The Second Amendment is clear, obvious, and directly stated
By Douglas Lyon
Mr. Merrill Ring’s epistle in the Courier [“SCOTUS misses the point of the Second Amendment,” May 5] is as misguided as it is ill informed. How can I say that? Well, for starters, in his very first sentence, Mr. Ring misquotes the text of our Second Amendment. Apparently, he couldn’t be bothered actually to look up the exact wording.
The rest of Mr. Ring’s contribution is, to be charitable, convoluted. He refers to the first clause of the Second Amendment as a “preamble,” when in fact it is a ‘prefatory clause,’ a clause which lists examples. Then later on he injects Congress’ creation of a standing army, which is totally irrelevant to this discussion.
But now, for the record, let us review the actual wording of the entire amendment: “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 observant reader will note that this amendment contains two distinct phrases; the first phrase ending at the second comma constitutes that prefatory clause. The phrase which follows the second comma is the actual right being enunciated.
We can determine this by examining the two phrases individually. The first phrase is, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” First of all, this is not even a complete sentence, nor does it describe any specific right or rights. It merely offers context by example.
The second phrase is, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Now this is a complete sentence. It could, in fact, stand on its own, without the prefatory clause, meaning, the prefatory clause is irrelevant to the overall meaning of our Second Amendment. It is this second phrase which very clearly enunciates the right of we the people to keep and bear arms (whether certain people today agree with that right, or not).
Moreover, our founders considered the Second Amendment an expression of one of our numerous natural rights which safeguard us from illegitimate government intrusions, meaning this right comes from God, not from man, that it existed prior to the drafting of our Constitution, continues to exist after its drafting, and was included in our Constitution in order to eliminate any doubt or ambiguity.
But to help illustrate all of the above, let us consider an analogy. Let us pretend we had a sentence in our Constitution which read, “The need for mortgages to be paid, the right of the people to possess checkbooks shall not be infringed.” Would that mean, speaking logically, that the only right to or use for checkbooks is to pay mortgages? No, obviously not. The obvious right guaranteed to the people (in this hypothetical analogy) is, “the right of the people to possess checkbooks shall not be infringed.” That is, we may possess a checkbook for any lawful purpose we wish. The mention of mortgages is merely context by example.
Yes, our Second Amendment really is that clear, obvious, and directly stated.
The problem today is Second Amendment opponents have ulterior motives. None of their litany of (usually) scaremongering arguments against our Constitutional right ever hold water once they are dragged into the sunlight and closely examined. These opponents wish for an all-powerful government with themselves in charge, ruling over a weak, meek, compliant, and subservient people. (To his credit, Mr. Ring did not descend into scaremongering.)
It is also imperative to point out Second Amendment opponents never seek to change it legitimately, via a Constitutional amendment. Rather, they only ever seek to make illegitimate end runs around the process via a court decision or bureaucratic action. Such deceitful tactics subvert our democracy and are not who we are.
Every person who is truly concerned about “gun violence” and “mass shootings” — as opposed to demagoguing the issue — should instead begin a serious investigation of certain social pathologies which have evolved in the United States over the last half century or so.
In conclusion, I have one final observation: if liberals and leftists interpreted the right so very clearly stated in our Second Amendment as they interpret their nowhere-stated “right” to abortion, for example, they would be arguing that every person is required to own a firearm.
Douglas Lyon is a Constitutionalist, a former planning commissioner, one-time City Council candidate, retired pilot, and self-taught historian who has been around Claremont since 1967.