My buddy the Mad Tech recently posted on the topic of Gun Control. I was going to post this as a comment to his post but it just got a little too long for that. Enjoy!
The question of the intent of the second amendment is a common area that gun control advocates look at. Their contention is that the second amendment ONLY allows the state to arm the members of the militia. This generally seen as the right of the state to form National Guard units. Let’s read the text:
“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.”
A quick reading of the amendment can lead to assumptions of what is actually meant. What is meant by ‘A well regulated Militia?’ Let’s look at the Militia Act of 1792 – written by many of the people who brought you the constitution. In it the Militia is defined as follows:
“…That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia…”
This seems to make it clear that the Militia referred to in the second amendment is all white males between the age of 18 and 45. Easy… The Militia Act of 1792 REQUIRES members of the militia to purchase and maintain their own guns. The State organizes the militia but the citizens provided their own guns and equipment.
Let’s look at the next part of the text – ‘being necessary to the security of a free State.’ This seems to mean that the militia is involved ONLY insecurity. This is reinforced by the Militia Act of 1792 that states when the militia can be used:
“…That whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, to call forth such number of the militia of the state or states most convenient to the place of danger or scene of action as he may judge necessary to repel such invasion, … and in case of an insurrection in any state, against the government thereof, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, … to call forth such number of the militia of any other state or states, as may be applied for, or as he may judge sufficient to suppress such insurrection.”
OK, what does this mean? It seems like the militia can only be used to repel invaders, kill Indians and make war on another state (in the Union). There is no mention of deploying them in foreign wars as the National Guard does. This doesn’t seem to support the idea that the second amendment is only for the National Guard.
Let’s look at the next piece of text – ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Who in the hell are the people they speak of? It is funny that they don’t say ‘the right of the State to keep and assign arms, shall not be infringed.’ This would be a much better wording IF the authors had NO intention of allowing private citizens to own fire-arms. But they didn’t say that did they? They said the PEOPLE which only means private citizens, it NEVER means the STATE.
The founders felt only white males were citizens worthy of owning fire-arms so they were the ones who are specified in the Militia Act. These people would have never allowed women, Indians or Blacks to be armed. Times have changed and you don’t see people arguing that the second amendment only applies to white males. We do not believe in racial segregation any more and citizenship is no longer viewed as a male only benefit. Over time, the concept of the militia began to die out and was replaced by the National Guard system. In fact the Militia Act of 1792 is eventually repealed, but not the Second Amendment.
I hear you asking ‘what is your point?’ The point is that the authors of the Constitution meant both the people and the militia when they wrote the amendment. I know it seems weird that they would actually say what they meant but they did. In the view of the founders the militia was the general population. It is clear that they intended for each person to own a weapon and know how to use it. They never dreamed of a day in which each state of the union would have a standing army equipped at tax-payer expense so why would they have written the second amendment as a guarantee of the right of a state only? The Second Amendment guarantees the right of the state to organize a militia AND the right of the people to own fire-arms – in the eyes of the founders the two were actually one-in-the same. Why is this so hard to understand? What the founding father meant and what modern Americans want out of the Second Amendment are two different things...