A constitutionalist's view on the right to bear arms
Since America’s war of independence in 1776, a culture of guns and violence has existed. In fact, in today’s America much of the citizenry argue that it’s the founding fathers who wanted this gun culture and thought that violence was an acceptable means to an end.
Is this true? Is the use of force or violence an acceptable means to any end, even if it means overthrowing a tyrannical government? Most importantly, what does the American Constitution actually state about the right of owning firearms and what is the proper way of addressing grievances from the public to its government.
The 2nd Amendment to the American Constitution is something that has been thrown around a lot lately in political circles. It’s as if the 2nd Amendment itself is a complicated and far reaching clause, that requires a fierce debate in order to fully grasp.
In actuality, the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is one of the shortest and least complicated of the amendments listed in the Constitution. In order to understand how short and uncomplicated it is, I will list the 2nd Amendment here in its entirety;
“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.”
That is the entire amendment. I’m not joking. This one little passage is the subject of so much controversy in the United States. All the amendment really says if you read it at plain value is that the right to bear arms can’t be infringed upon as long as it pertains to a “well regulated militia necessary to the security of a free state.”
This single amendment is used by many groups, including the NRA, to justify the practically unregulated right of an American individual to own any firearm they choose. I might be mistaken, but does the amendment give any indication of an unregulated right of individuals to own firearms? I don’t think you have to be a Constitutional Scholar to figure that out.
Some on the conservative side will argue, “well that’s what the founders would have wanted.” Many militia, such as the infamous Hutaree, groups have popped up around this idea. The argument rests on the supposed “gun culture” that existed in Washington’s or Jefferson’s day.
For starters, the type of guns used in their day were not exactly capable of mass murder individually. The typical musket, like the ones used in the American War of Independence, were not capable of massacring dozens of people at a time unless used in large armies or groups.
The musket for those that owned one, was mostly for necessity (hunting). Pistols were available too, but they were just as quick and effective as most of the muskets (i.e. not very effective). Fast forward to today and the guns that are available to the average citizen would probably make the founders cringe. It’s safe to say that if AR-15s or M16s were around in Washington’s day, there probably would be no 2nd Amendment today.
The idea that government interference with gun ownership is unprecedented exists within America, yet this is most certainly not true. The government has been regulating guns throughout our history in America. Some of the most famous attempts came in the 1930’s and 1950’s when automatics were successfully outlawed from the civilian market due to gangsters getting a hold of these guns and outgunning police.
Does any of this sound familiar? Police today are constantly outgunned by assailants wielding superior fire power and defense. Today, military grade assault weapons are available at relatively cheap costs. Since the expiration of the Assault Weapon’s Ban in 2004, the civilian market has been flooded with many types of military style weapons that have caused severe damage.
The question that many ask is where does this intense gun culture really derive from? Well some of it may be nostalgia for the wild west and pioneer pasts, but much of it comes from something else. If you have been paying attention to American politics, you know that with our gun culture comes something much more dangerous.
Those who claim the unregulated right to firearms also claim an exclusive right to use these firearms as leverage against the very government that supposedly represents them. Its odd how the threat of a violent revolt never happens under conservative presidencies (Reagan, Bush I&II) yet always seem to pop up under Democratic/Liberal leadership (Clinton, Obama). Far-right Conservatives believe in the idea that a violent use of arms can be used as an acceptable means to an end. In other words they believe in voting with a bullet if the ballet fails them, the end is the literal end of the American government.
To understand, the U.S. Constitution clearly does not state the masses has the right to arbitrarily overthrow the government as an appropriate means of addressing grievances. That’s why the founding fathers created an electoral system using ballots to address our grievances rather than bullets. Granted, no one is more critical of Uncle Sam than I who frequently calls out the government for their actions or in-actions that are harmful to the country, but that does not mean I hold the opinion that violence is an acceptable way to address them.
I am actually a very strict constitutionalist in that respect. The constitution is very clear when it comes to firearms and their appropriate use for the people. In fact if you read the constitution literally, the only ones in America that have a right to carry firearms are those who are part of a “well regulated militia.”
The founding fathers wanted the citizenry to use ballots, not bullets in order to affect change within society. Yet, modern day America has seen the gun and violence culture get out of control. Comedian Chris Rock says of Americans “we’re the only people in the world who go hunting on a full stomach.” This is more than great comedy, but its absolutely true. America’s culture of guns and violence goes beyond the desire to hunt.
Anyone who claims to follow the constitution strictly, knows there is no argument to be made for unregulated gun ownership, and there is certainly no way you can argue that using violence is legal and/or acceptable in order to get what you want in American society.