Gun Ownership and the Second Amendment
Over the centuries, the Supreme Court has always ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects the states' militia's rights to bear arms, and that this protection does not extend to individuals. In fact, legal scholars consider the issue "settled law." For this reason, the gun lobby does not fight for its perceived constitutional right to keep and bear arms before the Supreme Court, but in Congress. Interestingly, even interpreting an individual right in the 2nd Amendment presents the gun lobby with some thorny problems, like the right to keep and bear nuclear weapons.
The Second Amendment 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."
Pro-gun advocates claim that this amendment guarantees their individual right to own a gun, and that gun control laws are therefore a violation of their constitutional rights. In fact, the term "violation of our Second Amendment rights" has become a battle cry in gun lobbyist literature, repeated everywhere in their editorials and essays.
However, this raises a fascinating observation. If gun control laws are so obviously a violation of the Second Amendment, then why doesn't the National Rifle Association challenge them on constitutional grounds before the Supreme Court? The answer is that they know they face certain defeat, for reasons we shall explore below. Consequently, the NRA has abandoned all hope in the courts.
Instead, the NRA has chosen to lobby Congress to prevent gun control legislation, and has become in fact one of the most powerful lobbies on Capital Hill. This is a supreme and exquisite irony, given the conservative and libertarian's love of constitutions and hatred of democracy. But, at any rate, the NRA is fighting for its perceived constitutional rights on Capital Hill, by bribing our legislators with millions of dollars in campaign contributions.
The reason is because the Supreme Court -- this nation's final arbiter on the interpretation of the Constitution -- has always ruled that the Second Amendment does not extend the right to keep and bear arms to individuals, but to the well-regulated militias mentioned in the first part of the amendment. Specifically, these are militias that are regulated by the federal and state governments. Article I, Section 8 authorizes Congress:
"To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."
The Founders were passionately opposed to standing peacetime armies -- in fact, Thomas Jefferson listed it as one of...