2nd Amendment doesn’t support private gun ownership
Those who believe the 2nd Amendment supports private gun ownership are long on opinions and short on facts, as is shown by J.T. Coyote’s letter published in July. Actually,Mr. Coyote’s letter was somewhat confusing as he first asserts the constitution does not “give” us the right to own and bear arms, but rather God does – even though the “right” to own personal weapons is not discussed in the Bible. Regardless, having dismissed the constitution as the genesis of this “right”, the remainder of the letter is indeed about the Second Amendment. With respect to the amendment, there is a reason the NRA does not challenge gun control legislation in the federal courts, but instead works to stop restrictions on gun ownership through campaign contributions. It’s a fact that federal court decisions on this issue always give the Second Amendment a collective, military interpretation and repeatedly rule against any claims to private gun ownership based on the amendment. Each time the pro-gun forces have filed suit in the federal courts, they have ultimately lost, either upon first hearing or on appeal. For those who doubt this, ask yourselves – why have state and local governments been allowed to pass thousands of laws restricting gun use without being stopped by the NRA through the courts? Here are the facts. In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court in the US vs. Miller (307 US 154), rejected Miller’s claim that the Second Amendment granted citizens the right to own and bear arms outside of military service. In reading that decision, the U.S. Solicitor General at the time wrote, “The most well settled proposition in American constitutional law…is that of the 2nd Amendment. It was designed to protect only the ability of each state to maintain a well regulated militia.” Miller is, incidentally, the only time the US Supreme Court has ruled on the issue since 1939 – since then, they have refused to revisit the matter. And what about the appellate courts? The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, in its famous Morton Grove decision,”that possession of guns by individuals is not part of the right to keep and bear arms as covered in the Second Amendment.” Fact: Every time, 2nd Amendment rights have been raised in federal courts, those courts have agreed with the Miller decision, declared it the authoritative view and every appellate court has rejected the argument that the 2nd Amendment guarantees any individual the right to own guns. Again, see U.S. vs. Graves (554 F 2d 65, 1977) and Steven vs US (440 F 2d 144, 1971). We also have Lewis vs U.S. (445 US 55, 65 n8, 1980) where the court wrote, “Miller holds that the ‘Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear arms that does not have some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” Going a step further, some private militia groups have argued that the 2nd Amendment guarantees ‘them’ the right to own and bear arms. Yet once again, the courts are clear on this. In a case with the unlikely title of Vietnamese Fisherman’s Associated vs Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (543 F Supp. 198, 1982), the court stated that the “Second Amendment protects only militia organized by the state and does not imply any general constitutional rights for individuals to bear arms and form private armies.” In citing these cases I will again remind readers they are federal cases. Yes, one can find state or local legal cases where pro-gun activists have received positive rulings, but J.T. Coyote’s letter addressed the Second Amendment and so I have written here about federal cases only. J.T. Coyote also references Thomas Jefferson. I would point out that many of the founding fathers took extensive notes on the topics addressed at the various constitutional conventions. Many also wrote letters home to their wives and friends regarding these issues. Many of these letters are available in college archives and some are even on the Internet. If one reads through these journals and letters, we find that the 2nd Amendment is discussed frequently and always in a military context. None of these letters and notes suggest the intent of the Second Amendment was to guarantee individuals the right to own and bear arms. Also of note: Chief Justice Warren Berger, a hunter and gun owner, whose specialty was the Bill of Rights, wrote that the 2nd Amendment dealt only with raising an army.He found no support anywhere in the Constitution for guaranteeing individuals the right to own guns. And what of the wording of the 2nd Amendment? Many pro-gun advocates point to the second phrase as proof of their position. But they are not separate statements or concepts bound together in one sentence. In English, the first phrase is the ‘main’ clause, the second is the ‘dependent’ clause. Hence the right to keep and bear arms is dependent upon the first phrase. So the Supreme Court, other federal courts, scholars and the framers of the constitution are in agreement – the 2nd Amendment does not grant individuals the right to own guns.
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