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The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

Updated on December 30, 2014
The author's well-worn T-shirt.
The author's well-worn T-shirt.

What Does the Second Amendment Really Mean?

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.

Much has been written about these 27 words, much of it useless claptrap. People who are against the individual ownership of firearms focus on the first clause “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, . . .” while those of us, including this writer, who believe individuals have a right to own and use firearms, concentrate on the second, and operative, clause: “ . . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Now the Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of whether the 2nd Amendment constitutes an individual right vs. a collective right in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008) and in McDonald Vs. Chicago (2010). Here is Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority:

Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right” attributed to “the people” refer to anything other than an individual right. What is more, in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention “the people,” the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. This contrasts markedly with the phrase “the militia” in the prefatory clause. As we will describe below, the “militia” in colonial America consisted of a subset of “the people”— those who were male, able bodied, and within a certain age range. Reading the Second Amendment as protecting only the right to “keep and bear Arms” in an organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative clause’s description of the holder of that right as “the people”.

In spite of this, there are still efforts by certain parties (i.e., the federal government, and some local governments) to deny this right to freedom-loving Americans. I still hear the argument that the amendment pertains to you only if you are a member of a militia. Well, lets examine that claim. First of all, when the Constitution was written, the “Militia” was comprised of able-bodied men who kept their guns at home and were called together when needed, such as when the British invaded. So, they were ordinary citizens like you and me who were permitted to keep and bear arms. These were not members of the Continental Army or local constabulary, they were ordinary citizens who owned weapons and could be called upon to defend themselves and other citizens.

Actually, the “militia” argument can be dismissed just as easily with a little common sense (as Justice Scalia argued). Let’s take another look at the amendment as written: 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. So, we have first a “because” clause and secondly a “therefore” clause. Regardless of what the “because” clause states, the operative clause is the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The “because” clause could have been “Because pigs don’t fly,” it would not matter - the “therefore” clause is the operative part of the statement.

Now I wish the amendment were written as follows: An armed citizenry being the greatest guarantee against tyranny, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. I would be willing to bet if our Founding Fathers could have foreseen the attempts to water down the 2nd Amendment (indeed, there are some who would repeal it altogether), they would probably have written it a bit differently. We shall never know but the Supreme Court has stated it is an individual right to keep and bear arms and that’s good enough for me. If you’re one of those people who absolutely loathe firearms, that’s fine - don’t own any. But leave mine alone. And I sincerely hope you don’t find yourself in a situation where you may need to defend yourself and have no weapon to do so. Hey, you can always call the cops . . . if you have time.

District of Columbia v. Heller

If you wish to read about the Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_v._Heller

UPDATE - MARCH 2013

As a result of the unfortunate shootings late last year in Newtown, Connecticut, the gun control issue is on the front burner again. This was a horrible case in which 20 kids and 7 adults were killed by this nut, Adam Lanza, who then shot himself (would that he had done that BEFORE he went to the school!) Of course, the clamor for "gun control" went up immediately, focusing on everyone's favorite bogeyman, "assault weapons." The state of New York passed strict gun control laws as did Colorado. In the NY case, 10-round magazines were made illegal so the maximum "clip" you can buy is a 7-round clip. Trouble is they don't exist! So they changed the law to read 10-round clips are legal BUT you can only put seven rounds into them. This is so stupid it's almost embarrassing to type the words! In the Colorado case, at least one local sheriff has declared he will not enforce the law as it is contrary to the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution (good for him!)

I read something recently that sums up my feelings on the matter: we don't need gun control - we need NUT control.

Update - April 2014: Another shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas

Once again the sheer lunacy of the gun-control crowd has been brought to the forefront. Just like the last time at Fort Hood with the Islamic terrorist Maj. Nidal, just like the kids that got shot at Columbine, just like the kids that got shot in Sandy Hook, CT, just like a hundred other incidents, THE ONLY PERSON ARMED WAS THE BAD GUY. An Army base and soldiers aren't allowed to carry? This is madness.

Once more for you liberal, anti-gun zealots out there: PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO COMMIT ILLEGAL ACTS WITH FIREARMS DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT GUN LAWS. 99.9% of gun owners in this country are law abiding citizens - DRACONIAN GUN LAWS ONLY NEGATIVELY AFFECT THEM, NOT THE OUTLAWS.

Ask yourselves why it is that the cities with the strictest anti-gun laws (Chicago, Detroit, Washington, etc.) have the highest crime rates? ONLY THE OUTLAWS ARE "ALLOWED" TO HAVE GUNS.

STOP TRYING TO DENY US OUR 2ND AMENDMENT RIGHTS. AND THE 2ND AMENDMENT DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO BELONG TO A MILITIA EITHER - READ IT AND YOU WILL SEE THAT. It is the ONLY place in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights that uses the phrase "SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED."

Right-thinking people: you know what's coming, more calls for "gun-control" with asinine restrictions on guns that "look mean" or carry more than seven rounds, etc. Get out the checkbooks and the credit cards and make a donation to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and/or the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR). Do it NOW.

UPDATE - DECEMBER 2014

I'm adding the video below because it contains what a president SHOULD say about our 2nd Amendment rights. If only this guy actually WERE the president!

Common Sense Talk on "Gun Control"

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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      You're one of the few who have interpreted the clauses correctly. The Bill of Rights, is just that...a list of natural rights that are deemed to preexist the Constitution and restrictive clauses to prevent government from infringing on those rights.

      The restrictive clause in the Second:

      "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

      Simple, really!

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      WillStarr thank you. Appreciate your comment.

    • profile image

      james lovelady 4 years ago

      in my opinion if not for our right to keep and bear arms what would stop the (government) from having total control. Isn`t that one of the reasons for the 2nd amendment.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 3 years ago from upstate, NY

      I agree with you completely, the founders were clear that the greatest deterrent for a tyrant is an armed populous. I think this amendment is pretty straight forward and those who oppose it generally could give a hoot about the Constitution anyway!

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 3 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      james lovelady and wba108 - yes, you're both right - thanks for commenting!

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