By Harvey Wasserman
The Second Amendment does NOT guarantee the right of any and all citizens to own any and all kinds of guns.
It DEMANDS, in the name of national security, that we regulate it.
NEVER let assertions of the so-called "sanctity" of the 2d Amendment bully you into thinking it guarantees unregulated weapon ownership.
It does NOT.
Contrary to the propaganda perpetrated by the gun lobby, the 2d Amendment is the most heavily modified, curbed, explained, complex and contradictory of all the first ten Amendments.
The slaughter of small children along with teachers, a principle and so many other innocents was the furthest thing from James Madison's mind when he wrote the Bill of Rights.
He compiled it from a wide range of documents, including the Bills of Rights of Virginia (co-written with Thomas Jefferson) and other states to pacify the new nation's grassroots abhorrence of a strong federal government. If our basic rights were not clearly and explicitly guaranteed, Americans were ready to rise up for a second revolution.
The First Amendment, the greatest of them all, guaranteed our basic intellectual freedoms. The 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th set the foundations (and limitations) of our criminal justice system. The 7th had to do with the civil courts. The 9th and 10th guaranteed a range of rights to the states and the people.
The 3d had to do with quartering troops.
But the 2d was politically complex. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has argued that Madison's real intent was not to guarantee all individuals a right to gun ownership, but to assure the states that the federal government would not disband their militias.
Thus it's the only Amendment that comes with an apologia, a rationale:
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state....
The First Amendment bluntly asserts our natural right to freedom of and from religion, and to democratic dialog and belief.
But the Second is compelled to say why. And it starts with a monumental hyphenation: WELL-REGULATED.
Why? Because to be of any value to a free state, a militia---a citizen army---must be organized. It can't be a bunch of free-lancers running around with uncontrolled weapons, killing whomever they please.
And what's the goal?
SECURITY, as explicitly as Madison could make it.
That means safe not only from foreign invaders, but from unconstrained gun bearers killing small children, theater-goers, presidents, civil rights leaders, rock stars, random bystanders and whomever else they feel like with every whim.
Now we have once again come to know that too many of those within our midst, bearing weapons without constraint, pose the greatest threat of all to the security of our free state.
If we are INSECURE in the belief that we can send our children to an elementary school and not have them killed, then we are SECURE in absolutely nothing.
Guns kill people, and guns in the hands of crazy people kill children....and so many others....and we have seen the reality of this far too often not to act.
It has become clearly "necessary to the security of a free state" that the right to bear arms must be "well-regulated," as in an organized militia.
As a nation, society and species, how many more times do we have to be shown that we are not yet highly enough evolved to allow guns in the hands of anyone who wants them?
But what about:
The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
It comes, as noted, heavily pre-modified.
AND, it does NOT say "all people" or "any person" or "all citizens" or "any American" has the unrestricted right to own firearms.
It says THE people.
Attorney James Madison, revolutionary lawyer, visionary and genius, was nothing if not precise with his language. His Bill of Rights is as great a literary and legal masterwork as has ever been written.
Madison knew exactly what he said: THE people.
That does NOT mean every individual. It means THE PEOPLE AS A WHOLE.
It is US, as a community, as THE people, that has the right to bear arms. Even to maintain militias.
But we, as a sane society, have the right---the RESPONSIBILITY---to well-regulate the ownership of guns.
To those who would say we need them to protect ourselves against government intrusion, we must respond by doing the obvious:
CEASE allowing this government to be an insanely weaponized threat to our personal security, and to that of so many others around the world.
A free state is not secured by an armed-to-the-teeth populace holding at bay an armed-beyond-belief government.
If you worry about the overbearing power of our own government, then stop it from spending more on war than rest of the world combined.
Since the Bill of Rights was ratified December 15, 1791, our libraries have rightly filled with legal opinions, court briefs, pleadings, arguments, speeches, impassioned tomes epithet-filled accusations and so much more.
As per the First Amendment, we all have a natural, welcome right to our opinions.
But we have a DUTY to secure a free state. And that starts with protecting our children.
As a nation, we are largely isolated in our lack of gun regulation. It is done throughout the world in civilized nations at least as free as ours.
It's not perfect. But it's done, in countries thus far more secure from random, senseless gun violence than ours.
We cannot afford to let yet another horrific slaughter go by unanswered.
That means slashing the power of the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby.
That means GUN REGULATION. In whatever sustainable form will stop this nightmare from repeating itself over and over and over again.
No more shrugging our shoulders and saying "no, we can't."
National security, the law, the Constitution, the Second Amendment, common sense, parental responsibility, the need to survive...they are all on our side.
We can win this. These children must not have died in vain. This corner must be turned.