militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right
of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.Ē
ó The Bill of Rights, United States Constitution, Amendment II
I never thought much
about the Second Amendment, just took it for granted while growing
up in western Pennsylvania, then traveling around as a Navy wife. I
never heard the phrase ďgun controlĒ until I moved to Massachusetts
in my late 20s. I had no idea what that meant and was shocked when I
For those who also
hadnít thought about this much: First, read the actual amendment,
above. Note that there is a main phrase ó ďthe right of the people
to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.Ē Our Founding Fathers
understood that we have certain rights given to us by God and/or by
the nature of being human; the right to have arms for hunting and
defense is one of them and always will be.
The qualifying phrase
about a well-regulated militia seems to me just a reminder to all
able-bodied men to be always prepared for bigger battles. They had
just fought a war against Great Britain, a country well-armed enough
to have accumulated its own world empire. Our new country had won
its independence only because we had our own arms to bear.
We donít use the word
militia much now, but the concept is the same: If our other freedoms
are threatened, we all have the right to grab our guns and run to
Photo by Chip Ford
weapons they grabbed, combined with their revolutionary attitudes,
were a match for the superior firepower of the better-funded
professional redcoat military. No one should argue that, had the
latter carried more modern ďassault weapons,Ē the Colonials didnít
have a right to bear that same category of arms.
Next, we need to
understand that we do not live in a historical vacuum, that the
threat of an overreaching government is as much a concern to us as
it has been to citizens of powerful governments everywhere. Letís
break this down into an understanding of human nature, one part of
which doesnít apply to good people like most of us, who have no
desire for power over each other.
But we all know
bullies: from our school days, our workplace, books and movies, the
news. We donít pretend that individual bullies donít exist or canít
be a threat to us. We count on the government to protect us: school
authorities, the police, the courts and our elected representatives
passing laws against bullying. If they fail, we are justifiably
Now take one step
beyond this, and imagine the bullies getting themselves into the
government, into positions of power ó not to uphold the
Constitution, not to do good, not to have an important, fulfilling
job, but to use the extraordinary power of government to make
themselves more important than they are, to push people around, to
enjoy inspiring fear. Imagine them attracting others like themselves
and eventually seizing control of a government. Now take a few
minutes to check out todayís world news.
Why do we assume our
own government wouldnít turn against us? For one thing, we have the
Constitution with its Bill of Rights to protect us from government
abuse. But some in government donít honor this grand document, are
eager to discredit it and the extraordinary men who wrote it.
Already, the First Amendment has been weakened by political
correctness and freedom of religion is always being debated; some
government officials assert that the war on terrorism justifies
violating other individual rights specified in other amendments.
We understand that
there can be some necessary restrictions on rights when some people
abuse them and are clearly unable to behave themselves. As you canít
call ďfireĒ in a crowded theater, you canít get a gun license if you
are crazy. We can all have legitimate, intelligent conversations in
these gray areas.
But incredibly, there
are those who want the Second Amendment repealed! Fortunately, it
takes years to amend the Constitution. Just in case someone wants to
propose this, one of my New Yearís resolutions is to
join the National Rifle Association, which is always defending
my right to keep and bear arms.
Iím not enthusiastic
about the NRAís proposal to arm teachers, submitted in response to
the slaughter of children in a Connecticut school. Those of us who
defend constitutional rights should not act as if we are required to
come up with alternate solutions to violating those rights. But once
the basic premise is safe, anyone can try to be helpful with
For many reasons, I
would like to see much more attention paid to mental illness; never
heard a taxpayer object to funding programs for the mentally ill,
yet notice that these are often among the first services cut during
state fiscal crisis. Iím often surprised by judicial decisions that
release dangerous people into society. I think it makes sense to
confirm the sanity of people who want to buy guns/ ammunition.
But for the rest of us
law-abiding citizens, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be
infringed, or the freedom of all Americans inevitably shall be.