Take clear-eyed look at Second Amendment

Friday January 4, 2013

The Second Amendment reads, "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." So far in this discussion involving guns in our culture, I have rarely seen that simple statement laid out in its entirety. Those are the specific words placed in the U.S. Constitution.

At the time of the Founding Fathers, there was not a standing army in the U.S. Each state and village was expected to raise and keep ready, local militias for common defense against various possible enemies. At the time this would include Indians and foreign governments that may have thought about attacking our young country. The men of the village actually had to have a certain type of gun, pay for it themselves, and train with their neighbors. Think of the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord. That was the historical context.

It’s important to consider the probable intent of the Founding Fathers, and a simple reading of the sentence structure assumes that the "prepositional" phrases would define and limit the right to bear arms. I don’t doubt that they also had meant that guns used for hunting for food and for sport were a part of both the economy and the culture in general. They can’t be denied, but should be regulated.

We can also admit that the Founding Fathers left some issues open for future compromise and refinement by succeeding generations. They placed in the Preamble a formula of how they hoped we would address the process of forming a "more perfect union." They also described the thought process of working together with admonitions to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. They expected we would work for the general welfare of all of us.

The right to "bear arms" needs to acknowledge the qualifier phrase about a "well regulated militia." If we take a middle ground; not retreating to the far left or right positions, we might find common ground. Either way, a young man in Connecticut, disturbed as he was, should not have access to such immense firepower. No private person or entity should.

All I ask is that we have the foresight and wisdom of an actual reading of this amendment to look at each of its few parts, with an eye to a "well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State." We need to better define and come to closer agreement on the meaning of these terms as we continue this debate.

I expect the founding fathers hoped for and assumed goodwill on the part of future generations. How we decide these things tells us a lot about who we are as a people. May we have the good sense and perspective to look at this issue more clearly. The sacred "Right to Bear Arms" is intended to assume the "Well-Regulated" part.

We clearly don’t regulate enough, but it looks like we are supposed to. The solution is always someplace in the middle. May we come closer in 2013. Peace!




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