The Second Amendment was ratified on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights which, in itself, became part of a much debated part of the Constitution. This one particular amendment’s language was altered several times by the Constitutional delegates to emphasize the military context of the amendment and the role of the militia as a force to defend national sovereignty, quell insurrection and protect against tyranny.
We were a new agrarian nation with an uncertain future and an expanding western border still susceptible to raids from hostiles and the European powers of England, France and Spain with a presence on our continent. We had a population of 3.9 million and a military with the equivalent to one battalion. Not a very secure position to be in.
There was strong public opposition to having a standing army as it brought up memories of British troops in pre-revolution times and the power it gave to the central government. The preference was to rely on County Sheriffs, Constables and Night Watchmen. This understandably, for the purpose of national security, required the people to be ready to be called to arms.
Today we are a formidable nation of over 305 million people with the most powerful military and largest economy in the world. It appears as though things in 2013 have changed a bit from the year 1791.
Today we have a vast army dispersed around the world. For our domestic protection we have regulated armed police protection, both locally and in all parts of this vast nation. The Second Amendment calls for “a well regulated militia”. Regulated militia, as defined by the Founders, means disciplined and well trained.
It does not mean, in today’s world, allowing every citizen to carry a concealed weapon for self protection. It does not mean a vigilante citizenry with every person making individual decisions as to who is a threat and taking unilateral action by him or herself to decide the guilty. It does not mean action in response to visceral emotion. In a time when we hear of more and more people in need of anger management, do we want more unchecked people in possession of guns, much less high capacity weapons?
The Second Amendment does not give the unfettered right to people with mental health problems, terrorists, and people with violent pasts to get a gun without background checks. When in 1791, in the days of the single shot muskets and single shot pistols did they even think of large capacity magazines or assault weapons? A subject never heard of in 1791. A subject of deep concern in 2013.
This has nothing to do with the right of a person to hunt or go to a shooting range. This has to do with is whether a person should be permitted to be armed in schools, churches, bars, sporting events and a multitude of public places without checking on the reliability of that person to be in possession of a deadly weapon. We no longer need a people’s militia as defined by the Second Amendment.
The concerns of the Founders have been diminished with the growth of this nation. We are no longer an agrarian or frontier people. We have a large well trained and disciplined Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force to protect us, along with trained local armed police protection, none of which existed when the Second Amendment was written.
It is understandable that there are those who read and hear about crime that might want the sense of perceived security of being able to defend them selves. The National Rifle Association (NRA) says that the best way to stop a person with a gun is to have a gun yourself. This is a very basic theory of the survival of the fittest. He who shoots first survives. I would have hoped that as a civilization we have risen above that primal thinking, but apparently some have not.
Let’s face it, there are more guns here in America then there are people. There are many good law abiding citizens who like to hunt or enjoy going out to a shooting range to test their skills. There is no reason why they can’t continue to do that. No where in any of the existing or proposed laws is there any effort to take away anyone’s hunting or range shooting rights.
There isn’t even an attempt to take away any ones private right to continue to own a gun as long as the gun is registered. Those attempting to buy a new weapon would need a background check. You may know that you’re okay to own one but are you just as sure of your next door neighbor or the person down the block?
In so many of these shootings the shooter was just someone’s neighbor. Just the pretty nice guy next door “of whom I never would have thought would do something like that”.. Considering, what has been happening all around us, with the open right to own any kind of weapon, and as we witness this violence, doesn’t it make just basic common sense to realize that the best protection we have is through protective, strict restrictive laws rather than a gun in every Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane and Mary’s hands?
The Constitution continues to form and guide who we are as a nation. The fact that the Constitution gives us the ability to amend it to meet the needs of the times has allowed us to amend it 27 times, and even to repeal an amendment that the people feel should no longer be constitutional law. We amend or repeal as the nation changes, and then we move on.
Perhaps it is time to look at who we are and who we want to be. Perhaps it is now time to review the Second Amendment and ask ourselves, as a people…are we still saying that what was necessary in 1791 to protect the populace is what is necessary in 2013. Perhaps it is time to open our eyes to the world we live in today and move beyond yesterday.