Answering Objections to 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."
What was originally considered a clear and straightforward basic right of the founding fathers is hotly debated today. But what, historically, did the amendment mean? Well, to oversimplify, the basic idea behind the right is that the people should have a right to have firearms so that they might be able to protect their rights from either foreign invaders or from the over-reach of the U.S. government. To say it another way, the second amendment is the amendment that protects all the other amendments. Though the amendment itself is not detailed enough to answer all the questions we ask about guns today, we can (in context) answer common objections given by those who are staunchly “anti-gun.”
Below, we have answered several objections to the second amendment:
Objection 1: “This right only applies to those in a military/police force because the amendment says that right is for the “militia.”
Response: In 2008 the Supreme Court decided that it was OK for those not connected to the military or law enforcement to keep and bear firearms. Why? Because the term “militia” in its original context meant military aged males. How do we know? Well, the militia is distinguished from the actual army or navy in Article 1, Section 8. Also, the militia cannot refer to an official governmental entity because the founding fathers believed that part of the militia’s job was to fight the government if it overextends its power.
Objection 2: “The second amendment gives a militia the right to own firearms to fight a foreign government, but not the right to own a gun for self-defense or hunting.”
Response: Though the primary meaning of the amendment is to secure a “free state,” a fortiori, there is an implication that self-defense is permitted. Justice Scalia wrote, “The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly though it is even more important for self-defense and hunting.” To say it another way, if citizens have a right to create a militia and fight foreign invaders in self-defense then they certainly have a right to use a firearm in more common cases such as hunting or defending one’s own family. Self-defense is seen as an inherent human right (linked to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and is allowed in all 50 states.
Objection 3: “The second amendment originally applied to muskets, not to “assault rifles” and modern firearms.”
Response: Let’s not forget that a “musket” was the “assault rifle” of the 1700’s. The right to have the same weaponry as the British military was what the new nation was defending in the second amendment. It should be noted that the type of arms allowed are not restricted in the second amendment. To say that we don’t have the right to modern firearms but only muskets is like saying that we don’t have the right to put the news online because “freedom of the press” only allowed you to use ink quills and movable type metal printing presses. The type of arms allowed are whatever is needed to secure a free state which would be the equivalent weaponry of the average invader/soldier.
Objection 4: “Only firearms used specifically for hunting should be legal.”
Response: Recently a politician showed a picture of an AR-15 and said, “this is not a gun that is used for hunting, this is a gun used for killing,” as a reason why this type of rifle should be banned. However, this argument seems to fail in two places. First it seems to be a contradiction to other anti-gun proponents that say the second amendment is specifically not about hunting. Second, and more importantly, the second amendment gives citizens the right to use guns on people. Having a militia to secure a free state is about having guns for defense, not merely for hunting.
Objection 5: “We needed the second amendment back then because we didn’t have a formal military. However, we don’t need the right to bear arms today because we have a strong military and police force.”
Response: Who gets to decide what rights we do and don’t need? Do we get to say that we no longer need freedom of speech today because our situation is different and we don’t have to speak out against a British king? As long as there is still a need to defend yourself and your nation then the amendment still applies. If anything we need this right now more than ever with all the terrorism and mass shootings happening. The police and military cannot be everywhere a potential mass shooter may choose to go.
It is important to look at the actual words (grammar, syntax, word choice, etc.) when interpreting the constitution. Any interpretation that would not have made sense to the original audience and authors is almost certainly incorrect. Whatever the second amendment means it allows civilians to own and carry firearms to defend their own lives against enemies. That much is clear.