by David T. Bruce
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution will soon be the subject of debate again in the U.S. Supreme Court. The amendment stating that “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.” Following the decision that prevented Washington D.C. from legislating gun control within that district, the Supreme Court endeavors to determine if individual states can legislate gun control.
The issue of gun control is regularly and hotly contested. Proponents vehemently uphold the Second Amendment, and opponents catalogue lives lost as a result of a person who lawfully owned a handgun and used that handgun unlawfully. I argue that we do indeed have a right to own a gun, but we do not have a right to take a life as we see fit or endanger our neighbors and communities. How do we balance this right with reality, though?
Essentially, Second-Amendment advocates demand that they have the right to own a gun because our forefathers said so. Yes, the forefathers did state in the amendment that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, the amendment also reads that it was and is necessary to have “a well regulated Militia.” What well regulated indicates is that in all likelihood, the militia should have leadership. The intent was not for everyone to have a weapon and shoot as they please. In the twenty-first century, this is precisely what we have.
As well, the intent was to prevent the government from impeding on the individual rights of a citizen by entering the home without just cause and to prevent a foreign militia from detaining United States citizens. While we can argue that the likelihood of the latter is possible, we can also argue that the lack of the aforementioned well regulated militia would prevent any one person from being reasonably successful at deterring such an attack. In respect to the likelihood of a government official entering a home without just cause, that too is remote.
Of all the challenges we currently face in the United States, I am often amazed at what comes to the forefront for debate. We seem to put a great deal of emphasis on these “rights” that were handed down to us over two-hundred years ago, yet we ignore what our local, state, and federal officials are doing to our rights one day at a time. We seem so worried about what the federal government is doing to trample on our Constitutional rights, but we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights. We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment. We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.
The most powerful right we have as citizens of the United States is the right to vote, and maybe . . . maybe . . . one-half of our population exercises that right at any given time. The rest of us don’t even pick up that weapon, let alone pull the trigger. We can minimize or eliminate blatantly corrupt officials from the government by paying attention to what these officials are doing, paying attention to how they are voting on pertinent issues, and voting them out of office when their term is due. In extreme cases, we have the right to remove corrupt officials from office before their term is over. Yet we dismiss this right every single day. Our voice is as strong as any weapon, if we collectively choose to use our right to vote.