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.
Last week, we looked at what militia and well regulated meant. We also took a look at the prefatory statement in the Second Amendment and what impact it has on the rest of the Amendment.
Follow me over the fold for the definition of arms.
RKBA is a DKos group of second amendment supporters who also have progressive and liberal values. We don't think that being a liberal means one has to be anti-gun. Some of us are extreme in our second amendment views (no licensing, no restrictions on small arms) and some of us are more moderate (licensing, restrictions on small arms.) Moderate or extreme, we hold one common belief: more gun control equals lost elections. We don't want a repeat of 1994. We are an inclusive group: if you see the Second Amendment as safeguarding our right to keep and bear arms individually, then come join us in our conversation. If you are against the right to keep and bear arms, come join our conversation. We look forward to seeing you, as long as you engage in a civil discussion. RKBA stands for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
One of the things that usually pops up in most gun rights/gun control diaries is the ability of normal citizens to own nuclear weapons. (Most of these are a bit older since I stole this from a previous diary. I actually stole a big chunk of this diary from the previous one.)
I jokingly made a comment about how often it occurs and voila! The Voimakas Codicil to Godwin's Law was born:
As the length of a discussion of gun rights with anti-gunners increases, the probability of the hoplophobic asking if the Second Amendment guarantees the individual right to possess a nuclear warhead approaches 1.
Modern definitions of 'arms' according to a few different websites:
- Usually, arms. weapons, esp. firearms.
The founding fathers thought of an expansive second amendment. "Arms" back in the day included cannons, explosives, even ships. Our Navy wasn't much of a navy back then. Privateers ruled the day. They weren't all part and parcel (what group of people truly is?) but Washington1 and Jefferson2, to name only two, were believers of all sorts of weaponry (from bayonets to cannon armed naval vessels) in private citizens' hands. This wasn't tied to just the military. Roger Sherman had this to say about bearing arms during consideration of a militia bill back in 1790:
[C]onceived it to be the privilege of every citizen, and one of his most essential rights, to bear arms, and to resist every attack upon his liberty or property, by whomsoever made. The particular states, like private citizens, have a right to be armed, and to defend, by force of arms, their rights, when invaded.3
There are some people who look at this and say that there's no issue since this defines 'arms' as the Founding Fathers (FF) knew them: black powder rifles, pistols, cannons, and other various firearms. Since the FF could not imagine nuclear weapons, automatic rifles or C4, the Second Amendment doesn't apply to them; it only applies to those black powder weapons I mentioned earlier.
If this logic holds, then free speech/press doesn't apply to the internet or TV, correct? ARPANET wasn't invented until a couple hundred years (roughly) past the 'birth' of the country and TV's not that old.
My reading of the first amendment comes close to my reading of the second amendment: abridging the freedom of speech = [right to keep and bear arms (RKBA)]...shall not be infringed. With the way Washington and Jefferson meant the 2nd amendment, I'm more inclined to think that the limitations we placed on the first are unconstitutional.
On a personal note, I thought that what I was going to find during some basic research for this diary was that arms mean small arms (infantry weapons like pistols, rifles and bayonets.) Boy, was I wrong. Cannons aren't small arms yet were completely legal for civilians to own. On the other hand, there were quite a few things that were legal back in the 18th century that weren't Constitutionally protected. Others have argued the point that if the Founders meant to have cannon and explosives protected, they would've used the word ordinance [sic] as well. This viewpoint normally proposes that all small arms (shoulder and personal firearms) are included while explosives, crew mounted weapons, and vehicles (jets, tanks, etc) are not.
Where do you think we should go from here? How do we apply yesterday's words to today's society? Is our Constitution a living document that means different things in different times? Or do the words mean what the Founding Fathers meant and any changes in society should be reflected by the amending of the Constitution?
Originally, white land owning men ruled the country. It took multiple amendments to the Constitution to get this to change. Do we need an amendment now to specify what the second amendment covers or to clarify what it means? I know someone will suggest a repeal of the 2nd amendment completely with a proposed amendment 28 and if it passes, that'll be the law of the land. I don't think that's likely to happen, but I've been wrong before. I also think that any attempt to repeal the Second Amendment will result in a Republican takeover of Congress (at least the House) and possibly the White House. Americans love their guns.
1 Letter from George Washington to William Livingston, January 24, 1777, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor. Vol. 07.
2 Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Short (March 28, 1823). Thomas Jefferson Papers. Transcribed and edited by Gerard W. Gawalt, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
3 14 Debates in the House of Representatives, ed. Linda Grand De Pauw. (Balt., Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1972), 92-3.