Yes, in fact, that is exactly what the writers of the Constitution intended.

"No free man shall ever be de-barred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
-Thomas Jefferson

"The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun."
-Patrick Henry

Somehow idiots think that "the people" referred to by the second amendment are not the same people referred to in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth and tenth amendments.

And while not writers of the original document, I believe this quote says something important.

"The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half-century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner."
- Report of the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 97th Congress, Second Session (February 1982)

And, finally, pretty much directly refuting your claim that the writers of the Constitution didn't intend for actual citizens to own guns,

"The Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms."
- Sam Adams, Debates & Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1886-1887

Thank you, and good night.

Many historians (read: people who know more about the past than you do) agree that the intention of the second amendment was not to protect an individuals right to own guns, or to provide the people with means to overthrow the government. In fact, they feel that such an attitude during that time would be silly to consider. At the time, individual rights were not a pressing issue on the mind of the public. The major concern in government was the issue of state vs federal power. Because of this, most people were concerned with the ability of the state to protect them from the national government, not in their individual right to bear arm or overthrow the government. This was demonstrated by the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 where farmers in Pennsylvania formed to carry on a revolution against the government. However, their actions were denounced uniformly by the people involved in the drafting of the Bill of Rights which clearly shows that they did not feel the public had the right to take up arms against the government.

For an excellent in depth look at the true meaning of the second amendment, I recommend the book "Whose right to bear arms did the second amendment protect?" by Saul Cornell (a former history professor of mine and all around smart guy). It contains six essays by historians each presenting their own point of view on the isue.

In regards to the 2nd Amendment, legal scholars have researched the term bear arms. In pre- American Revolution times this term invariably had a military context. When referring to non-military use we see terms like "have" or "carry" -- not "bear". So, to be consistent with the framer's word usage, it would read:
"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,.the right of the people to keep and use a military weapon, shall not be infringed"
It is also relevant to examine the phrase "right of the people." This is what causes the debate over collective vs. individual rights. In other places the framers specifically say "person." Here they could just as easily have said "...the right of every person to keep and bear arms...." If it was intended as an individual right, why didn't they phrase it as such? These were men well aware that every word was being scrutinized. The ratification debates were heated, everything was done with deliberation.

As for using a weapon for other purposes, including self-defense, it's difficult to figure out exactly what the framers intended. But the NRA types cannot be happy with the amendments that were proposed and NOT accepted. An example:

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, Declaration of Rights, art. 13
This specifically mentions the right of arms for self-defense. Other states proposed the right to have weapons for hunting. The fact they are NOT part of the Bill of Rights means something -- they were rejected.

Also, "gun rights" supporters never want to acknowledge that the Second Amendment was designed to preclude the need for a standing army. An army, our own federal army, was considered a greater threat than a corrupt government or foreign invaders. This predicated the need for a well-regulated militia. In other words, citizens need guns so that we don't need an army.

To me it's clear: the Constitution clearly gives every citizen the right to own a weapon for military purposes. I should be able to go out and buy any assault weapon I want -- or a tank for that matter. And the Army should be all but disbanded.

Or we could decide that we depend on our armies today; that the Second amendment is outdated. In which case, we should be intellectually honest and admit that the right to own a military weapon is outdated as well. In either case, weapons lacking military significance aren't addressed -- i.e., laws restricting their posession or use are not unconstitutional. And this is how the Supreme Court has ruled in the past -- including the 1831 Mitchell case. In closing, let me say that at the time of the Constitution's ratification opinion was by no means unanimous on any subject. ilcylic can produce a dozen more quotes and it won't prove anything -- though it would be more honest to give full quotes:

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements)." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776.
The parenthetical note that Jefferson adds subtly changes the "support-level" for the NRA position.

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.

Something commonly misunderstood about the Constitution of the United States, and particularly the section known as the Bill of Rights, is that the document does not actually grant any rights, save the rights of the accused. Other than the right to a jury trial (Article III, Section 2) and other rights of the accused (Amendment V and VI), all mentions of rights merely disallows the federal government from placing restriction on what are thought of as inalienable human rights, or natural law: freedom of expression, freedom of privacy, freedom of defense, freedom of movement.

The writers for the Constitution were very much concerned with individuals rights. They believed no government had the right to violate natural law. Itemizing such things would only be redundant. Additionally, in listing the principles of liberty they would undoubtedly over look some things. They believed their oversights would not be considered human rights if omitted from some list. So no guarantees were placed into the original draft of the United States Constitution. Though, many States' constitutions did affirm these fundamental rights of individuals.

But federal law supersedes the power of the States. George Mason, the Father of the Bill of Rights, criticized the original Constitution because, "There is no Declaration of Rights, and the Laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitution of the several States, the Declaration of Rights in the separate states are no security." Realizing a potential for abuse with the absence of a federal affirmation, George Mason and others known as the Anti-Federalists championed for assurances that would safe guard against a tyrannical federal government. Because of their arguments on December 15, 1791 guarantees that restrict the federal government from taking action in particular areas of freedom were amended to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, they are "what the people are entitled to against every government on earth."

The right of the people to keep and bear Arms

Like other amendments in the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment does not confer the right to keep and bear arms to anyone, but like the other amendments it does imply the right exists. The late Roy H. Copperud, a professor of journalism and expert on English usage wrote, "The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia." Copperud's literal translation of the entire sentence reviled this right is implied to be inherent for every citizen, the people, unconditionally.

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State

However, "it is invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia," Copperud added, but, "No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state." The writers of the amendment were conveying one reason Congress should not be able to restrict private gun ownership; a preference for militia in opposition to a standing military. But no where does it imply that the existence of a standing military would make an armed citizenry obsolete. The second amendment does not state how the government should set up the armed forces. The Powers of Congress (Article 1, Section 8) allow for this.

Regardless of any Constitutional wording or historical literature to support, some continue to claim the purpose of the Second Amendment is solely intended for each State's militia. Several States had already affirmed such rights when the Bill or Rights was added. Ratified 15 years earlier, the Pennsylvania's Declaration of Rights acknowledged, "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up."

If the wording of the Second Amendment limited gun ownership to individuals acting in "a well regulated Militia" those who ratified the second amendment would be guilty of what the Bill of Rights was intended to prevent, the restriction of people's natural rights by the federal government.

The right of the people

One must concede that the phrase "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms" should be included along with the rest of George Mason's rights. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," and "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" also use this precise wording to imply an unconditional natural right. It is obtuse to consider the second amendment outside this context and insist it does not apply to all of "the people".

In his analysis of the clause Professor Copperud was asked to compare the second amendment with the following sentience; "A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed." Could this sentence, "restrict 'the right of the people to keep and read Books' only to 'a well-educated electorate' — for example, registered voters with a high-school diploma?" Copperud concluded that the grammatical structure of the sentence was identical to the second amendment and that there was nothing in the sentences "that either indicates or implies the possibility of a restricted interpretation."

A well regulated Militia

As stated previously the right to keep and bear arms was "invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia" to show a preference for peace-time militia in opposition to a standing military. This is why militant wording is used. The terms "bear arms" and "militia" certainly have military context. It was believed that the militia would be our first line of defense and those citizens and militia units should have armaments analogous to any army (arguably short of weapons of mass destruction).

Regrettably things are not as they were intended. We do have a standing military, and do not have a well-regulated militia. One could argue that American conquering began after the Civil War with the Grand Army of the Republic and again after World War II with what President Eisenhower call the Military-Industrial Complex. Regardless, it was never intended that the United States be the world's policeman. In his first inaugural address Thomas Jefferson said the United States should have, "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Conquering or policing, our standing military is a magnificent expense to the American tax payer and only brings the contempt of the world.

Generally all persons able to fight for the defense of their nation against an enemy are considered part of a nation's militia. United States law defines the militia of the United States as "all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and...under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are commissioned officers of the National Guard." A well-regulated militia would resemble the National Guard; however they would not be part of the standing military, they would never fight in foreign wars, or fire on unarmed civilian protesters. And everyone would be required to serve.

Clearly there are those who see the National Guard as the well-regulated militia of the United States. Upon its conception in 1903 and for a bit thereafter the Guard was by most definitions a militia. But the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1982 found "That the National Guard is not the 'Militia' referred to in the Second Amendment.... Congress had organized the National Guard under its power to 'raise and support armies' and not its power to 'Provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia.'" Additionally, with changes made in 1918, "The difference between the National Guard and Regular Army was swept away, and became a personnel pay folder classification only, thus nationalizing the entire National Guard into the Regular Standing Armies of the United States."

Unfortunately one must look outside our borders for a good example of a well-regulated militia. Switzerland has the largest (per capita) and most effective militia in the world, which has kept the Swiss free, safe, and neutral in every modern conflict. Every able-bodied male is conscripted to serve in the armed forces (though there are exclusions based on moral objection). Women may serve voluntarily. Each person serves 260 days of active duty, where they learn rifle marksmanship and combat training as well as more specific occupational skills. After which, they return to their regular lives, save a few weeks of annual training to keep their skills up. Each member of the Swiss Army Militia keeps their weapons and gear at home, and not in an armory, so they may respond faster in a crisis.

The security of a free State

One in three homes in Switzerland has a firearm. And incidences of gun-related violence are very low. Switzerland has also managed to say out of every modern conflict despite it's location in the middle of Europe. Patrick Henry knew how beneficial this is. "The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun." Criminals do not want to risk the odds of invading a militiaman's home. Conquerors do not want to risk the odds of invading an armed populous. And the Government cannot risk tyranny.

An armed community is a safe community; not because guns make people safe, but because the threat of resistance operates as a great deterrent. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes." Guns will never simply go away. Anti-gun laws will only neutralize honest people, those that are willing to turn over their guns, and do nothing to curtail criminal action. In fact, transgressions will undoubtedly increase if this deterrent is removed and criminals have the monopoly on firepower in a disarmed populous.

But a government is so much more dangerous than any band of thugs or thieves; something the men who wrote and signed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were very conscious of. For example, because of their concern with a military coup d'état they put a civilian in charge of the armed forces as commander in chief. But preserving the right to keep and bear arms was also paramount. Noah Webster wrote, "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed.... The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword because the whole body of the people are armed." One of the stones on the path to oppression is disarmament as it was in British India, Nazi Germany or Communist China.

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.

The Second Amendment is by far the most debated section of law in the United States Constitution. Hopefully this literal interpretation in context, along with some historical background will help convey that the right to keep and bear arms is for every person. This amendment does not grant that right, the right is assumed to exist regardless of any words written on paper. The clause simply restricts the government from infringing upon that right because it is important to have a well-regulated militia.


The Second Amendment to the American constitution has probably been discussed more than any other part of the constitution, especially in recent months and years. Every part of the Amendment seems to have been picked clean: what "the people", what "a well regulated militia" means, and even what "bear" means. So it would seem to be impossible to find anything new in their to comment on, and any commentary would just be reigniting already tired arguments.

But one thing that I have yet to find, either in academic discussion, legal findings or the popular debate on the matter, is what "arms" are. All of the discussion about the second amendment seems to be about firearms.

The text of the Second Amendment reads "arms", and while all the debate about the Second Amendment seems to be about firearms, this term would seem to include other types of weaponry. I have heard arguments about the Second Amendment that suggest that the right to bear arms is not unlimited because it could not include the right to have howitzers, fuel air explosives or Californium bullets. But rather than going in that direction, lets go in the other direction: do the "arms" that the Second Amendment refers to include knives, swords, batons, brass knuckles, tasers and pepper spray?

Why this is important is because all of these items are weapons, and all of them have been regulated at the federal, state or local level, and as far as I know, there has never been a Supreme Court case that has ruled on whether or not switchblades are arms. If someone knows of such a case, please alert me! But both the legal debate, and the popular debate about "arms" seems to overlook the fact that many "arms" are already banned or restricted. Imagine the chances that Texas would ever pass a law limiting people's ability to buy or carry semi-automatic rifles. And yet according to Texas law, it is illegal to use a switchblade or brass knuckles. There are a hodge-podge of laws across the country as far as the carrying and collection of bladed and blunt weapons, and it would take someone more knowledgeable than me to sort them out. But the point is, such laws exist without much popular outrage or legal challenge to them.

Historically speaking, I imagine that at the time that the Second Amendment was written, both bladed and blunt weapons would have been an important part of the "arms" that were necessary for both military use and self-defense. In an era of unrifled black powder weapons, knives, daggers and swords would have been important military equipment, as indeed they still are. But to dig too deep into what the authors of constitution meant by "arms" is to indulge in archeology that probably doesn't have a final answer: it is better to just assume that if the Amendment says "arms" it means arms. There is also an argument that some of the weapons listed (pepper spray, automatic knives, tasers) could not have been envisioned with 18th century technology, but then if we follow that line of reasoning, the Second Amendment would only cover black powder muskets.

I can't think of a very good reason why an Amendment that says "arms" should somehow be taken to only cover "firearms". The fact that it is usually taken to only mean this, and that such a gigantic debate can be ignited about certain rights while other rights are perfunctorily ignored, is an example of the blind spots that often come up in debates, not only in spite of, but because of, the attention paid to them.

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