Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keep and Bear

The Supreme Court's ruling that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects individual citizens from blanket firearms bans seems to have placed half the nation into an uproar. The gun-rights crowd is hailing it as a great day for liberty, anti-handgun crusaders are pronouncing dire warnings of blood in the streets and the Europeans are convinced that we're all violent sociopaths.

“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 Second Amendment to the Constitution
A lot has been made of the "well regulated Militia" clause, in holding that the "people" referred to in the amendment are actually collectives - namely the states and the nation as a whole. In light of American history, however, this seems odd. Up until the Civil War, and perhaps beyond then, it wasn't uncommon for men to enlist in the army, or their state's militia, with their own weapons - a practice that the writers of the constitution likely supposed that the nation would continue to rely on. The argument that the United States no longer needs to rely upon individuals responding to call-ups with their own weapons is a very valid one.

But I suspect that the answer to that is to amend the Constitution again, rather than creating an expiration clause where one doesn't otherwise exist.

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