THE SECOND AMENDMENT is back.
Rejecting six decades of the government's head-in-sand approach to the Second Amendment, Attorney General John Ashcroft now says the founding fathers meant what they said and said what they meant. The Second Amendment confers an individual's right to keep and bear arms.
"Horrors!" say anti-gunners. This exposes John Ashcroft as the extremist opponents called him. After all, during the Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., voted against him saying, "This is not a man who treats people kindly." Michael D. Barnes, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said, "This action is proof positive that the worst fears about Attorney General Ashcroft have come true: His extreme ideology on guns has now become government policy." On "This Week" with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, Roberts said, "Anything that makes it easier to get guns is a bad thing."
Those who argue the Second Amendment applies to the "collective," rather than individuals, face a daunting task – taking on the founding fathers. Anti-gunners must argue that "the people" in the Second Amendment does not refer to individuals, despite this interpretation everywhere else in the Bill of Rights when the founding fathers referred to "the people."
Anti-Second Amendment people like Rosie O'Donnell argue that the reference to "the militia" in the Second Amendment means National Guard. And, goes the reasoning, since states possess National Guards – our "militia" – why do individuals need a right to keep and bear arms? This shows profound ignorance of the purpose of the amendment. The founding fathers intended the amendment to serve as a bulwark against tyranny by government. How, then, can the National Guard – an arm of government – protect citizens against the very government for which the National Guard works?!
U.S. Code Title 10 defines militia 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 members of the National Guard. The classes of the militia are (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia." This means we – the citizens – are the militia.
George Mason, called the father of the Bill of Rights, said, "What is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." James Madison, called the father of the Constitution, said of tyrants, "[They were] afraid to trust the people with arms," and lauded "the advantage of being armed, which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation."
Thomas Paine said, "The peaceable part of mankind will be overrun by the vile and abandoned while they neglect the means of self-defense. [Weakness] allures the ruffian [but] arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world. Horrid mischief would ensue were [the good] deprived of the use of them. The weak will become a prey to the strong."
Even some noted liberal professors admit the obvious. Harvard's Laurence Tribe says, "The 14th Amendment, which makes parts of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, reflected a broad agreement that bearing arms was a 'privilege' of each citizen." Fellow Harvard liberal law professor Alan Dershowitz agrees, and scolds fellow liberals for twisting the words of the Second Amendment in a way that could come back to haunt them. "Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming that it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a safety hazard," said Dershowitz, "don't see the danger of the big picture." He added, "They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like."
Even Cokie Roberts seems unsure about the Second-Amendment-serves-the-collective argument. "I have read through these debates of the Constitution on this subject," said Roberts, "and don't think it's at all – it's actually not clear either way, but it's certainly not clear that it is – only means the militia. And if you look at the state constitutions of the same time, many of them word it the other way around. So that assuming that they are all meaning the same thing, the state constitutions put the right to bear arms before the militia. So it's – it's really hard to say that this is the only meaning of that – of the amendments."
Roberts says, "It's actually not clear either way." Well, expect the Supreme Court to clear it up. And the Brady Center folks won't like what they see.