Now that the five Republican candidates for Senator Evan Bayh’s seat have had their say in this week’s debate, it would appear that whoever wins the primary will be a strong Second Amendment supporter. On the other side of the November election will be Representative Brad Ellsworth, Democrat, from the 8th District, who is also a supporter of this most basic right. No matter who wins, Hoosiers can be assured that their junior Senator will advocate for the right for private citizens to bear arms.
So what exactly is this right anyway? Not until December 15, 1791, did this amendment even exist. The revolution against England had ended eight years earlier. The final version of the amendment reads: “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 amendment is often partially quoted and even then, misused to support a position of common gun ownership by anyone and everyone who is legally eligible to do so. Taking into account restrictions against felons, minors, mentally ill, etc., quite a few of us are eligible to own and bear an arm.
But what the amendment says is a sentence, not a phrase. Read in its entirety and kept in context, the right to keep and bear arms is contingent on the need for a free State to maintain a well-regulated militia. In as much that few private gun owners belong to a militia—well regulated or not—one could argue that the right DOES NOT apply to the general masses.
The characteristics of a well-regulated militia have to include a centralized command and control structure, jurisdiction, members, and a common mission. This is not to suggest that such militias do not exist in Indiana, but the membership of such militias are a pittance compared to the number of registered gun owners in the state. The Post-Tribune reports only 27 militia-style groups in the state. By contrast, in 2004, the last year data could be found for, the Indystar.com reported at least 300,000 Hoosiers as having gun permits.
Despite Constitutional interpretation that would support restricting gun ownership, courts have upheld the more liberal interpretation. Sadly, even if gun ownership restrictions were enacted and an attempt was made to disarm Americans, it’s likely that the ones giving up their guns would be the law abiding citizens—not the miscreants of society who view a gun as a tool of the trade for obtaining that for which they are unwilling to work. The unarmed masses would easily fall prey to the criminal element who would undoubtedly continue to shun law and order, owning and using guns to achieve an end.
In 2010, it’s not just a right to own a firearm as interpreted by the Supreme Court, it is a necessity to be armed for ones own protection as well as for the safety of ones home and family. The balance comes from legal and responsible ownership to include registration and safe storage of a weapon. Too often, a firearm in a home has become the means by which a family member or friend is accidentally killed or injured.
Perhaps it’s time for the Second Amendment to be amended to clarify the right and to remove any ambiguity. It would certainly remove the question as a political litmus test and allow our candidates to talk about the issues that are more pressing—like unemployment, property taxes, and medical costs.