2nd Amendment
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

“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.”

What Happened to the First Part?

The 2nd amendment is one of, if not the most, debated Amendments in the United States Constitution.  Most noteworthy, until the late 1960s, restrictions on the 2nd Amendment were not questioned. The NRA itself, in the early 20th Century, not only favored restrictions they publicly announced them. The completely changed their tune in the late 1960s.  However, the racial tone in the change of the NRAs change in heart is not the focus of this article.

That is really for another time. The Amendment has actually been changed in the past 20 years. Those that fully support the Amendment have erased the first part from the collective memory.

Think about it, when you hear someone (that fully supports this right) quote the Amendment, they only include “… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms…” Every so often they will throw in the last part about infringed when they are trying to make a point. They rarely, if ever, mention the very first part that includes the very important phrase “A well regulated Militia.”  They do this for a very good reason.  It completely destroys their argument that every man and woman in the United States has a right to own a gun.

The simple reason for this is because the 2nd Amendment does not actually give citizens a right to bear arms. The 2nd Amendment guarantees a citizen the right to bear arms if they serve in a militia.  It is right there in the Amendment.

The reason behind the 2nd Amendment

As is a lot of the language in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights we get the 2nd Amendment because of slavery. In the early days of the Republic several states (Virginia specifically) was having an issue keeping slaves in check.  They wanted assurances from the Constitutional Convention that they would have a way to make sure to keep their slaves in check. So, the 2nd Amendment was constructed to ensure that slave states could keep their state militias. It also ensured that those militias could be armed.

This is why, up until the late 1960s, restrictions on gun rights was accepted.  The NRA itself supported laws that would ban sales through it’s magazines (the law did not pass). In the 1920s as gun crime was getting nastier because of machine guns, those guns were simply outlawed.  There were no public fights over whether it should happen.  Think how much simpler and safer we might be if politicians could act in the best interest of the people and not for themselves.

The language is not confusing or vague

Take a look at the Bill of Rights for a moment. One theme that should pop out to you is that the language in the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Amendments is not vague. To put it another way the wording is not confusing.  Every part of the Amendments is laid out in such a way that is easy to understand.  Except, somehow, the 2nd Amendment.

This is the main reason why I do not believe that the Amendment is left vague or confusing.  It is really simple and straightforward.

Let me re-arrange the wording to help out:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms for a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, shall not be infringed.

Does it make more sense now? Despite the NRA’s attempts, the two sections of the Amendment are not meant to be separated. If the Founder’s had wanted the two sections to work independently of each other they would have included a very important word. And. Take a look.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, AND, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

What’s the point?

This is meant to give you another argument when you are facing off against a supporter.  I understand that arguing with logic can feel a bit like banging your head against the wall. However, arguing with facts on your side should make you feel better.  Even if the person you are arguing with does not accept facts as viable arguments.

2 COMMENTS

  1. No, the second amendment was not put in place for slave owners. In short, the second amendment is within the bill of rights, which is the protection of the people’s fundamental rights. A list of rights for individuals… Since, this Republic was built for the people and by the people, it is the people who are to protect it… The constitution has not failed us, “we the people” have failed the constitution. It is important for the people to buy arms, train with arms, and be ready, if ever, a free state or any part of this national community needs a helping hand in defending this nation or part of it and as the constitution is all about respect, it reserves the people’s right to defend themselves with arms. Anyone that is not in the National Guard, is part of the unorganized militia… And the actual reasoning for the second amendment, is that the founders did not want the people of future generations to end up like the American colonists… , …when the British try to overrule them before the revolutionary war began…. The second amendment I find it to be one of the most unique amendments. It has a multipurpose, it is the right of the people to defend themselves with arms, but in a time of need with respect, people should unite and form a militia to defend this nation or any part of it… …

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