The Right to Bear Arms?

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“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.”–Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

My former sister-in-law was born in Mexico and educated in her home country.  She once told me that when she moved to the US she was struck by the limited knowledge base of our citizens.  Most people she met had were unschooled about world geography and the basic tenets of government compared with the in-depth education she received.

I am proud to be an educator.  I have given the better part of my life to helping others understand our world and how it works.  I have come to the realization that our American system of education has left woeful gaps in the knowledge banks of our citizens. World geography and history are but two examples.  Knowledge of our own government workings is a third area in which we educators have dropped the ball, in my opinion.

Take the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, for example.  If you ask the common American, you might come to understand that we are given free reign to possess whatever form of arms we choose and that this right “shall not be infringed.”  This perspective takes the Second Amendment and cuts it in half, removing the basis for its existence.

If you look carefully, you will see that the beginning of the sentence is a phrase,  “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…

In those early years of the founding of our country, the Militia was a group of citizens who came together to defend the country.  If a foreign invader threatened the country,  or in case of the wish to combat resistance from native peoples on what was then perceived as “American soil,”  or to combat a king who rose to reclaim what was a newly liberated country, citizens were called to serve the needs of the country as needed, but they were trained and organized by the government.  Well regulated.  A Militia.

The amendment was created to provide safety for Americans.

Remember that these were times that are not like our own.  People required guns for their livelihood.  They killed animals for food.  Many people chose to live in what they perceived as “uncharted” lands.  The amendment did not seem to address private ownership so much as to lay out a plan for defense of the country.  To keep us safe.

As a student of history, one can see that people of the time assumed that guns for private ownership and use were in the same category as knives used for cutting prey and food.

We no longer have private soldiers.  We have no use for guns in most of our daily lives.  The amendment is an “anachronism, ” something that no longer is relevant to our current times.  It does require adaptation and increased understanding for today’s world,

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment allowed individuals to own guns, an attempt to clarify a muddy concept.

Herein lies the puzzle.  Questions abound.

Does this Supreme Court ruling change the amendment entirely?  Are guns no longer a function of community safety? What kinds of guns did our “founding fathers” intend people to hold?  What is the definition of a gun?

And the big question remains:  Where does your freedom to own a gun intersect with my child’s freedom to attend school, or my ability to shop, without fear?

As I write this question, I can feel the power of the sentence.  To form an authentic reaction to the sentence one needs to step aside from one’s perspective.

Freedom.  Safety.

What does freedom mean in today’s world?  And how do we defend safety for all of those who live among our borders?

My vote would be to first protect those among us who cannot protect themselves, first of all.


One thought on “The Right to Bear Arms?

  1. Thanks for ‘unpacking’ this, even though it raises some shame within me that I never actually read and considered the historical context of this amendment… The entire issue of guns in our country is all the more complex due to murky values polluting and manipulating the consciousness of our population.


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