What Does the Second Amendment Mean?
It’s one of the most controversial passages of the Constitution. Allegedly, it’s also one of the most obscure and unintelligible sections. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “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.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), we were told for decades that the Second Amendment did not guarantee or even refer to an individual right. Based on the wording of United States v. Miller(1939), the theory was promulgated that the Second Amendment protected only State’s rights to maintain organized militia. One problem with this curious interpretation is that States don’t have rights, they have powers. But there’s nothing new about twisting the truth into a pretzel so that it conforms to a dogmatic ideology. Some people still doggedly maintain that the Second Amendment does not refer to an individual right. Among these persons are some judges on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In clear defiance of the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit recently announced that “states, which are in charge of militias, should be allowed to decide when civilians can possess military-grade firearms.”
Contrary to what some confused and unlettered judges think, the Second Amendment does indeed protect an individual right. Neither is it opaque or difficult to understand. A militia is “a citizen army,” an entity that is most definitely distinct from a professional military. The Second Amendment becomes perfectly lucid when we understand that the “well regulated” militia spoken of in the Amendment is to be composed of a people who have right to keep and bear arms. The two clauses of the Second Amendment, the first which refers to a “militia,” and the second which refers to “the people,” cannot be separated and interpreted independently. For the Second Amendment to be intelligible the two clauses must be reconciled. Indeed, it is very difficult to assemble a militia from a people who have been disarmed.
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