The murder rampage in Aurora, Colorado, has caused some to conclude that had more people in the movie theater been armed, perhaps 40 people would have been killed, and that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “applies to ONLY those people who are in the militias.”
I cannot follow the convoluted illogic which concludes that more armed people would have resulted in more deaths. If the same crime had been attempted in Arizona, where law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry weapons concealed or unconcealed, it is likely that one or more armed citizens would have shot the perpetrator before anywhere near 12 people had been killed. Prohibiting the carrying of arms in a location only ensures that someone with a murderous intent will have a risk-free environment in which to commit the crime.
The Second Amendment reads, “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.” The first clause referencing the militia is a subordinate clause. The second clause referencing the people is the main clause. It does NOT state “the right of militia members to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” When the U.S. Constitution references the people, it means the people, not the states or the militia. The inference that Second Amendment rights are limited to militia members is a non sequitur, it does not follow. The first clause refers to the necessity of the people to have the right to keep and bear arms in order that they, the people, could form militias when necessary for their security. The founding fathers were distrustful of standing armies, especially those under the authority of the federal government. It’s true, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison discoursed on this in “The Federalist Papers.” The Second Amendment, and the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, are rights of the people, are not dependent upon any conditions, inferred or otherwise, and were required by the representatives of the citizens of the 13 newly independent states before they would ratify the Constitution.
The Second Amendment does not grant the right to keep and bear arms; it validates the right which had existed for centuries prior in English Common Law, and was enunciated in the English Bill of Rights of 1688. The right has always been recognized as an individual right, applicable to individual citizens.
Despite the unwarranted assertion that membership in a militia is required to keep and bear arms, Title 10, Section 311, of the United States Code states, “The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodies males 17 years of age and under 45 years of age.” In any event, as George Mason wrote at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, “Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.” Tench Coxe wrote, “The militia, are in fact the effective part of the people at large.” Patrick Henry stated “The great object is that every man be armed ... Everyone who is able may have a gun.” Thomas Jefferson wrote “No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” So, the founding fathers have us all covered: We all have the individual right to keep and bear arms, and in addition, we are all members of the Militia.
No misunderstanding of the Second Amendment was exhibited until the 20th Century, when people who were too timid or craven to defend their lives and liberties themselves, and who would rather hire someone else to do it for them, felt that since they did now want a firearm, no one else should have one.
Arthur C. Peterson