“How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!” -Samuel Adams
When it comes to big government, progressive Statism, words are merely a nuisance that obstruct the growth of government power. When those words have meanings that seek to limit the scheming of Statists abroad, how often do we see them ignore the planing meaning of those words? The Constitution is the penultimate definition of a restraining order on tyranny, but Statists have no problem twisting its words to mean things that no rational person could ever imagine.
Now let’s give at least one caveat here. Some of the language of the Constitution can be a bit confusing. The document was written over 225 years ago, so there are more than a few differences in writings style and word choices. However, these nuances do not nullify the meaning of those words. It simply means that we have to look at the words, and their background, more carefully than Statists would approve.
Unfortunately, 21st century America does not have much more of an attention span than a squirrel; so looking at the words for more than a few seconds does not appear to be an option. What a shame this is; if only we had the ability to read carefully, and think even more carefully, it might not be so difficult to understand what the Constitution is actually saying.
In light of this, I’m going to clarify one of the most important aspects of the Constitution: the Bill of Rights. I will include the original language of each amendment, and below I will give a modern translation that can be clearly understood, leaving no room for Statist misinterpretations.
Amendment II- 1791
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.
Amendment II- 2015
No law shall be made by local, state, or federal levels of governemnt regarding the ownership and carrying of firearms by the people.
The text as written in 1791 is crystal clear, that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. There are no caveats included in this Amendment. It does not say that we shall require a “justifiable need” to own a gun in our homes, or to carry one for personal protection outside of the home. It does not say that certain kinds of arms can be banned because they have “military features” or because “no one hunts with an assault rifle” or that “no one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer.”
But apparently the words “shall not be infringed” just do not click with Statist control freaks. Apparently there is plenty of room for requiring fingerprinting, inquiries into your health history, denying the right based on your state of residence, restricting how many rounds you can have in your magazines, determining (or completely denying) when and where you can carry your firearms, etc.
The list of infringements goes on and on, and I wouldn’t want to bore you with an endless list of populace control measures (hopefully you got the point). Some will say that this is for our “public safety” or “for the children.” Okay, if we’re going to play that game, let’s tussle.
Our children deserve the greatest amount of protection in our society, and I don’t think any rational person would dispute that. If we’re talking about protecting our children here, let me ask a few hard questions.
How do we protect our children by preventing people from defending them?
How does restricting everyone else’s right to bear arms stop the crazies and thugs from getting guns and committing crimes? Because they already get them illicitly to begin with.
Who are you to say that I do not have the right to defend myself in and out of my home with a firearm? It just might be you who I or another gun owner could save during a robbery or mugging.
Why do I need to have the police investigate me before I buy a gun or if I want to carry it on my person? Do you have any evidence that I am a criminal, or have reason to believe that I am one who is highly inclined to commit a crime?
I could go on and on with this line of reasoning. There are a whole slew of issues when it comes to why most of the things we consider normal to buy a gun are actually unconstitutional infringements on the explicit Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But that’s not the most important aspect of the Second Amendment. No this is only an added bonus, to be protected against muggers, rapists, and psychopaths. We have something greater to fear, and that is a government with unchecked power.
The Second Amendment acts as one of the most important separation of powers in the American constitutional system. Rather than the State having a complete and irresistible monopoly on force, the people hold that unique and powerful force themselves. An armed populace is not easily conquered, both by foreign governments and domestic tyrants. When the people hold that force throughout the land, it acts as a barrier between the people and governments which tend to devolve into tyrannies over time.
In Federalist 46, James Madison wrote of the importance
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
This is a very simple, yet priceless principle: an armed populace will deter the ambitions of tyrants better than an unarmed one. For the most part, this has been the case in the United States. Americans are the most armed nation in the world, with estimates of up to 300 million+ privately owned firearms. To put it lightly, we have the greatest hedge against tyranny of any nation. However, Statism does not simply stop because there are barriers to its boundless ambitions.
Statists cannot say that they want to completely ban firearms here in the United States, so they have to use much more subtle means to slowly guide the populace into their schemes. These means have no signposts or mile markers, but rather appear as safety nets and “reasonable” protections that are allegedly compatible with the words “shall not be infringed.” Several states have taken the initiative to enact their Statist schemes by gradually taking away the right to bear arms over a long period of time.
One of the first was the State of New York, which passed legislation in 1911 requiring all residents to apply for a permit to own any firearm small enough to be concealed. To this day, the law stands and frustrates New Yorkers to no avail. The process is so bureaucratic and invasive that it is actually a near deterrent. But maybe that is the idea. If the government cannot completely ban firearms, they the process to exercise the right will be made into a bureaucratic nightmare. In essence, the right is denied even though they say it’s not infringed in any way.
With a translation of the Second Amendment as I have provided above, there is zero room for any regulation on the ownership and carrying of firearms by the people. Of course there will still be penalties for using a firearm in a robbery or a murder, but the penalty must be directed at the action and not at a piece of polymer and metal.
This concludes part two of the “Clearer Bill of Rights” series. Next, we will take a look at an Amendment which is often overlooked, but is still important to understand: the Third Amendment.