LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Second Amendment and common sense

After having read Mr. Daniel Pritchett’s letter [“Guns and common sense”] published on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, I feel the record needs to set straight on some of his points. When he stated that “If that gun control decision (I am going to guess he meant the Heller v. D.C. decision) had followed all the court precedents and rules that the “right to keep and bear arms” is NOT an individual right … ,” it prejudiced the balance of his letter. To be clear, there are no court precedents holding the 2nd Amendment to be a collective right and not an individual right.

In fact, perhaps the first case to question whether the right is an individual one, was actually a state case in Kentucky. Bliss v. Commonwealth in 1822 decided that the phrase, contained in Kentucky’s constitution, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state, shall not be questioned” was an individual right and overturned the conviction of a man for carrying a sword concealed in a cane.

The first federal case to uphold the right to keep and bear arms as an individual right was the Dred Scott v. Sandford case in 1856.

The Heller case was the first case in history to address, directly, the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. All other cases up to that point had addressed other aspects of the amendment. Not only did Heller affirm the individual’s right to keep and bear arms for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense; it interpreted that right in the context of the prefatory clause, referencing a militia.

Research surrounding the development of the Constitution, the ratification process and the demand for a Bill of Rights, indicates that many of the states were fearful the newly formed federal government would disarm the people of the citizens’ militia, which would allow a standing army to rule.

“Militia” was a term used to describe all male citizens, usually over 15 years of age, that would act together for the common defense. It was not used to describe a federal army. It meant individuals.

I must also point out that the term “well-regulated militia” does not refer to the type of regulations we are familiar with today, as Mr. Pritchett would suggest. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist Paper No. 29, indicated that a well-regulated militia is a state of preparedness obtained after rigorous and extensive training.

Mr. Pritchett goes on to accuse supporters of the 2nd Amendment of being fanatical and believing there can be no regulation of the right.

While there may be a few people that believe that, there are just as many, if not more, on the left, meaning liberal, that cannot accept the court’s decision in any way, shape or form.

As the Supreme Court said in Heller, like most rights, the 2nd Amendment right is not unlimited. The best example of that are the prohibitions listed on the federal form that one fills out to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer.

They are numerous.

I must also point out that Mr. Pritchett is a bit off in his effort to group arguments about the Constitution and Bill of Rights into one. The arguments were distinct and separate. The Constitution was approved over the objections of many of the men present, because it did not contain a Bill of Rights.

It was only after many of the original states approved that Constitution at their various conventions, Delaware of course being the first, strongly suggesting that a Bill of Rights was necessary, that the first 10 amendments were approved. There were originally 12; only 3 through 12 were sent to the states. While James Madison proposed the Bill of Rights, it was influenced and based on several previous documents, George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta (1215), and others.

While discussing the Second Amendment, it is also, at least here in Delaware, necessary to consider Section 20 of Article I, of our Constitution of 1897, which states, “A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.” We have our own “Heller” in “Doe v. Wilmington Housing Authority” (2014), which declares our individual right to keep and bear arms. Our Constitution provides greater and more-extensive protection of our right to keep and bear arms than the 2nd Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

Jeff Hague
Ellendale

Editor’s note: Concerning the original 12 amendments in the proposed Bill of Rights, of which articles 3 through 12 were ratified together and became the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, “In 1992, 203 years after it was proposed, Article 2 was ratified as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 1 was never ratified.” The text of the original Article 2, now Amendment 27: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” Source: www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights.html.

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