Most of the scholarship on the Second Amendment revolves around the question of whether the framers included it to enshrine and the “individual” or “collective” right to bear arms. It seems to me that the preponderance of the evidence favors an individual right to bear arms. That, of course, is a different issue than whether the Second Amendment prohibits the government from regulating aspects of individual gun ownership.
Even arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia sees a role for regulation in this area. All gun control folks, like myself, are asking for is “sensible regulation” not the banning of guns.
As to the Second Amendment itself, the question of whether it was adopted because the framers thought the people needed to be able to protect themselves from their own government is another matter.
The framers saw standing armies as a threat to liberty. Consequently, they saw the need for something different from a standing army (either federal or state) to ensure the security of the people.
For them the answer to the question of national defense was a people’s army–“a well ordered militia”–that would respond to a call to arms to defend the nation and/or states from aggression. In a sense, the framers were leery of a standing professional military (what we now have) and saw the role of national (“free state”) defense as better carried out by temporary and part-time citizen soldiers.
They did not envision the nation they were in the process of creating as even having a large standing army. The duty of defending the young nation would therefore naturally fall to citizen soldiers. History proved this initial vision “of the well ordered militia” as the chief means of defense to be impractical as the War of 1812 quickly demonstrated.
In summary, Americans have an individual right to bear arms, that right can be regulated to ensure greater public safety and finally the Second Amendment’s major focus was to recognize the “well ordered militia” as the primary means of ensuring federal and state security from aggression and some forms of local social disorder like run away slaves in the south (ironically one of Patrick Henry’s chief concerns) and to ensure that its members had arms with which to respond when called to action.
In modern America, we have largely abandoned the framers aversion to having a standing professional military. In fact, most Americans are proud of those who serve and this nation’s preeminent military status in the world. Regulating guns is not a violation of the Second Amendment. If there is any current violation, one could well argue, ironically and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that it is this modern shift to the maintenance of a large standing professional military that runs counter to, at least, the spirit of the the Second Amendment.
Note: A humorous version of the points made in this post can be found here.
I am not sure that many of those who feel the defense of self versus government or those who deliberately promote the idea that any regulation on gun control will turn the President into a king arguement can understand the nuances or would even care to explore them. I hope this discussion can be founded in arguments based on rationality instead of pundits and vocal antigovernment personas fear mongering.
Sadly I agree. I understand what these people are saying but it completely escapes me how they conclude the President Obama wants himself crowned emperor and how the framers of the Constitution intended that people should be armed to protect themselves from the government. This point of view is just not supported by the historical record. I suppose I understand how people who lack education in American History and Government can fall for the fear mongering and distortions of these erstwhile pundits: they don’t know any better. But, I am discovering, that there is another group that definitely should know better but simply appear not to and who engage in what I can only describe as vile demagoguery.