There Is No Constitutional Right to Bear Arms

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is among the most debated 30 words in American history: “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.” If one reads only the last 14 words of this sentence, it seems to unambiguously affirm the right of citizens to gun ownership. But that’s not what the sentence as a whole states. The 16 words that precede them limits such ownership to a single purpose, namely participation in a “well regulated Militia.” This phrase, subtended by its intended purpose, means participation in a state-authorized force for the protection and preservation of the Commonwealth. In plain English (and this is about as plain as you can get), Americans may own guns to use for service in a militia; that is, a body of armed men defending the security and integrity of each of the several states of the Union. It did not mean a federal land force, for which the appropriate term was “army.” There was no such force in existence when the Constitution was ratified in 1787, the army of the Revolutionary War having been disbanded. The First Article of the Constitution envisioned such a force, and a navy to go with it, but left its provision and support to Congress. This might include the use of state militias to enforce federal laws and to “suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions,” but only under command of […]

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