SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 14, 2013

Letter: Parsing the Second Amendment


The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

This is in reference to Barbara Anderson’s Jan. 3 column (“Overreaching government still a concern”). I personally believe it is rational to own guns for specific reasons (hunting, target practice, etc.) but I believe high-powered, high-fire- capacity weapons have no place in a civilized society for personal use. Therefore, I offer the following regarding the Second Amendment. Please note Ms. Anderson focuses only on part of the amendment, i.e., “... the right ... to bear arms” and consequently invalidates her entire argument.

Preface: Any statement must be read in its entirety. No words can be taken out of context to correctly understand their meaning within the statement. The environment in which the statement is made, written and constructed must be acknowledged and understood so the entire statement can be interpreted/understood within this environment.

Subject: The Second Amendment to the Constitution: “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.” From this statement, what is the reason to allow people to keep and bear arms? Answer: to maintain a well-regulated militia. Why? Answer: to protect the security of a free state. And how to do this? Answer: through a well-regulated militia.

Analysis: A militia is a body of individuals, organized into a functioning unit and subject to the laws under which it was formed. This body, acting together for purposes of the Second Amendment, is formed to protect a particular matter, i.e., the security of a free state. The individual was expected to provide his own weapon in 1775 and perhaps in 1791, when the amendments were ratified to become the law of the land. It can very reasonably be assumed from the Second Amendment, read in its entirety, that individual gun ownership was for the purpose of participating in the militia (in so far as this particular amendment was concerned). Nowhere do I read, for hunting, for target practice, for self-defense, for killing an intruder, etc. The Second Amendment says only to support a well-regulated militia. And, please note, a well-regulated one. Organization, command structure, rules, training, all these are part of a well-regulated body. It does not say a well-regulated individual.

We should also remember that there was a great fear among the people and politicians against a standing army. The Continental Army was essentially disbanded immediately after the peace treaty of 1783 was ratified and Gen. Washington resigned his commission. The states had to rely on their own militias to protect them against raids on their borders and to keep order among the populace (think Shays’ Rebellion). Is the National Guard of today the militia of the 1780s?

Unfortunately, Ms. Anderson chose to emphasize only those words which support her position (not an unusual tactic).

Walter Haug

Marblehead