Gun Crazy.


After this latest gun tragedy in the United States there will be more calls for gun law reform in the U.S. The gun lobby will once again remind us that the right to bear arms is protected in the constitution.

The problem is the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the constitution and specifically the phrase “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. On the face of it, it looks like all American citizens have the right to carry a gun for personal protection, but as with all things you have to look at the context.

The quote, “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is only the second half of the sentence. The full sentence is “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”. It’s not just the context of the document but also the context of when it was written which explains, “A well regulated Militia”.

The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791. It was a different time, under different circumstances, with very different weapons. Success in the Revolutionary War had helped America’s Founding Fathers realise the need for firearms. A far-away government imposed taxes without representation. Armed citizens had fought for the right to form their own government. It is more than likely that they wanted guns to be available in case they needed to do that again. As well as that, America was still expanding. There were territorial disputes with the native people whose land and resources they were claiming. When those people objected violently, groups of armed men could repel them with force and keep their communities safe.

The most hi-tech weapon of the day was the musket. Someone who knew what they were doing could take a single wildly inaccurate shot and then rummage around with a ram-rod and a powder bag for over a minute before being able to shoot again. The only way multiple shots could be fired would be with multiple muskets, and multiple well disciplined shooters, in other words a “well regulated Militia”. Muskets WERE used for personal protection but when people did die from these weapons, it was often because of lead poisoning or infection.

The Second Amendment is out of date. There’s no way America’s Founding Fathers could have imagined the weapon technology of today. Unless you specify that the “arms” referred to in the Second Amendment are Revolutionary War-era muskets, you’re leaving the interpretation wide open.

The Second Amendment needs a re-write. The NRA and their supporters will say that can’t be done. Hey, it’s an “amendment” the constitution was changed in the first place to PUT IT IN! Another amendment is way overdue!

Craic on!

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