What The Second Amendment Really Says……At Least it Once Did
© 2015 John C. Merino
You remember “Joe the Plumber” confronting then candidate Barak Obama during his first presidential run. Pictures of “Joe” pointing his figure in Obama’s face… talking about his second amendment rights as if to lecture a candidate who taught constitutional law at Harvard, about the topic.
Not long ago, after the shooting near Santa Barbara, California, “Joe” posted an open letter to the victims’ families. In part it read, “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights”
Now there’s the unfortunate logic that permeates the gun debate in America. Outside of a woman’s right to choose an abortion, no other topic infuriates people more………..regardless of the side of the question you might be on.
Let’s look at the history of the Second Amendment:
Absolutely and definitively, the framers were focused on “a well regulated militia”. In today’s terms, it could be extrapolated to mean, the National Guard. Period.
When the second amendment was originally written, James Madison’s notebooks clearly indicate the focus was about militias………. but in those days, every adult white male was required to be in the militia, and they were required to own a gun and bring it from home.
The whole question was about an individual’s rights to fulfill a prescribed duty of serving in the militia. How could a man so serve, if they didn’t own a gun?
So the question of individual rights has arguments on both sides. If defined by the gun control advocates, the original intent referred only to militias. As defined by the pro-gun lobby, individuals were given their right to own weapons in the same second amendment.
In 2008 the Supreme Court… in the case of the “District of Columbia v. Heller” determined that the second amendment does in fact guarantee individual rights to bear arms…..though lower court judges and scholars who’ve debated the 27 word amendment for decades have typically arrived at the opposite conclusion.
Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, based the decision on the theory of “originalism” which is the concept that any constitutional question should be based on the original intent of the authors.
In this case, he stretched quite a bit, especially given the framers notes regarding the subject… written during debates about the document. A well trained Militia was all that was debated………not an individual’s rights…………..though of course it was a different time and in order to simply put food on the table, most families had to hunt. There were no other options…..and it seems back then, no crazies looking to commit mass murder either.
Now I’m a legal gun owner. I’ve had my carry permit for 35 years, since serving as Police Commissioner of Lewiston, N.Y.
I enjoy target shooting…..appreciate the value of the protection guns bring to citizens……and the skill it takes to actually hit the target to begin with.
I’ve plenty of close friends who hunt. I don’t, but I like the Venison steaks they bring me during hunting season, so owning guns is not my sticking point.
What does bother me, however, is the intransigent posture of the NRA.
What’s wrong with a national background check system, a waiting period and the security of knowing that the person looking to buy a gun isn’t simply crazy, a domestic abuser, a felon or worse… someone whose mind is set on causing harm and needs a weapon to do it “their way”.
Logic and the last decade of increasing mass shootings should tell us that knowing who’s looking to secure gun ownership must be……well……NORMAL……..whatever that is.
…and how else do we insure that, without national background checks and a relatively short waiting period? We can’t.
This isn’t a constitutional question. It is rather, a question of humanity and common sense.
It is critical that our elected officials stop pandering to the NRA. I’m tired of hearing that the problem is one of mental illness and that’s where we must focus our resources and efforts. Well, of course it is. There’s no denying it……only whackos commit unconscionable acts of violence.
……yet statically it is FACT that states with the strictest permit processes including thorough background checks and a waiting period, have the least deaths from gun violence.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that there are still places in this country where you can walk in to a gun show, buy a weapon and be asked……………well…………nothing.
Plunk down your cash, buy a weapon and ammunition and walk out the door.
A national background check and waiting period is the least we can offer the thousands of victims’ families.
Yes, I know………..criminals will still find a way to get their hands on guns. It happens every day…….but if a national background check system prevents just one crazy from obtaining a weapon, that potentially saves a life……..
………and isn’t one life worth a little patience.
I’m John Merino and this is American Chronicles.
American Chronicles is a bi-weekly locally produced feature on WRFA written and produced by retired Gebbie Foundation CEO, John C. Merino. Currently, John is an Adjunct Professor of Micro-Economics, Organizational Management, and 20th Century World History at Mercyhurst University. American Chronicles airs twice monthly, Friday mornings at 7:15 and Friday Afternoons at 4:35. American Chronicles features original stories (partly fact and partly fiction), commentary on local, state , national, world conditions and more.
Find past episodes at www.wrfalp.com/tag/american-chronicles/