What is an amendment to the Constitution?
I read this in a comment section on Breitbart this morning. The article that lead to this comment was regarding a retired NC state senator (Democrat, obviously) who was making the claim that the second amendment is really all about collective rights tied to militia service, regulated by the government, and was never intended to give individuals a right to carry a gun around.
Never mind that the Bill of Rights is all about individual rights, not collective rights.
The comment below is a very interesting read. The author (the comment was posted twice by two different people so I’m not actually sure who to credit) did some considerable research into the Federalist Papers to figure out what they were trying to do with the second amendment, and he makes a very fascinating point that I hadn’t heard before: The amendments to the Constitution were put in by the states to (wait for it…) AMEND the Constitution, so the second amendment was put in to change something in the constitution that they didn’t like. What was it? The author does a great job in breaking this down and explaining it.
This man suffers from a common misconception regarding the Second Amendment and who the Militia is and what is their relationship within the Second Amendment.
Lets look at the Second Amendment in detail here. I’m starting with background on it is because I believe that in order to really understand something you have to understand it in context.
In my efforts to get a good grasp on this issue, I sat down and read the Federalist Papers, all 85 of them (not an easy read BTW)( The Library of Congress http://thomas.loc.gov/home/his…. Then I dug further, into the history that the Founding Fathers were living, trying to put myself in their shoes. In the end, here’s what I came away with……..
The first thing we need to understand is the fact that the Second Amendment is in fact an “AMENDMENT”. That’s important, because no “Articles in Amendment” to the Constitution, more commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, stand alone and each can only be properly understood with reference to what it is that each Article in Amendment amended in the body of the original Constitution. It should not be new knowledge to any American the Constitution was first submitted to Congress on September 17, 1787 WITHOUT ANY AMENDMENTS. After much debate, it was determined that the States would not adopt the Constitution as originally submitted until “further declamatory and restrictive clauses should be added” “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its (the Constitutions) powers”. (This quote is from the Preamble to the Amendments, which was adopted along with the Amendments but is mysteriously missing from nearly all modern copies.) The first ten Amendments were not ratified and added to the Constitution until December 15, 1791.
In this Light:
“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.” What provisions of the original Constitution is it that the Second Amendment is designed to “amended”?
THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS AMENDING THE PROVISIONS IN THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION APPLYING TO THE “MILITIA”. The States were not satisfied with the powers granted to the “militia” as defined in the original Constitution and required an amendment to “prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers. “(Again quoting from the Preamble to the Amendments.)
What was it about the original Constitutional provisions concerning the “Militia” that was so offensive to the States?
First understand that the word “militia” was used with more than one meaning at the time of the penning of the Constitution. One popular definition used then was one often quoted today, that the “Militia” was every able bodied man owning a gun. As true as this definition is, it only confuses the meaning of the word “militia” as used in the original Constitution that required the Second Amendment to correct. The only definition of “Militia” that had any meaning to the States demanding Amendments is the definition used in the original Constitution. What offended the States then should offend “People” today:
“Militia” in the original Constitution as amended by the Second Amendment is first found in Article 1, Section 8, clause 15, where Congress is granted the power:
“To provide for the calling forth the MILITIA to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrection and repel Invasions.” Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16 further empowers Congress:
“To provide for the 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, according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;” Any “patriot” out there still want to be called a member of the “MILITIA” as defined by the original Constitution?
Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1 empowers: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the MILITIA of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;” The only way the States would accept the “MILITIA” as defined in the original Constitution was that the Federal “MILITIA” be “WELL REGULATED”. The States realized that “THE SECURITY OF A FREE STATE” required that the “MILITIA” as originally created in the Constitution be “WELL REGULATED” by a “restrictive clause.” How did the States decide to insure that the Constitutional “MILITIA” be “WELL REGULATED”? By demanding that “restrictive clause two” better known as the “Second Amendment” be added to the original Constitution providing:
“THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.” The States knew that “PEOPLE” with “ARMS” would “WELL REGULATE” the Federal “MILITIA”!
This view is confirmed by Alexander Hamilton’s observation, in The Federalist, No. 29, regarding the people’s militias ability to be a match for a standing army: ” . . . but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights . . . .”
It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens. The Framers’ writings show they also believed this. The Framers understood that “well regulated” militias, that is, armed citizens, ready to form militias that would be well trained, self-regulated and disciplined, would pose no threat to their fellow citizens, but would, indeed, help to “insure domestic Tranquility” and “provide for the common defense.”
Now read for the first time with the full brightness of the Light of truth:
“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.”
To put it another way:
The Second Amendment declares by implication that if the “MILITIA” is not “WELL REGULATED” by “PEOPLE” keeping and bearing arms, the “MILITIA” becomes a threat to the “SECURITY OF A FREE STATE.”
The “MILITIA” has no “RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS” in the Second Amendment, rather it is only “THE RIGHT OF THE “”PEOPLE”” TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS (that) SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.”