An Individual Right
In the previous post we dispelled the idea that “the militia” referred to in the Second Amendment means a “select militia,” such as today’s National Guard. Instead the “general militia” that the Constitutional framers referenced meant all citizens capable of bearing arms for defense.
Although both sides of the current gun debate could probably squabble over the definition of “the militia” indefinitely, the Founding Fathers left little doubt as to what they meant. It is clear that the right they referred to was an individual right. The following quotes should further dispel any doubts:
Patrick Henry: “The great object is that every man be armed… Every one who is able may have a gun.”
Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms within his own lands.”
Zachariah Johnston: “The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them…”
Samual Adams: “The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress […] to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”
James Madison: The Constitution preserves “the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation… [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
Tench Coxe: “[T]he people are confirmed by the next article (of amendment) in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”
Akhil Reed Amar (Modern Yale Law School Professor): “The ultimate right to keep and bear arms belongs to ‘the people’, not the ‘states.’ As the language of the Tenth Amendment shows, these two are of course not identical and when the Constitution means ‘states,’ it says so.” [See below.]
The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” [Emphasis added.] The people and the States are two separate entities. The United States is a third.
Its ridiculous to think that “the people” referred to in the Second Amendment actually means “the States.” It is the same “the people” who have the right to peaceably assemble under the First Amendment. It is the same “the people” whose “right […] to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” is guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment. If we apply the gun-prohibitionists’ “the people means the States” logic to the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, it becomes clear how absurd their logic is.
All this led the U.S. Supreme Court to conclude in the 2008 landmark Heller decision: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”