“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.”
Today, according to the Supreme Court, this phrase means that if you are not a felon or mentally ill, that you have an absolute right to keep a loaded operational, unlocked firearm in your home “for your protection.”
The driving, fundamental premise of the majority’s decision is that the the phrase “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” is merely prefatory and does not define the right which is “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The argument is made linguistically and, purportedly, historically.
But if you think that the phrase “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” is only a preface, devoid of impact, than you are free to ignore the actual historical context of the Second Amendment – and therefore its import.
Justice Scalia points out the historical context.
“… the history that the founding generation knew and that we have described above. That history showed that the way tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the ablebodied men was not by banning the militia but simply by taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or standing army to suppress political opponents. This is what had occurred in England that prompted codification of the right to have arms in the English Bill of Rights.”
The founding fathers lived in a world of monarchical tyrants. In trying to create their free society they wanted to make sure that power wouldn’t be concentrated in the hands of one or even a few persons who could then abridge the freedoms of the people. And yes, I understand that one of those freedoms would have been the use and ownership of guns – by white males. But we don’t live in that time.
Since that time we have created a standing army and eliminated (except on the lunatic fringe) militia. Since that time we have created hand-held guns with dramatically greater fire-power and accuracy than the finest weapons of that age. Since that time we have moved from a primarily agrarian society to one in which we have metropolitan areas with over 10 million people. Few of us – in this country – live in the same fear of a tyrant ruling us as those folks who founded this country 232 years ago.
If we don’t consider the historical context in which the Constitution was drafted, how can we make it relevant to our modern society. Handguns are an awful menace to our free society. Take a look at some statistics.
Comparison of U.S. gun homicides to other industrialized countries:
In 1998 (the most recent year for which this data has been compiled), handguns murdered:
- 373 people in Germany
- 151 people in Canada
- 57 people in Australia
- 19 people in Japan
- 54 people in England and Wales, and
- 11,789 people in the United States
(*Please note that these 1998 numbers account only for HOMICIDES, and do not include suicides, which comprise and even greater number of gun deaths, or unintentional shootings).
Take the time to review the research.
I think you will agree that we need to rid our society of the negative impact of handguns.
Despite the optimism of the Brady Campaign I think that this Supreme Court decision can only be considered a step toward the further decay of safety and security in our society. (How many recent stories of gun violence have there been in our local papers; its too hard to count.) It also underscores, to me, how important each Presidential election is to future jurisprudence. One has to wonder how this decision goes if George Bush II was never elected president.
Justices Scalia (Reagan), Roberts (G.W. Bush), Thomas (G. Bush), Kennedy (Reagan) and Alito (G.W. Bush) voted in the majority.
Justices Stevens (Ford), Souter (G. Bush), Bader-Ginsberg (Clinton) and Breyer (Clinton) were in the minority.