Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Second Amendment is an Individual Right

As a libertarian (small "l"), I strongly believe in the rights of the Individual. Any attempt to collectivize individuals, and hand over individual rights to a group or government, is highly offensive and morally wrong. The framers of our United States had the same ideas in mind when they wrote our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. From the Declaration:

"...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed... "

The first ten amendments to our constitution are what is known as the "Bill of Rights." Even a cursory reading of these amendments will show that these rights are individual rights. These rights are not given to the people by the government; they are a list of rights, held by individuals, which the government may not infringe upon. The Constitution is clear on the difference between individuals (the People) and government (the State, Several States, or the United States). It is a collectivist view that equates the meaning in the Constitution of "the People" with the government. The term "the People" is used in Amendments I, II, IV, IX, and X. Amendment X reads:

"The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The framers obviously believed that the difference in terms was clear.


The second amendment in particular is absolutely an individual right. It states:

"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."

Many people get hung up on the meaning of the word "Militia." In Presser v. Illinois (1886), Supreme Court Justice William Woods wrote:

"It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States, as well as that of the states; and in view of this prerogative of the general government as well as of its general powers, the States cannot, even laying the constitutional provisions in question out of view, prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms..."


Justice James McReynolds in U.S. v. Miller (1939) wrote:

"...the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense...bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time"


If there were any question whether the second amendment, in Miller, was not an individual right, the court would have ruled that Miller had no standing under the second amendment as an individual, and would have denied him the right to keep any arms.


What has an honest and just government to fear from armed individual citizens? Nothing. Only when government has become corrupt and tyrannical is there any reason to fear an armed citizenry. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist Papers No. 28, writes that armed militias may rise up against the federal government should it become corrupt. The "original right of self-defense [is]...paramount to every positive form of government." As history shows, one of the first steps to tyrannical government is a disarming of its citizens

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