U.S. Gun Control and the Second Amendment: Who Has The Right “To Keep And Bear Arms”?

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 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.”

For someone trained to interpret the law logically and based on principles of reason, it is puzzling that the conservative majority of the Supreme Court reached the decision in 2008 that “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia,”

And we are compelled to agree with the dissenting opinion of Justice John Paul Stevens that the majority opinion constituted “a strained and unpersuasive reading” of the Second Amendment.

The two parts of the Second Amendment are not independent assertions brought together by accident in the same sentence.  The prefatory part of the Second Amendment __ “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,__” clearly forms the context and the framework within which the second part is to be understood.

A well-regulated militia at the time of the enactment of the Second Amendment obviously meant a citizen-based defense force to protect the newly-independent United States from the threat of invasion by the British colonial forces. 

In the context of nearly two-and a half centuries of change and since the United States “no longer uses horses and bayonets” to defend its national sovereignty (to borrow a famous phrase), it also does not use the “arms” kept by civilians to defend itself.

So to read the Second Amendment in its modern context, only the U.S. military and the National Guard and those whose duties expose them to danger, such as police officers and border guards, must have the right to bear arms, when on duty. Some provisions, however, can be made for bona fide farmers and ranchers enabling them to own registered, medium-caliber shotguns.

Handing in the Weapons held by US citizens

Of course with some 300 million guns purportedly in the hands of U.S. citizens, there is no suggestion here of removing these arms without fair and equitable compensation. Clearly the vast majority of citizens possessing the arms have purchased them lawfully.  They could be required to hand them in to appropriate authorities within a reasonable time (for example, six to twelve months) and receive from a central assessing authority a certificate of value based on the full current market value of the arms thus handed in. In order not to create a complicated bureaucracy, these “certificates of value” can then be filed along with income tax returns, and the full value of each certificate deducted from the certificate holder’s taxes.  Given the enormous cost of such compensation, these tax deductions can be spread over a three- or five-year period. For those whose low income does not require them to pay any taxes, a cheque for the full value of the arms handed in could be mailed to the owners.

The NRA’s argument that weapons in the hands of “good guys” assure security is both disingenuous and misinformed. Human personality is not carved in stone and the “good guys” do not always remain “good.”  Some perfectly law-abiding citizens do break down under pressures of life and do commit desperate acts.  Much of the “crimes of passion” committed during domestic disputes are usually committed by “good guys” who have faltered under stress.

Clearly it is the easy availability of guns that is the cause of the firearms-related tragedies we have been observing throughout the United States__ the horrific mass murder of a whole cohort of the very young children in Newtown, Connecticut and the latest murder of two young journalists in Virginia, though surpassing all previous tragedies, are only the continuation of the same pattern of violence.

Alan Danesh is a political scientist trained in law.  He lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Comment on Global Research Articles on our Facebook page

Become a Member of Global Research

Articles by: Alan Danesh

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Centre of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post Global Research articles on community internet sites as long the source and copyright are acknowledged together with a hyperlink to the original Global Research article. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: [email protected]