Add gun powder. Load single lead ball. Add more gun powder. Shoot. Repeat. Clearly, a meticulous task for an 18th-century gun owner. However, for the gun owners of today, the simple pull of a trigger not only causes a round to be ejected, but simultaneously loads another round into the gun’s chamber, thus allowing for a much more rapid rate of fire.
Evidently, the firearms that the founding fathers used to rebel against Great Britain have evolved, immensely, into the weapons that we see used by the world’s armed forces today.
Such advancement in technology, and the high rate of gun violence in the United States, begs to raise the question: what did the founding fathers intend when amending the Bill of Rights?
Most of history, if not all, is subject to interpretation. Due to the many different interpretations Americans have of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights is not exempt from further analysis, especially with regards to the second amendment.
Let us, then, interpret history.
During the Revolution, the Continental Army was stretched thin across the nation and, as a result, could not defend every colony against the oppressive British crown. Consequently, minutemen (militia) assumed the roles of “soldiers” at a minute’s notice and defended the colonies wherever the Continental Army could not, or when they needed assistance.
During post-Revolution America, the role of the militia came under question after Shays’ Rebellion—a rebellion in Massachusetts that was suppressed by the local, privately funded militia.
Due to the lack of response as an institution, many officials, including George Washington, sought for a revision of the Articles of Confederation. Shays’ Rebellion worried many that this lack of regulation of the militia would lead to haphazard rebellions across the states.
In essence, the reevaluation of the Articles of Confederation leads to the forming of the Union and passing of the current U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Arguably the most controversial amendment today is Amendment II.
Amendment II of the Bill of Rights 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.
With all the talk of strict gun laws, such as a possible ban on assault rifles, many have resorted to immediately claiming their constitutional right to “bear arms.”
Nevertheless, many Americans disregard what the Founding Fathers meant by “militia” and “arms.”
In other words, put yourself in the shoes of the Founding Fathers. You have just broken free from an oppressive British crown and wish for history to not repeat itself; therefore, you create the Constitution and allow for amendments, in order to protect the people from another tyrannical government—foreign or domestic.
For example, the Militia Act of 1792 (later modified to form the National Guard) basically regards the militia as an organization of disciplined, able bodies, within a certain age group, armed and ready to defend the Constitution, by order of the President, if a state were to obstruct the Constitution’s execution. It also describes the arms that the militia is allowed.
According to the act, flintlocks, muskets and swords are the arms of the U.S. militia. Clearly, that is out of date, but raises the question—how do we decide who can bear arms (militia) and what arms can we bear?
Essentially, I can own an atomic bomb or house a missile depot in my back yard. They are “arms,” are they not? Confiscate my atom bomb and I will evoke my Constitutional right to bear arms! I am of age! I am able-bodied!
I am obviously being facetious by writing that I have the right to own an atom bomb. Missiles and atom bombs are clearly weapons of mass destruction, but I will pose this question. How would the Founding Fathers perceive the AR-15—an assault rifle that can kill 20 people in less than a minute?
The right to bear arms is a Constitutional right; therefore, it should be exercised. Nevertheless, it should be exercised with extreme caution and scrutiny.
In my opinion, the arms of today’s world would cause the Founding Fathers to reassess the second amendment by strongly considering its original intention. Consequently, we should too.