Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Second Amendment

In the ongoing debate over gun laws and the epidemic of gun violence in America, many make the point that the 2nd amendment is some representation of the idea that "the people" have the right to engage in armed insurrection against the government.  They point to writings of Jefferson and others who seem to advance such an argument.  Yet a reading of the Constitution in its entirety does not support such a notion.

The 2nd amendment clearly defines the right of the people to keep and bear arms in the context of a well-regulated militia.  That militia is described in great detail in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives the Congress significant control over the militia.

First, the Constitution gives the Congress the authority to provide for "arming, training, and disciplining" the militia.  The implications of this authority are clear.  The Congress can under any reasonable interpretation specify the types of arms, establish training requirements including training in safe and proper use of such arms, and provide for sanctions against those who violate the arming and training rules.

The States are given specific limited authority to appoint officers for the militia, and to execute the training of the militia "according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."  Again, the Congress is given substantial authority for the arming, training, and discipline of the militia, providing for compatibility in arms and doctrine when various state militia are called up for joint operations.

In Article 2, the President serves as Commander-in-Chief of the militia "when called into actual service of the United States."  This gives the President broad authority over the militia, not differentiating between the military and the militia.

Most importantly, why does the militia exist?  That question is clearly answered in Article 1 Section 8, giving the Congress the authority to call forth the militia to "enforce the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions."  Furthermore, Article 4 gives the Congress or the President significant power to protect the states against invasion or domestic violence.

Under the weight of all this evidence, it is simply misguided to suggest that the Framers had any intention of encouraging in any way, shape, or form, any kind of "armed insurrection."  It is time today to put such notions to rest, to call those out who make such arguments as either misguided ideologues or dangerous to our nation.  Don't let them continue to pervert the Constitution!

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