Saturday, December 20, 2008

What does the second amendment actually mean?

(H/T to Anthony for the video, and instigating the thoughts)

Ah, well, not exactly. Nice try guys, but wrong. Let us try and clarify the matter.

Luckily for all concerned, both the Constitution, and it's first ten amendments are written in plain English. I know that generations of lawyers, judges, and congresscritters have earned very fine, I mean very fine, money by 'defining' the words and creating laws based on them, but I have not one whit of trouble figuring out the second amendment all on my own.

It reads as thus:

"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."

In reading this, we must consider that our language evolves. Words change meaning, their usage shifts, and society moves on. That being the case, back up the time machine to the age when this amendment was written.

'The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed' is absolutely no challenge at all. It means exactly what it says, both then and now. The people have a right to keep and bear arms, and Government is directed to keeps it's grubby hands off that right. The people means you and I, citizens of this nation, just like it does everyplace else in that document.

The argument begins in the first phrase in the amendment: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,". For some reason, and I suspect it's not an honorable one, that phrase causes problems. Some folks say it refers to a National Guard, or a professional military force. I disagree wholeheartedly, and I am right in this matter. I say that with all due humility.

Given the time the words were written, and an understanding of the words meaning then, it turns out to make perfect sense and mean exactly what it says.

'Well regulated' as used at the time meant well equipped, and to a reasonable standard of quality. A 'Well Regulated' team of horses were in proper trace and harness, suitable to the task at hand. A 'Well Regulated' ship had sails and rigging correctly set for the weather and hull. A 'Well Regulated' soldier had arms and gear as needed to serve his duty.

Simply put.... 'Well regulated' means properly equipped and at that time meant nothing else. It certainly did not mean 'controlled by a government body' as it means today.

'Militia' means exactly what it does now, and did then. By no means does it mean the National Guard which as we know it today is under control of the Federal Government, or the various branches of the military. It has never meant that.

The definition of the word, stable from 1625 till today, is simple.

"A military force raised from the civilian population to supplement a regular army in an emergency" (From the Oxford English dictionary. Websters did not exist at the time.)

The 'militia' is comprised of citizens. Private citizens. Not professional soldiers.

A Well Regulated Militia means exactly what it says..... a citizenry properly equipped to come together when needed to ensure the security of their community and their nation.

The second amendment thus means: Since well armed citizens are required for the security of a free nation, don't even think of messing with the peoples right to bear arms. Given that the states and communities of this nation where government has least limited the right of the people to bear arms, also happen to be the most peaceful and least crime ridden, I doubt we can argue the merit of the concept.


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess the good news is that they headed in the right direction, and came to the right partial conclusion (that the Second Amendment protects the rights of the people from the government, like most of the other Amendments), they just got a little lost in the specifics and details along the way.

Thanks for reminding me of them, though... I ran into P&T from a Babylon 5 episode way back when, and have thoroughly enjoyed their work since. Right or wrong, they are funny as hell.

Anthony said...

Indeed wrong about the military/militia but right about the parts that matter. The people have the right to keep and bear arms.

Great post, said better than I.

Old NFO said...

Well Said! Of course come 21 Jan we'll have yet ANOTHER interpretation, which will NOT be going our way... sigh...

Crucis said...

I was reminded not so long ago, that the creation of the National Guard did not eliminate State Militias. The change was who funded what. The federal gov't helped fund the National Guard. The States funded the Militia---which meant no funding at all for most states.

Folks seem to forget the National Guard is NOT a militia nor was intended to be such.