On Sunday, the Las Vegas Informer ran an opinion column describing the Second Amendment as “worthless,” suggesting the amendment only continues to be relevant because the Supreme Court breathed life into it in 2008.
The column opens with questions for those “who honestly believe the Second Amendment was written 10 years after the end of the Revolutionary War to give people the right to own and carry guns in our neighborhoods, at public events and in public places.” The questions are also directed toward “some members of the Supreme Court,” and that is clearly because of their decisions in DC v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010). In both cases, the court reaffirmed the individual right to keep and bear arms.
The column then asks the following question of 2nd Amendment supporters and Supreme Court justices alike: “Why, if the writers [of the 2nd Amendment] meant ‘own,’ do they use the word ‘keep’ in the amendment?”
Other questions included “Why the word ‘bear’ if they mean ‘carry’?” and “Why the word ‘arms’ if they meant ‘guns?”
The last of the questions reads, in part, “Why was the Second Amendment written… to give the people the right to own guns when they have always had that unwritten right from colonial days to present?”
James Madison, author of the Second Amendment, asked nearly the same question that the Informer asked at the last. He was a federalist and saw no need for the anti-federalist’s push for amendments to defend certain, unalienable rights. But the anti-federalists, exemplified by the thought of Thomas Jefferson, knew a central government had to be controlled rather than blindly trusted. And the best way to control it regarding the protection of natural rights was to completely remove said rights from its purview, which is what Madison eventually came to believe as well, and that is what he did with the Second Amendment.
His amendment did not create a right. Rather, it protected the very “unwritten right” referenced by the Informer. He made sure the government was shackled in such a way so as not to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
But the columnist in the Informer did not wait for that explanation. Instead, he says he wants “the Second Amendment repealed, as being worthless.” His desire revolves around his conviction that the Second Amendment is not an individual right, but a collective one.
He did not grapple with why the framers would have viewed Second Amendment alone in the Bill of Rights as collective one, while recognizing speech, religion, assembly, private property, security in one’s property, trial by jury, and protections from cruel and unusual punishments as individual ones.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.