COMMENTARY: The Second Amendment in the correct historical context

This letter is in response to Mr. Douglass Miller’s letter of April 5, 2018. (“The Second Amendment in historical context,” April 9) There seemed to be several parts to his letter, most of which I agree with. However, when he reached his main points I must respectfully disagree.

There is no disputing that what happened in Parkland, Florida was indeed a tragedy. However, by most accounts it most likely could have been avoided if the authorities had heeded the dozens of signs that indicated the perpetrator was a danger to himself and others.

Teachers do indeed need to teach social studies and the history of this great nation. However, when Mr. Miller stated that the true meaning of the Second Amendment has been “grossly misinterpreted” due to the downward spiral greased by money in the last couple of hundred years, I had to take pause and think for a minute what he was attempting to convey. I still cannot figure out what he means by “greased by money.”

He then went on to accurately describe, for the most part, the circumstances at the time the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were being crafted. However, when he stated the key to looking at the Second Amendment was the word “militia” and “the right to bear arms shall not be infringed” I began to understand what he may have been attempting to do. By the way, Mr. Miller, the text of the Second Amendment is: “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.”

Whether he left out some words on purpose I don’t know. But by doing so he presents a false narrative which he goes on to use in an attempt to support his argument that the amendment refers to a collective and not an individual right. That argument has been settled law since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Heller.

Mr. Miller, like it or not, the court has stated that the Second Amendment refers to an individual right to keep and bear arms unconnected with service in a militia. As we all know, the word “keep” means to have or possess. The word “bear” means to carry, transport. The Founding Fathers’ original intent for the Second Amendment was to ingrain in words an individual right that the government could not infringe upon.

The same is true with the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights enshrines those rights that the people inherently possess, not those the government grants.

While it is true that the thought of a standing army was anathema to the newly liberated nation and that individuals were, in most states, required to have arms and ammunition, it is not true that the sole purpose of this requirement was to be able to form a citizens’ militia if the need arose. People also had arms and ammunition primarily to feed and protect themselves.

The type of firearms available at the time the Founding Fathers were creating our Constitution and Bill of Rights were the most modern for their time — just as the horse and buggy was the most modern form of transportation available. Mr. Miller, do you really believe that our Founding Fathers, as brilliant as they were to create such documents as the Constitution and Bill Rights, believed that we would be using muskets and buggies forever? Of course not.

They had seen new inventions during their lifetime and no doubt believed new and innovative machines and devices would be invented in the future to make our lives easier, more productive and safer.

The argument that our Founding Fathers would never have approved of modern weapons is ludicrous. If one follows that reasoning, then we all need to give up our automobiles and smartphone, which actually may not be a bad idea. The evolution of firearms is nothing more than a progression along the lines of planes, trains and automobiles.

I, for one, think the Founding Fathers would be proud of the inventions that have made their way into our lives. A modern semi-automatic firearm is a mechanical marvel. All the moving parts that work in unison to make it operate smoothly is an engineering achievement — just as the space shuttle is; just as electric cars are.

Mr. Miller and others are missing the point entirely by blaming the object for acts of senseless violence. Objects are not of their own volition capable of inflicting harm. It takes human intervention. Let’s focus on the root causes of violence and not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens in an effort to tackle a social problem. Banning firearms is nothing more than a cop out. It allows liberals an excuse to keep from dealing with the real problem, people. Objects can’t talk back.

Something else to keep in mind, fully automatic rifles are strictly regulated and are not used in crimes, so they are not available to the public. Fully automatic firearms have been highly regulated by the federal government since 1938. Here in Delaware it has always been illegal to own or possess a fully automatic firearm of any kind.

Here in Delaware in the last 10 years, six times as many people were murdered by hands, fists and feet than were with rifles, 24 as opposed to four. None of the rifles were semi-automatics.

Oh, by the way, the perpetrator in Parkland, Florida used magazines with a 10-round capacity.

Jeff Hague, of Ellendale, is president of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association.

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