No doubt, the 27 words of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are some of the most debated in American history. The amendment reads: “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.”
Why the Second Amendment? In the early years, during the development of our nation, the individual states were required to maintain order. To do so they needed a militia. The federal government was left with the obligation to maintain a national army and the individual states to maintain a self-policing force the national army called upon from time to time. That is what the Second Amendment is about. The individual states were to maintain civil order and assist in national times of need.
One of the first uses of a state militia was when President Washington used a state militia to crush the farmers’ Whiskey Rebellion here in western Pennsylvania. The farmers were protesting the taxation of whiskey. Another use of a state militia was the need to be able to put down any rebellions of the slaves.
Gun advocates point to the Second Amendment and claim the “total” right of gun ownership. The authors of the amendment wished to guarantee that a citizen can own a gun when serving in a militia.
Between 1791 and June 26, 2008, the courts held that the Second Amendment only confers a collective right of keeping and bearing arms, which have a relationship to a well-regulated militia. On June 26, 2008, in Heller vs. District of Columbia, the Supreme Court extended the right of gun ownership to an individual right.
It did so by a vote of 5 to 4. With one new justice on the court, Heller vs. D.C. could be reversed.
In my opinion, we need a new amendment that clearly defines gun rights. It should guarantee gun ownership but spell out who can own a gun and what regulations are allowed.