“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.”
A simple statement, right? Probably the simplest, most straightforward piece of legislation ever written, and clearly the most revered by a large percentage of the American population. But let’s think about it for a minute. Do we really believe it? Is it true that our right to bear arms has not been, or should not be infringed?
For those who take the amendment literally, it is necessary, first of all, to define the meaning of “arms”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, arms is simply defined as “instruments of offense used in war; weapons”. So what all does that include? Nearly everything imaginable has been used by humans as a weapon, but typically we refer to weapons used by police and military which include everything from pistols and rifles to armored tanks, cannons, fighter and bomber aircraft, bombs, aircraft carriers, missiles of all kinds, and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (among other things).
Now that we recognize the word “arms” includes a whole lot of weapons, let’s return to the question of whether our right to bear arms has been, or should not be infringed. Should we allow civilians to own and manufacturers to sell nuclear weapons to the public? (I’m sure there’s at least one person who would sign up to that, but I truly believe the vast majority of the public would be appalled at the idea.) In fact, manufacturers are not permitted to sell nuclear weapons to the public and civilians are not permitted to keep and bear them. So our right to keep and bear arms has already been infringed.
Once you cross the line and infringe on the right to bear arms at some point, you must then justify at what point you draw the line on which weapons you permit civilians to keep and bear. Should we permit very wealthy people to purchase B-52 bombers and fly them around loaded with bombs?1 Ok, so we say no to B-52 bombers. How about M-1 Abrams tanks? No? How about anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles? No? ICBM’s? No? 155mm Howitzer cannons? Yes? No? Where do we draw the line?
The constitution has guaranteed us the right to keep and bear arms, but there are lots of kinds of arms that civilians are not permitted to keep and bear, so clearly that right has been infringed upon. The logic for infringing upon that right is that the danger to the public of civilians keeping and bearing such weapons outweighs the benefit resulting therefrom.2 Given that, what about military grade assault rifles? Does the danger to the public from civilian possession and usage of assault rifles outweigh the benefit of their possession and usage?
Personally, I see little benefit from the possession and usage of military assault rifles by civilians, and the danger they present to the public has been painfully obvious in the past few years. Until someone proves to me that the public benefits from civilian possession and usage of assault rifles and that said benefit outweighs the danger, I will draw the line where those weapons are banned to civilians.
It’s time for the wannabe soldiers to grow up and put their toys away or enlist in the armed forces where they can exercise their right to use dangerous weapons under adult supervision. It’s also time for Congress to own up to it’s responsibility to provide legislation that protects the public instead of the profits of the arms manufacturers.
1You say these arguments are absurd and I admit they are extreme, but it’s useful to examine what happens in extreme cases and then back off to the point where you are at the present because it enables you to see your current situation in the context of a larger picture.
2Bear in mind, some states even ban the possession and use of firecrackers.