Tags: Committee, Instructs, New Jersey, Nora Craig, Second Amendment, Senate, video
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not provide Americans the right to own and use firearms. Guns are not explicitly protected by the Constitution.
Too many Americans like Nora Craig “believe” they know what the U.S. Constitution says, what was intended by James Madison the primary author of the Constitution and the Second Amendment.
The right to self-defense in the Second Amendment is a modern judicial invention conceived less than five years ago, an effective byproduct of 35 years of aggressive campaigning by the NRA.
Historian Garry Wills and Madison scholar among others make it clear that James Madison did not address the question of the private right to own and use firearms when drafting his amendment.
There are two pertinent sections of the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment do not give them the right to own and maintain personal firearms and arsenals of military design or any other kind. The Framers were clear:
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution: “The Congress shall have Power…To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;” (1787)
The Second Amendment: “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.” (1789)
The right “to keep and bear Arms” is in the context of a “well regulated Militia.” A “well regulated Militia” is defined by Congress in Article 1, Section 8. Today’s “Militia” is in effect the National Guard. The language is not ambiguous, neither is the historical record.
As the eminent historian and James Madison scholar Garry Wills wrote in 1995, his argument “does not deny any private right to own and use firearms. Perhaps that can be defended on other grounds—natural law, common law, tradition, statute. It is certainly true that most people assumed such a right in the 1780s—so naturally, in fact, that the question was not “up” and calling for specific guarantees. All I maintain is that Madison did not address that question when drafting his amendment. When he excepted those with religious scruple, he made clear that ‘bear arms’ meant wage war—no Quaker was to be deprived of his hunting gun.”
The misinterpretation of the Second Amendment is based on the desire to have it “fit” an ideology and/or romantic myth, is the result of not reading the entire Amendment (dismissing the first key phrase that indicates the purpose of the amendment), and ignoring Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution that defines “Militia,” articulates the powers of the Congress that relate it to the amendment, the context in which the amendment must be understood. The continued reference to the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment in relation to the gun control debate reinforces the conservatives’ fallacious narrative and the false prism through which many Americans now view the gun violence issue.
Gun advocates, Wills writes, tried to find new meaning for the Second Amendment for a purpose. They have deliberately tried to create “a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere” that has caught Americans’ imagination after a sustained conservative and National Rifle Association propaganda effort (the purpose of which can be debated). “So,” writes Wills, “we must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it does not.
It is revealing to see that the NRA, an organization that fashions itself as sacred guardian of the Constitution, has no qualms imploring the government to trample on the rights guaranteed in the First and Fourth Amendments whenever the spotlight is on the Second…
The right to self-defense in the Second Amendment is a modern judicial invention conceived less than five years ago, an effective byproduct of 35 years of aggressive campaigning by the NRA. In its first ever ruling upholding an individual’s right to possess hand guns for the purpose of self-defense, the Supreme Court explicitly said such rights are not unlimited, nor “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
We think of gun control as a modern 20th century invention, but in fact we’ve had gun control since the beginning of America. The Founding Fathers had gun laws so restrictive that the leaders of today’s NRA wouldn’t support them. The Founding Fathers did not view the Second Amendment as a libertarian license for anyone to have any gun, anywhere he wanted. They restricted large portions of the population who they thought to be untrustworthy from possessing firearms.
Not only were slaves and free blacks barred from having guns, but at times even law-abiding white men. If you weren’t willing to swear an oath of loyalty to the revolution, you were subject to disarmament. We’re not talking about traitors here. We’re talking about Americans who were exercising their freedom of conscience to oppose the war.
The Founding Fathers also had very strict militia laws that required gun owners to appear at mandatory musters with their firearms in tow. The militiamen’s guns would be inspected and even registered on public rolls.
It should be of interest that the Constitution not only does not provide Americans the right to own and use firearms, it does not provide Americans the right to vote.
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