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Reader's Forum
A misinterpretation of the Second Amendment
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Editor:
In light of recent events, perhaps now is the time to revisit the Second Amendment and re-engage in the discussion of the rights it was intended to convey.

Whether you believe the framers wanted us to interpret the Constitution strictly on the basis of intent or you embrace the proposition it was created as a living document, one that was meant to be subjected to contemporary interpretation matters not in the context of this discussion.

At the time the Bill of Rights was under consideration, the law of the land required that all male citizens, when called to military service, must report with their own musket, powder and shot. This clearly indicates the discussion, as well as the resultant amendment the framers drafted, was never intended by them to address what was at the time a broadly accepted reality. The reality was the fact that most male citizens were not already armed. This was their right. In addition, it was also vital to their own security as well as that of their nation. This made it not only a fundamental right but also more importantly a legally mandated responsibility.

What the framers were trying to address when they proposed the Second Amendment centered on the issue of whether the government should create a state militia, federal militia, a standing Army or none of the above. This is where the discussion was centered. Most citizens accepted at the time that because of the instability that existed in the political world, coupled with the disagreements between Americans and native Indian population due to our westward expansion, security decisions were the government’s paramount concern.

However, at the same time there was a prevalent fear among many that whatever decision was made as to the form that protection should take, once it was decided exactly what kind of military force was necessary, Congress must take the steps to assure it could not be turned against the very government that gave birth to it. Thus, in the framers’ final draft when they wrote, “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,” they were rendering their decision regarding the twin dilemmas of internal and external security. The rights of individuals were never given consideration in these discussions.

Accepting this hypothesis it would follow, since there were no specific provisions into the Second Amendment directly prohibiting them from doing so, Congress, with the president in concert, remains free to regulate the rights of private citizens to be armed as they see fit. Nothing has occurred in the intervening years after this situation. Because of this, should they (Congress) decide on regulating gun ownership, they are acting within the provisions granted them in the Constitution. Those citizens who do not find favor with this action are free to register their objections as citizens always have. I refer of course to seeking redress at the ballot box.

Finally, to those who subscribe to the theory of interpretation based on the framers’ intent, I would hope you find consolation in the fact you have a generally recognized right to own, without restriction, a musket, powder and shot. In the meantime, I would admonish the NRA, its members and all who campaign on their behalf or support them legislatively to quit hiding behind the Second Amendment in pursuit of their narrow agenda.

Robert Shaw
Madeira Beach
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Tampa Bay Newspapers
9911 Seminole Blvd.,
Seminole, FL 33772
Phone: (727) 397-5563
Fax: (727) 397-5900
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