The president has just promised to submit gun-control legislation (though not a budget) to Congress in a matter of weeks. So now is a good time to point out that our national debate over a citizens’ ownership of guns wouldn’t be necessary—nor would the kinds of laws that the Heller and McDonald SCOTUS decisions upended ever have passed—if our Founding Fathers had confined the Second Amendment to only the second of its two clauses: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
It’s that pesky subordinate clause, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” that can be blamed for all the problems. Gun-control nuts contend that only active militia members are entitled to own guns.
Thanks to the First Amendment, one doesn’t have to be a constitutional scholar or even a lawyer (I’m neither) to opine on the plain meaning—and logic—of the Second Amendment.
Let’s begin by noting that the amendment’s second clause can be preceded by any subordinate clause of your imagination without altering its meaning. To wit: “A high net worth being necessary to date a supermodel…” “It being necessary to keep your friends close but your enemies closer…”
If that’s not dispositive enough for your friends and family, the logic inherent in the historical context should be.
In 1791, when the amendment was ratified, the United States of America was only a decade from a war fought to “dissolve the political bands” between the colonists and an “absolute Tyranny,” as the Declaration of Independence put it.
That war’s tactics had relied almost entirely on ballistic weapons. Which means that if the unregulated colonists hadn’t already owned firearms in 1775, they’d have been slaughtered in minutes by George III’s well-regulated army. In fact, they’d never have assembled in Lexington and Concord and started a revolution.
So apart from the grammatical fact that that pesky clause about militias isn’t conditional, it’s illogical to conclude that the same men who’d founded the United States and were now amending its historic constitution to guard against governmental tyranny would require that “the people” obtain official permission—or join a government-regulated organization—before they could legally bear arms to take up against that very government.
“Excuse me, sir, but can you direct me to the Revolution Office? Me and my friends wanna get a permit so we can revolt.”