The Killing Field

Every time we hear news of yet another mass shooting in the United States we inevitably also hear that it is the right of every American to own a gun, sanctified by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. But I wonder how many people making that claim have actually read the Second Amendment, because that’s not really what it does.

Fortunately the section is very short and pretty easy to understand. It reads, in its entirety, as follows:

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.

So it’s pretty obvious that the purpose of this law, which should be far more important than the actual wording, is to provide for the “security of a free state”. In the days when the amendment was written the only way this could be readily achieved was by permitting any citizen to bear arms, and to be ready to join with fellow citizens in defence of the community if it was attacked. Obviously that condition no longer applies. The US is the most powerful armed nation in the world and its existential security is no longer dependent on individual citizens bearing arms.

In other words the infamous Second Amendment, which is routinely quoted every time another appalling mass murder takes place in the US, does NOT give an unconditional right for Americans to own guns. It strongly suggests that the right to own a gun is dependent on the necessity of a citizen being part of a well-regulated state…

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