting the epidemic of gun violence that we alone suffer from in the ranks of modern and free nations.