Gun rights activists will likely start pulling their hair out after hearing the changes that former justice John Paul Stevens proposes to the Second Amendment. Stevens has released a new book where he calls for six new amendments to be made to the Constitution that he believes will magically correct many of America’s problems. As is typically the case with Progressives, many of the changes Stevens calls for deal with taking rights away from the individual and handing them over to the collective.
For those who might be a bit rusty when it comes to the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment states plainly that the people of the United States have the right to own firearms and that the government has no power or authority to take that right away. Where things get a bit sticky, at least according to Progressives, is the preamble to the amendment which discusses militias.
Before taking a look at the changes John Paul Stevens proposes for the Second Amendment, some clarity of the meaning of the text is in order. Many people wrongly interpret the phrase, “a well regulated Militia,” to mean that only individuals who are serving as a part of a state militia group can own firearms. When looking at the text, and interpreting it in light of the context it was written in, it becomes clear that the militia being referred to here is the people of the United States, not a government regulated military force.
During the time period when the Constitution was being written, people feared the nation having a standing army. The colonist’s experience with standing armies in peace time was not a positive one, as most soldiers would spend their down time oppressing the citizenry. Since the country had no military presence or police, it was imperative that citizens have the right to own firearms for protection and defense. If trouble arose, all able-bodied men would be quickly organized into a militia, since almost all of them would be armed.
The federal law defines the militia in the United States to include all able-bodied males from ages 17 to 45 and members of the National Guard up to age 64. The law excludes individuals who have no intention of becoming a citizen or an active member of the military. In other words, every able-bodied man of a certain age that is not already in the military is in the militia. These individuals cannot carry out the duties of being a militia if they do not have the right to bear arms. The people are the militia, and the militia has the right to own a gun for national defense purposes and protection.
The phrase “well regulated” does not mean that there needs to be legislation or rules for how the militia is to function or what type of firearms they can own. Once again, it is beneficial to understand the definition of the phrase in its proper context to ascertain its meaning. In short, the phrase means “well trained.” It means disciplined. These individuals needed to know how to properly use their weapons, not have the size of their magazine clip regulated by a bloated government.
One final point to note is that if you change the meaning of the word “people” here in the Second Amendment, should you not also change its meaning elsewhere in the Constitution? What kind of effect would that kind of change have on the rest of the Bill of Rights and the liberties it protects?
John Paul Stevens has decided that the Second Amendment should have five words added to it that make it necessary for a person to be serving currently in a state militia in order to be protected under the Second Amendment. The reason Stevens wants to make this particular change is so that Congress will stop arguing about whether or not the government has the power to regulate gun control and do what they think is best for the public. What he is saying is that since the government has disbanded state militias, no one is included in the Second Amendment, meaning the government has unlimited power and ability to place any restrictions it wants on gun ownership or how guns are used.
Again, the problem here is that the government does not understand or recognize the true definition of the militia as being all the citizens of the United States that are not currently military and are of age to own a firearm. A careful examination of history clearly demonstrates that the people of the United States have the right to own guns for defense of liberty and protecting their own lives.
Stevens is a Progressive who has pipe dreams of creating a Utopian society by stripping people of their individual rights in the name of the “greater good.” The problem is that men are fallible, imperfect, and extremely flawed. As long as these inherent flaws exist in human beings, no amount of legislation will ever truly make things 100 percent fair and balanced. John Paul Stevens and the proposed changes he wants to make to the Second Amendment will not make the streets safer, it will only make the nation less free.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell