Understanding the Second Amendment

Although most Americans have “heard” of the 2nd Amendment, they do not fully understand it, and are unable to articulate it to others. This is not only true of the general public, it is true of a goodly portion of gun owners. It is embarrassing when someone claims to support the 2nd Amendment merely by stating that they are a gun owner. Mere possession of something in no way yields an understanding of it, much less a meaning of the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Just because you own a firearm means nothing. Just because you have used a firearm a few times in your lifetime means even less. It is a miserable shame when a politician says, “Hey, I'm a gun owner!” as if that suddenly imbues him with any measurable level of knowledge, understanding, or respect. That goes double for someone that says “We do skeet shooting all the time.” It is sad and embarrassing.

One of the most generally likable liberals is Grateful Dead and Batman fan Senator Patrick Leahy (depicted above) of Vermont. Senator Leahy is currently third in the Presidential line of succession, the only elected Democratic Senator in Vermont's history, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Leahy did vote against the Brady Bill and wisely voted against the extension of the Patriot Act, which is anything but patriotic. Senator Leahy is not my senator, of course, and aside from his cameo appearances in several Batman films, I don't see him in action very often. Senator Leahy made the opening remarks in the Congressional Hearing On Gun Violence. Senator Leahy stated, At the outset of this hearing, I note that the Second Amendment is secure and will remain secure and protected.   In two recent cases, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the Second Amendment, like other aspects of our Bill of Rights, secures a fundamental individual right. Americans have the right to self-defense and to have guns in their homes to protect their families. No one can or will take those rights or our guns away.  Second Amendment rights are the foundation on which our discussion rests.  They are not at risk.I had to shake my head in stunned disbelief, for if 2nd Amendment Rights were not at risk, great risk, there would be no purpose to the this congressional hearing in the first place and no room for disagreement. They are at risk, great risk. Mr. Leahy's comments must come as quite a shock to residents of California, New York, and Massachusetts. As third in line for the Presidency of the United States, it would be far more comforting if Chairman Leahy recognized that the residents of these states were United States citizens as well.

The historical context in meaning of the 2nd Amendment is extremely well-covered by the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, Potomac Falls, Virginia, No. 7, June 2002. If you've not read it, please do. I'm including it here for your convenience, under the fair use doctrine of discussion, education, and criticism: Right_to_Bear_Arms.pdf. If you would like to read it online, read it from the source, or order printed copies for distribution, please see .

Note that this Virginia Institute for Public Policy Report, A Primer on the Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms, was written in 2002, well before the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court Cases. It is particularly valuable as it is void of any of the drama-filled quotes, strange rebranding attempts for firearms (“assault weapons”), and thankfully contains no false assurances that the 2nd Amendment is safe, and the author, Nelson Lund, does not claim that he does skeet shooting all the time as part of his credentials.

The Second Amendment, while not losing its core meaning, has evolved. Now that the government can use armed drones against its citizens, eavesdrop and conduct warrantless searches under the guise of the Patriot Act, the Second Amendment no longer has the force of protection against tyranny that it once did. It still retains usefulness when society fails (Detroit Riots, L.A. Riots, Katrina, Hurricane Sandy) and at its core recognizes the Natural Right, the Unalienable Right of Self-Defense.

Defense and protection is the core of the Second Amendment. In the interest of disclosure, yes, of course . . . I have been an avid hunter and recreational shooter all of my life, I perform consulting work for several firearms manufacturers, powder manufacturers, the Discovery Channel, several law enforcement agencies across the United States, have worked on several Federal Court cases, and write for the general public as well. I'm not delusional that my personal love of hunting, recreational shooting, and firearms in general defines the Second Amendment. No hunter, target shooter, or recreational shooter should should think that these activities have anything to do with the fundamentals of the Second Amendment anymore than possessing and reading a sheet of newspaper or a couple of books well defines the 1st Amendment. Can you imagine the preposterousness of claiming to be pro 1st Amendment because you own a couple of magazines or “do book reading all the time?” Or, being a 1st Amendment champion by virtue of merely enjoying conversation, considering talking a favorite hobby, or have a passion for using coloring books at home?

The Second Amendment is little appreciated merely because it is not used on a daily basis by most Americans, in the sense that the automobile is for example. It is used less and less, for gun violence is in steep decline, dropping over 50% in the last twenty years. The majority of gun deaths are not at innocent victims, for the majority of firearm fatalities are suicides. The firearm that cannot be used for suicide must be something like the piece of rope that can not be used for hanging. Nor is the availability of firearms any factor. According to the World Health Organization, the top countries for suicide include Russia at #5, Japan at #14, India at #16 . . . countries where personal firearm ownership is comparatively quite low. The United States comes in at #66, far behind China, Belgium, Poland, and France.

Government need not waste time attacking, taxing, and penalizing regular citizens. Regular citizens with guns perform a great service, using their firearms 2,000,000 a year to prevent or stop crime. Society needs not sensationalize the deranged and disturbed; we simple need to swift and fairly punish those who commit violence. There are a few really stupid people out there. For example, in 2005, there were 283 incidents of morbidly stupid and reckless people that lasered aircraft, according to the FBI. In 2010, according to the FAA, there were 3,592 reported laser incidents. Simply punish those who commit violence and perpetrate senseless acts.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%). We already know precisely where the problem areas are, we merely need to better enforce current laws against those who continue to ignore them. Where the problem resides and the greatest potential for improvement is what was written long ago: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident . . .” Even if you don't subscribe to the self-evident truths of Thomas Jefferson, it isn't hard to understand what has been proved by factual evidence: additional gun laws simply are ineffective. At the same time, we know that more thoughtful security as in the elimination of gun-free zones and Concealed Carry reduces violent crime at an aggressive rate, as does enthusiastic enforcement of the huge body of statues against violent behavior.


Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


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