Letter: Orlando and the Second Amendment
Let us look back: In 1789, a group of farmers and business owners said that all Americans had the right to own (as in “bear”) “arms” to include: predator drones with Hellfire missiles, F-15 fighter planes, M-1 Abrams tanks, 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, rocket launchers, mortars, AT-4 shoulder-fired rocket launchers, .50-caliber machine guns and assorted hand grenades. Oh, and I almost forgot — the AR-15 automatic assault rifle. Of course they did not.
These gentlemen, many of them slaveholders, were in the process of forming a strong federal government to create a new country called the United States of America. They wrote: “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.”
When they wrote “State,” they were speaking of one of the 13 new states. A “Militia” was a military force that was maintained by an individual state, like our National Guard today. The first job of these militias was to provide security to the slave owners. The militias made the rounds of the plantations and monitored the slave population. Slaves occasionally rose up against their owners and often tried to escape their bondage. The slaveholding states were also very concerned about the beginnings of resistance to the slave trade and practice. The new federal government was being granted control, when needed, over these individual state militias. This led to the “three-fifths compromise” as a way of securing the ratification of the new Constitution. By “the people,” the writers meant the collective people of any given state, so that they may have “a well regulated Militia” — not any kind of militia, but one that was “well regulated.”
The authors of these founding documents were exacting in their choice of words. If the desire was to write a guarantee or “right” of all individuals to own guns, they could easily have done so. Instead, they wrote about “Militias.” The ownership of guns by individuals was never a concern; it was a given.
Having said all this, what might have been the reaction of the signers of the Constitution to the Orlando killings? Might they follow the words of Justice Antonin Scalia to enact “presumptively lawful regulatory measures”?
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