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The Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is frequently quote as justification that there should be no limits to an individual's right own guns.  As a Congressional candidate, I receive many questionnaires so that various groups might offer their "endorsements" if they like the answers I give.  I did not answer any of the National Rifle Association of America's questions (better known as the NRA), but one of the 28 questions asked is:

"Do you agree that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms and that this right applies to actions by state and local governments just as to actions by the federal government?

            A.    Yes
            B.    No. Please explain"

While to many the answer to this question might seem "obvious" as this right is stated quite prominently in the Constitution, I do not find the answer so "obvious" and would like to discuss this right further.

The amendment itself states:

"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."

The issue of Militia verses Individual was pretty much settled many decades ago by the Supreme Court generally in favor of the individual.  However, my focus is on the fact that the Amendment specifically talks about the right "to keep and bear Arms", not the right "to keep and bear Guns".  

As an extreme example, if you feel there were not limits to this right, would you support my "right" to keep and bear Thermonuclear Arms?  While there may be international treaties concerning such things, I do not believe international treaties supersede the Constitution for internal matters.  And which citizens would be allowed to learn to use these "toys"?  Do you want little Tommy down the street to learn how to use them? 

Yes I have deliberately chosen an extreme example, but the questions continue as you move down the Arms chain of lethalness.   Who do you want to keep EMP generators?  Drones with air to ground missiles?  Cannons with a range of 200 miles?  Fully automatic weapons?  Armor piercing bullets?  Semi-automatic weapons?  A concealed handgun?  A pen knife?  A letter opener?  The last couple are not likely of concern to anyone (other than inspectors at the airport).  So the real question is not that there should be limits to the sorts of Arms that an individual should own, keep, or bear, but what the limits should be.  The Second Amendment must be weighed in the light of the other rights outlined and implied in the Constitution such as personal security.

The argument that the writers of the Amendment never imagined many of the weapons system mentioned above (and many more not mentioned).  However, in 1791, when the Bill of Rights were written, the guns were single shot devices that took considerable time to reload.  A well trained soldier might be able to get four shots off a minute from a musket of little accuracy.  The writers of the Amendment also did not imagine automatic weapons, large clips of ammo, or many other personal weapons that we have today.

The central issue is "What should the limits to the right to keep and bear Arms be?"  I believe we have already agreed there is a limit.



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