A Individual’s Right? On December 15, 1791 the Second Amendment was ratified along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. At the time this amendment was relatively uncontroversial, unfortunately times have changed. As most know, the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects the right to bear arms. Over the years there have been many different interpretations of this amendment. Sanford Levinson states “No one has ever described the Constitution as a marvel of clarity, and the Second Amendment is perhaps one of the worst drafted of all its provisions”(63). The Second Amendment was created to give each individual citizen in these United States of America the right to keep and bear arms, not to allow states to keep well-organized militias.
A Little History It is hard to know the true meaning of the Second Amendment without first knowing where it comes from and why it was ratified. The Second Amendment was formed in response to the British policy of confiscating firearms from individuals, which is what caused the American Revolutionary War in 1775-83. Many point out that the “shot heard ‘round the world” at the start of the Revolutionary War was fired when the British governor sent troops to collect and destroy colonists’ firearms in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. After the British seized firearms in Concord, residents ambushed, shot, and killed the British on their return march to Boston. So the American Revolution began with citizens’ resistance when the government attempted to disarm them (Constance Crooker 58).
Article I of the Constitution authorizes Congress to standardize the training for militias. Two examples of our modern day militias are The National Guard or The Naval Militia. The Second Amendment would not have been created to duplicate such training and regulation, which concludes that the Amendment must be a prohibition against civilian disarmament (Constance Crooker 57-58). In other words, the Second Amendment was ratified for a purpose, and if we were to believe that it was to maintain well-organized militias, then it would have no purpose at all.
The intent of the framers of the Constitution was that every man retains the right to be armed. European governments were afraid to trust the people with arms (Constance Crooker 56). This brings about the anti-tyranny side of the Second Amendment. Having an armed populace allows individuals to overthrow a tyranny. It also creates a deterrent to government oppression by raising the potential costs of using military force.
Gun Control Proponents Much like anyone would expect, gun control proponents focus on costs, deaths, homicides, and firearm related accidents. They are quick to point out the cost to the public for paying medical care and loses suffered due to firearm injuries and deaths. Unfortunately, worldwide statistics show that the epidemic of violence that has hit younger children in recent years is confined almost exclusively in the United States of America (David Clark 73). Many gun control proponents are quick to say “guns kill people!” but in reality, it is people that kill people.
Many gun control proponents say that the right to keep and bear arms was meant only for militia men. Insisting that only members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia were intended to keep and bear arms. When discussing the Second Amendment St. George Tucker (one of the three leading commentators of the Constitution) never suggested that the right of the people to keep and bear arms depended on a person’s enrollment and exercise in the citizen militia, or that the “right” belonged only to the state (Steven G. Bradbury, Howard C. Nielson, Jr., and C. Kevin Marshall 78). Another important fact is that the Militia Act of May 8, 1792 acknowledged that the U.S. has an “unorganized militia” which consists of all able-bodied males from age 17-45 who are not members of the National Guard