It’s All About Context

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.

I started my post this past Friday with the wording of the Second Amendment, and I have been thinking more and more about what it says in the days since.  This is not meant to fuel a gun control debate or anything like that, but it intended to act as more of a “take them at their word” kind of thing, since I often hear Second Amendment backers arguing that our right to own guns is in the Constitution.  Clearly, there is something written about gun ownership there, as you can see above, but let’s dive in to the actual words a little deeper.

The first definition on www.dictionary.com for the word “regulate” is:  to control or direct by a rule, principle, or method.  Interesting.  By that definition alone, and when you put “well” in front of it, seems to say that there should be adequate and strong rules and regulations in place.  What about “militia?”  Try this definition on for size:  a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full-time only in emergencies.  So if we took three of the first four words, it seems that there would be strict regulations in place for our citizens enrolled for military service.  Then there is the word “security” in there, which to me would infer that it was written as a provision that guns be owned for security purposes.  Fair enough.  The Second Amendment ends with phrasing that the right “shall not be infringed,” basically meaning that gun ownership, for those enrolled and serving in the military shall be regulated (well I might add), but shall not be taken away.  So the military is cleared for gun ownership.  Excellent.

Even if the Second Amendment was meant to apply to ordinary citizens, and not just the military (remember, the definition for militia above), if we are taking the writers at their exact words, shouldn’t we also take them at their word for what guns were in existence in 1789?  Wouldn’t that be fair, too, since we are saying their intent was for citizens to own guns is granted therein, that it was meant that citizens can own guns like they had in 1789.  Like a long-barrel rifle, or flint-lock pistol.

Revolutionary WarDo you think that gun violence would be reduced if people owned either of the guns pictured?

american-revolution-pistolWhat about mass murders like the one that happened Friday?  Could he have gotten off over 100 rounds with either of these weapons before being stopped?  I doubt it.

I am not saying we should ban ownership of all guns, or even that we go to the extreme of owning weapons from 1789, but I am just asking you to think.  If the most fervent supporter of the Second Amendment wants to sit there and tell us that ownership of as many guns as we want is clearly defined, is it unreasonable to ask them to also realize the period when the document was written?  If you want to say that something is “clear” when it was written in 1789, shouldn’t you also consider the context of the weapons available at the time?  If we acknowledge the clarity of the Second Amendment when it comes to gun ownership, we must also admit that maybe Thomas Jefferson really meant that the right of the people to own long-barrel rifles and flint-lock pistols shall not be infringed.  That is one of the troubles with trying to blindly apply the original intent of a document written in 1789 to the 21st century.

While we are at it, let’s dive a little deeper into the wording.  “Arms.”  What does that mean?  Since guns were not specifically mentioned in the Second Amendment, what is to stop us from believing that our right to own a nuclear weapon shall not be infringed?  What about a tank?  Are those not “arms?”  If not, who are we to differentiate?  If those are not covered, why not?  Am I to believe that Jefferson’s intent was limited only to guns and not all arms?  While these examples are ridiculous in nature, don’t they at least somewhat point to the absurdity of the entire argument?

The gun control/gun rights debate is heating up after the shootings in Connecticut.  I think there is room on both sides to negotiate and find common ground.  Outright banning of guns is both unreasonable and unrealistic, and I have yet to hear a compelling reason as to why anybody needs to own a functional AR-15 in their house.  It is time for our politicians on both sides to come to the table with ideas for real solutions.  They need to stop letting the NRA dictate gun policy in our country.

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One Response to It’s All About Context

  1. Paul James says:

    people read the 2nd ammendant like some people read their bible , they read into it what they want to , never mind what the writer was saying.

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