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“Puzzling” Second Amendment Solved! February 1, 2008

Posted by federalist in Natural Rights, RKBA.

Opponents of our natural rights to self defense often try to convolute the semantics of the second amendment to the Constitution, which states, “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.”

For example, Erwin Chemerisnky argues that “The language of the Second Amendment is a puzzle,” citing its reference both to a “right of the people” to arms, and its reference to the necessity of a well-regulated militia.

David Hardy offers the most lucid explication I have yet seen:

The wording becomes utterly clear once we realize that, at the time, “militia” meant the entire male citizenry, bearing their own arms, and “well-regulated” meant “orderly” (Samuel Johnson’s dictionary treated the two as synonyms, and many writers referred to a well-regulated gentleman, or well-regulated tastes). “Orderly, armed, citizens being necessary to a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms” makes perfect sense.

Indeed, the U.S. Code still preserves this original definition of “the militia”:

The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

The fact that the second amendment describes a right that “shall not be infringed” implies that this right to keep and bear arms stems from natural rights.  It is a basic human right that is not being granted by the Constitution, but rather the Constitution prevents government from infringing it.  The Supreme Court in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) held:

The right … of bearing arms for a lawful purpose … is not a right granted by the Constitution.  Neither is it in any manner dependent on that instrument for its existence.  The Second Amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this … means no more than it shall not be infringed by Congress ….



1. rgs - February 14, 2008

Also, I’m no English teacher, but isn’t the first clause a relative or subordinate clause? By definition a relative clause can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning.

So if the amendment read:
A well behaved child being necessary to the happiness of a family,
the right of a couple to bear children shall not be infringed.

Presumably, nobody would try to prevent the couple from having a 2nd child just because the first child they had was not well behaved. The first clause is not important to the meaning
of the sentence in any way.

However, regardless of what the founders intended by the 2nd amendment , it should be interpreted today as an individual right. By definition, gun control only takes guns away from law-abiding
citizens. The criminals still have them. Just like it is illegal to own meth, but it rampant
in our society.

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