The conditions present in our country now, with terrorism a threat, are not very different
from the time the U.S. Constitution was written. The difference is that the Redcoats were
far more organized and easier to defend against.
The issue of self-defense, however, can allow us a chance to examine exactly why the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is there.
Many people incorrectly believe the Second Amendment is a standalone statement, without reference to the body of the U.S. Constitution itself.
On the contrary, there are several places in the body of the U.S. Constitution which refer to the same issue, and the Second Amendment was inserted only to protect the rights of the people to defend themselves in time of peace.
First of all, the militia that is described is not the armed forces or the national guard. That is the first thing to understand.
Within the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 - Powers of Congress, and Article I, Section 10 - States Prohibited from the Exercise of Certain Powers, and Article II, Section 2 - President is Commander-in-Chief, as they were written, detail the differences in the armed forces and the informal militia, and how those several militia in the states could be commanded by the president in time of war.
What those sections of the U.S. Constitution state, in so many words, is that all states have the duty of providing individuals to protect the country when necessary, and separate from the armed forces these separate militia would be under the control of the individual states, but the states themselves could not in fact use them in time of peace to act without the consent of the federal government, and that the president could take over the control of the militia himself when necessary.
Therefore, the Second Amendment was instituted to protect the citizens from having their guns taken away in time of peace.
In truth, all individuals over the age of 15 years are a part of the informal militia, and they have a duty to protect the country if needed.
As an example, take a farmer in Maine, near the Canadian border who sees the terrorists coming. Since he is an able person over the age of 15 years, he grabs his gun, and sets out to defend not only his farm but also the border of the United States. Although not a formal member of the armed forces, this farmer is an informal member of the militia of Maine.
To prove the point, let us look at the U.S. Constitution.
"ARTICLE I, SECTION 8 - Powers of Congress:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriations of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia, and for Governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."
Notice the distinction between the Army and Navy and the Militia in the U.S. Constitution.
"ARTICLE I, SECTION 10 - States Prohibited from the Exercise of Certain Powers:
No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a Foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit delay."
In other words, the several states must make sure that all able bodied individuals are ready to be a part of the informal militia, but they cannot formally be in effect in time of peace, unless there is a specific need. This self-defense aspect is clear, whereas the individuals are prepared and ready if needed, but no formal act of the states is allowed without consent of Congress.
Notice that this is a clear limit on a State's powers.
"ARTICLE II, SECTION 2 - President is Commander-in-Chief:
The president shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States."
This last point almost guaranteed that the Second Amendment would be passed.
That is because the citizens feared that, since the president could control them in time of war, the president might disarm the individuals in time of peace. Since this would weaken their ability to defend their farms or themselves, the citizenry demanded the Amendment for the right to keep and bear arms.
Therefore, the Second Amendment is not a standalone amendment. It is tied directly to the body of the U.S. Constitution, and to the right of self-defense.
Clearly, the rights of an individual are being presented in the Second Amendment, since the body of the U.S. Constitution has already spelled out the definition of a militia and self-defense.
In truth, even if a State tried to make a deal with a foreign country to gain imports for prescription drugs, it would be unconstitutional, according to Article I, Section 10, so even though a State could have an informal militia of 200,000 people, they could not be formally ordered into action unless Congress consented. No State could go to war alone, or produce an army of its own.
The militia is defined as the informal collection of citizens which would be able to be called upon in time of need, and their duty to defend not only themselves but the country as well. The right of the individual citizen, then, comes up with the Second Amendment.
Take away his gun, and he cannot defend himself, let alone defend the country.
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."
Notice, please, that the Second Amendment capitalizes the word State, which means it is an individual State, such as New York or Maine, not the "state" in general, such as a country. The State had the responsibility for the Militia, not the federal government.
So, the security of the individual State and the right of the individual to bear arms were both protected in the Second Amendment.
Imagine a State having the responsibility to prepare able-bodied citizens to defend, but not being able to deploy them until Congress called, and then having to give up the right to lead them to the president himself. This alone was enough for some to argue for the Second Amendment.
In conclusion, then, anyone who tries to state the Second Amendment is a standalone statement is not reading the U.S. Constitution, because the Second Amendment is clear in what it protects. That is the right to self-defense, either for yourself, or at the border against an invading terrorist.
The Second Amendment is quite relevant in the age of terrorism.
END OF ARTICLE
Mr. J.V. Presogna is a published writer, composer and artist with a strong background in science and mathematics. He is the author of "The Truth About Eden," his first novel published in 1975, and numerous other works as well, including "An Extension of Relativity," which explains how to solve wave-particle duality specifically for the photon.