Gun owners, enthusiasts, and lobbyists for firearms manufacturers (like the National Rifle Association) are fond of invoking the Second Amendment of the Constitution and referring with teary-eyed reverence to the “Second Amendment rights” of Americans to bear arms.
It’s as if America’s founders would have foreseen and heartily approved of this modern era when our nation is so overloaded with guns and ammo, to which virtually anyone can gain access, that deadly shootings both accidental and intentional occur on a daily basis. After all, it’s right there in the Constitution.
Not so fast, Cletus. Let’s just have a peek at that there good old Second Amendment, shall we?
“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.”
Well, looky here: turns out the Second Amendment is the only one that begins with a qualifying phrase. The authors of the Constitution were exceedingly careful about its wording. Why begin this particular amendment with such a specific caveat: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”
When the Constitution was written America had no standing army, no organized professional fighting force. Under threat of invasion, the nascent U.S. government reserved the power to muster the citizenry into sanctioned armed forces called militias. Acting under governmental control and regulation, these militias would then be called on to defend the nation.
Today, those duties have been taken on by the United States armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines), and additionally by such agencies as the National Guard and local law enforcement.
So the Second Amendment refers only to those citizens who are currently issued firearms and acting under the regulation of governmental authority.
So, We the People can enact whatever legislation we deem fit and proper to restrict or regulate the ownership and use of guns and ammunition by said private citizens.
When it comes to bearing arms legislation by the people must remain an open playing field, so that our public places do not become an open firing range.