September 8, 2013

CONFOUNDING CLARITY:

There's no unlimited right to bear arms (Joseph J. Ellis, September 8, 2013, LA Times)

The language of the 2nd Amendment is quite clear: "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." As the minority in the Heller decision argued, and more than a century of judicial precedent at the federal level established, the right to bear arms was not an inherent right of citizenship but rather a right that derived from service in the militia.

The historical context in which these words were crafted clarifies what was in James Madison's mind when he wrote them. In 1787-88, seven of the states that ratified the proposed Constitution did so on the condition that Congress give consideration to adding several amendments if and when it went into effect. These states proposed 124 amendments, none of which mentioned the right to bear arms but several of which mentioned the fear of a standing army.

When Madison sat down to write what became the Bill of Rights in the summer of 1789, those 124 proposed amendments served as the basis for his deliberations. He distilled from them an essence of 12 amendments, subsequently reduced by the states to 10. The 2nd Amendment represented Madison's attempt to respond to the fears of a standing army by assuring that national defense would reside in the states and in militias, not at the federal level in a professional army. The right to bear arms derived from the need to assure that state militia could perform its essential mission.

Posted by at September 8, 2013 9:52 AM
  

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