By Senator Chris McDaniel
Liberals will never tire in attempting to erode the Constitutional rights of gun owners.
Gun-control advocates complain that the founding fathers never intended firearms to go unregulated, invoking arguments made by United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer — a dissenter in the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, a Supreme Court decision which overturned a Washington, D.C. handgun ban.
As part of his dissent in Heller, Breyer argued that Madison only drafted the Second Amendment because some feared that Congress would call up the state militias and nationalize them. Madison only proposed the amendment, he maintained, to appease skeptics and to “get this document ratified.”
Nevertheless, in a well-reasoned opinion drafted by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Heller majority expressly held that adult citizens, each of us individually, enjoy the right to keep and bear arms. In so doing, it concluded decades of debate as to whether the Second Amendment protects the rights of all individuals (the individual rights theory) or only those who are members of a militia (the collective rights theory).
Two years later in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court struck down Chicago’s ban on the private ownership of handguns, finding that the right to possess a handgun for self-defense is “fundamental from an American perspective and applies equally to the federal government and the states.” The Court likewise recognized that the “central component” of the Second Amendment is individual self-defense, noting that “self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present.”
Clearly, controlling precedent repudiates Justice Breyer’s legal guesswork, while strengthening the rights of gun owners.
The Second Amendment’s language is not perplexing: “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.”
And yet, activists propose that the addition of the amendment’s prefatory clause qualifies the rest of the wording by placing a limitation on the people’s right to bear arms. Such an argument, however, ignores the fact that the Amendment was designed to guarantee, not impart, the unalienable right of individuals to keep and bear arms.
Gun control proponents likewise fail to consider the textual certainties of Constitutional construction. In all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention “the people,” the phrase refers to all members of the political community, not merely an unspecified segment or collective.
Although the Second Amendment speaks to the historical need for a militia, its plain language demonstrates the function of the prefatory clause was not to qualify the right, but instead to show why it must be protected. Recognizing this fact, the Court has held that the prefatory clause serves to clarify the operative clause, but neither limits nor expands its scope.
Contrary interpretations make little sense. Why would the Constitution’s drafters place a collective right into the middle of the noblest listing of individual rights ever recognized?
Not only do the Court’s recent decisions benefit from textual support, but there is also no evidence from early common law that the right was intended to apply solely to active militia members. To the contrary, historical evidence demonstrates the founders’ unyielding dedication to an armed citizenry.
In words and deeds, the Constitution’s contemporaries recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right essential to liberty.
But times have changed, regrettably; and there will be continued demands from the left to curtail our rights, however incremental.
It is our responsibility to protect the Second Amendment, reminding bureaucrats that the government must not attempt to circumvent our rights with excessive firearm regulatory schemes.