Is the Right to Bear Arms Automatic?

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.

by David T. Bruce

guncontrolThe Second Amendment to the United States Constitution supports the necessity of a disciplined and prepared military force as a means to protect and defend each state. To that end, the Constitution provides that people will have the right to keep and bear arms.

This right has become a mantra for firearm enthusiasts; this right has become a refrain is boisterously sounded as a defense for owning assault weapons. Our federal government has been largely elusive in terms of how our society should manage the sale of guns and the expectations of gun owners. As of the end of 2012, there are “no federal laws banning semi-automatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large capacity ammunition magazines, which can increase the potential lethality of a given firearm.”  As well, Congress has allowed assault weapon prohibitions to expire.

Our representatives continue to dodge the issue while American citizens continue to dodge bullets.

The issue of gun control cannot hinge on the Second Amendment. Each year, our love affair with guns earns firearm manufacturers over $1 billion and costs our society over 30,000 lives. In 2010 the CDC estimated that 30 homicides were committed per day with guns, and while this number is on the decline and varies based on the statistics used, this cannot be considered tolerable.

The word “change” is thrown about on both sides of the political aisle, and we are told that change is inevitable at home and in the workplace.

Rules change as we grow up. We cannot effectively throw a temper tantrum to get our way. Rules that once applied when we were two years old do not hold true when we are twenty years old; the same can be said for our nation as it grows up. The rules set down by the authors of the Constitution reflected the world in which they lived. They did not – nor could they – conceive of the world in which we live today.

Is it not possible that “arms” may refer to bows and arrows, knives and spears, as well as muskets?

Is it reasonable to expect that each of us has the right to own a semi-automatic or automatic weapon?

Do we put our own lives and the lives of our families and neighbors at risk by clinging to this expectation?

Many people argue as to why the Second Amendment was drafted and worded the way it was. Unfortunately, none of us were there, and it seems that the best way to interpret the intent of this particular right is to apply it to modern times.

Can we, in good conscience, argue that the founding fathers of our nation could foresee the availability and proliferation of modern weaponry?

Do we need arms for reasons other than providing food for our families and protecting our homes?

I am not suggesting that our rights should be taken away; I am suggesting that there are some rights that we do not have to begin with.

Preserving our rights is paramount, and any discussion related to reinterpreting, modifying or amending our amendments guarantees to raise eyebrows and cause frustrations on all sides of the issue. By lumping all guns together under one amendment, however, we invite disaster.

Forget statistics; look at the facts.

We do not need semi-automatic and automatic weapons in our homes and in our neighborhoods.

We need a well regulated militia; we do not need mercenaries.

We have the right to keep and bear arms; we do not have the right to define “arms” as we see fit.

The Second Amendment is not at risk; human lives are.

For a variety of interpretations and a broader perspective about the Second Amendment debate, take time to read this interesting examination and analysis of the Second Amendment, authored by Professor Eugene Volokh.

Image source: WorldMeets.Us

6 Replies to “Is the Right to Bear Arms Automatic?”

  1. Ryan Taylor says:


    I read your article and found it interesting. I concede the point that guns are being misused by people, but I do have a problem with blanket round capacity laws and the term that the media is using for “semi-automatic guns”.

    I’ve lived in Maine and now reside in Wyoming, which are fairly remote states. Here in Wyoming, life is very different than in other states. I didn’t quite understand this when I moved here, seeing as I was a coastal Mainer and had just spent 11 years in Ohio, but I certainly do now. In this state, people really do utilize and need semi-automatic guns with high round cartridges. The dangers out in the wilderness are real. We have grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, wolves, elk, and in the north, bison. At my work alone, I know of three teachers that have been charged by bears, without provocation, while either hiking or hunting. It is a known rule here that one does not go off into the wilderness without at least a handgun. All were carrying high round capacity handguns, along with semi-automatic rifles. None of the three killed the bears because they all fired warning shots. If they had needed to use their handguns or semiautomatic rifles on the bears, though, those guns would have been extremely useful. More than seven or ten shots would have been needed, and that’s why guns like the Glock 17, which has I believe a capacity for 17 bullets, are useful. Grizzlies are huge, terrifying animals if they become angry. The more bullets one has to shoot, s/he has a better opportunity to survive a wild animal attack. Semi-automatic guns, which by definition is any weapon that fires more than one shot without reloading but rather the pull of the trigger, help people survive violent animals. I know a lot of people would say they help protect people from home invaders too, but out here, wild animals are often the threat.

    Secondly, and I hate to say it because it feels like a mantra that is marched out by gun advocates that don’t hunt, but these guns provide serious food for poor families in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. A lot of the poor can’t afford the meat that is at the store. It is merely a guess, but I’d say about half of my students eat game meat exclusively all year around (antelope, deer, elk, and if they’re luck to draw a tag, moose). Even I have adjusted to this diet. Hunting is not sport, and having a gun that is not semi-automatic leaves the hunter down to one bullet to make the kill (Yes, we actually have a short season for hunting with single shot guns. Many people don’t kill a thing). People miss. More shots give the person a better chance to really put food on the table. It often takes more than seven or ten bullets to take down a big animal like an elk. I’m happy for my students when I hear they got a kill because I know they will eat. While this scenario was not common back east, it is extremely common place here.

    Lastly, the police department, while I respect them, are not very reliable. Last year, I saw a little girl of about four and her younger siblings be abandoned by her grandfather while I was sitting in our local coffee shop. The coffee shop owner and I called the police and they said they would be right down. A total time of an hour passed after we called the police and no one arrived. The grandfather showed back up and drove off. The cops never showed! I tell you this story because on Friday, after my wife had worked the night shift (she is a CNA), two men kept ringing the doorbell and pounding on the door. You have to understand, we live in the vicinity of six bars. Drunks are a regular scene in our neighborhood. When she woke up and looked out the peephole, she heard them say that they knew someone was here. One of the guys pounded on the door again and yelled, “Open the G*dd*mn door!” Rattled, she didn’t reply, nor did she open the door, and thankfully the men went away. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen the police fail once when responding to a call that is less than a mile from the station. I don’t trust them. I’m just thankful that she had a weapon to defend herself if those drunks didn’t go away. And yes, I want her to have more than seven or even ten bullets. She might miss.

    In conclusion, these type of guns and round capacities are needed here. Life is different in this state. I’m not advocating automatic weapons like AK-47s, which are banned even in Wyoming. I’m against those guns because they are excessive force and, in reality and unlike semi-automatic guns, are military grade weapons. Most automatic guns have the functionality to switch between automatic and semi-automatic, thus making solely semi-automatic guns needless. While I am an independent (Please don’t think that I am a Republican), I’d say that my gun stance is more in line with the liberal author Rick Bass.

    1. Ryan,

      Dave & I are both really grateful to you for taking the time to reply in such an in-depth and thought-provoking manner. You bring up a lot of great points and had us discussing the issue quite a bit last night. You’re right; there are absolutely reasons people might need a semi-automatic weapon…and we don’t believe the government should come along and take them away. We do think, however, that when it’s easier to buy a gun than it is to get a driver’s license or enroll in school (think about the application process for Mercy. I had to give them shot records to prove I’d had my immunizations in order to participate in an online program!)

      What we’d like to see is a much more rigorous litmus test for gun ownership. If teens have to take driver’s ed to get a driver’s license and spend supervised time practicing, shouldn’t we ask at least as much of our gun laws?

      And, while you might need a semi-auto to protect you in the wilderness from grizzlies and mountain lions (which I totally get – I would want to be armed to the teeth too) I don’t believe anyone who lives in the city (even one as small as Bath) really has need of a weapon of that sort and if they do, they should have to apply for a permit or something.

      We don’t presume to have all the answers – which is why we love the idea of this dialogue – but we do believe there’s something wrong with people assuming the 2nd Amendment provides unlimited protection for gun ownership or that there should not be limitations in place to protect people (we make seat belt laws, cell phones and driving laws, laws about which side of the road you have to drive on and what color the light should be to go…but gun laws? how dare we!)

      You’re right, Ryan. Semi-automatic weapons serve a purpose and shouldn’t be completely banned. But we do think better regulation (along with a substantially better education (scratch NCLB and all that has come since and focus on basics & valuing teachers) and fully funded, non-profit health system (get the profits out of insurance) to provide needed services for the mentally ill, disabled, and impoverished are necessary for this country.

      Thanks again! Your thoughts & opinions are welcome!

  2. Ryan Taylor says:

    Sorry, that got to be a long response. I figured that since we are Mercy College alumni, I wanted to be thorough in my argument.

    1. Comment any time. We love intelligent debate!

  3. dangernut says:

    I’m down in Aussie land for a few months on a construction gig. It never fails, whenever there is a slowdown or a break, one of them will ask why we shoot up everything.

    Im okay with the right to bar arms as long as they are the same arms as when the bill of rights was written. Aint never heard no musket wielding nutter bodycounting up a mall. I keep hearing we cant change the sacred word of a bunch of rich white slave owners so we best go back to blunderbusses.

    1. We get frustrated at the image we’re building as right wing, redneck, gun toting uneducated racists. 🙂

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