A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right to the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. — The Second Amendment, the Constitution of the United States of America
Those who view the Second Amendment as ripe for gutting due to the four prefacing words “a well-regulated Militia,” need to take note of this month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Caetano vs Massachusetts decision. It piggybacked on the Heller landmark 2008 high court ruling that “rejected the proposition ‘that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected.’”
Massachusetts had a law — up until two weeks ago — that concluded the right to bear arms didn’t extend to stun guns.
What triggered the U.S. Supreme Court review was the arrest of Jaime Caetano. Officers found a stun gun on her person during a search. That prompted her arrest and subsequent conviction for possessing an unlawful weapon under Massachusetts law. Caetano was carrying the stun gun for protection against an ex-boyfriend who was continually ignoring a legally court-issued restraining order to stay away from her.
The Massachusetts high court upheld Caetano’s conviction contending stun guns were “not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection” as they did not exist when the Second Amendment was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791.
The Bay State high court also based its ruling that ultimately was overturned on the basis that stun guns aren’t protected as there is “nothing in the record to suggest (stun guns) are readily adaptable to use in the military.”
The U.S. Supreme Court noted Massachusetts willfully ignored the Heller landmark case where the high court clearly “rejected the proposition ‘that only those weapons used in warfare are protected.”
Those words aren’t open to interpretation although judges with political agendas have been doing so since the Heller decision was made eight years ago.
As for stun guns not being protected by the Second Amendment simply because they did not exist in 1791, the concurring opinion stated, “Electronic stun guns are no more exempt from the Second Amendment’s protections, simply because they were unknown to the First Congress, than electronic communications are exempt from the First Amendment, or electronic imaging devices are exempt from the Fourth Amendment.”
It should be noted that the high court’s ruling on the Massachusetts law regarding stun guns was 8-0. It wasn’t split along lines of the ideological bent of individual judges. It was unanimous.
The rights rendered in the constitution are the foundation for governing the republic. The basic premises aren’t open to interpretation.
That said, it doesn’t make them absolute. States and the federal governments have conditioned the Second Amendment with laws that have passed constitutional scrutiny regarding background checks, convicted felons, and magazine sizes. It is no different than legislation regarding libel, slander, deceptive advertising and such that condition the First Amendment.
Constitutional rights can’t be absolute. It would be impossible to govern a nation of 325 million individuals. The absolute exercise of a right of one person can diminish the rights of others. It is why the constitution created Congress as well as the executive branch and judicial system to adopt, enforce and determine the constitutionality of laws.
The heart of the Second Amendment is simple: “The right to the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The preceding words describe the thought behind the right.
To read it as the people have the right to only bear arms to form a militia is extreme overreach given the founding fathers also add arms as “being necessary to the security of a free State.” It doesn’t read “being necessary to defend against foreign enemies of a free State” which is what an army or militia typically does. It specifically says “security.” It’s tough to be secure in a “free state” if you aren’t secure in your home or person.
It should be noted the drafters of the Bill of Rights gave significant value to the individual right of gun ownership to list it second behind freedom of speech and assembly. That’s not to say a right being listed as No. 2 is a greater right than ones that come after it. But it certainly does underline the importance the founding fathers saw in the right to bear arms in helping the American experience take hold and expand.
There is a great danger in the continued assault on the premise of the Second Amendment. Should those that abhor the concept of gun rights succeed, it would essentially declare open season on other rights including free speech.
The constitution is indeed a living document in terms of it being flexible enough to be used as the bedrock governance of a nation 240 years after the ink dried on the document. But if you rip off its underlying foundation it is no longer “living” and indeed can be declared dead.
The Bill of Rights outlines what is needed to make the following words in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence more than just mere words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Democracy by its very nature is messy.
Because unlike totalitarian regimes where people are forced under guns into obedience, the people are allowed essential rights that include the right to bear arms. To think that guns in the hands of individuals don’t play a role in keeping America from becoming a totalitarian state nicely ignores the reality of the world.