Skip to comments.The Gun Control Conundrum
Posted on 09/18/2004 8:45:20 AM PDT by Founding Father
The Gun Control Conundrum by Tim Condon firstname.lastname@example.org
Exclusive to TLE
A Second Amendment Manifesto I. Needless Deaths of Children Caused by Gun Control
On January 19, 2000 a 16-year-old high school student in Florida was accidentally and fatally shot by his best friend. Five minutes of instruction five minutes would have saved both of them, one from death and the other from a jail term and lifetime of guilt for "manslaughter by culpable negligence."
Steve Moschella was in the back seat of his his friend Teddy Niziol's car, a Toyota 4-Runner SUV. Niziol was in the driver's seat. For him, it was a very unlucky day. Why? Because he had a small caliber automatic pistol, a .22 magnum that he'd stolen during a burglary in nearby St. Petersburg Beach. His buddy Steve wanted to handle it. So Teddy handed it back over the seat to his friend.
Mistake number one: Teddy didn't warn Steve whether the gun was loaded or not, much less whether there was a round "in the tube"...meaning the gun might go off if the trigger was pulled. It's not even clear if Teddy knew how the gun worked, how to safely "clear" it, or how to tell if it was loaded or not.
Teddy's friend Steve Moschella was also 16, and like most teenage boys he was fascinated by guns. That's why he wanted to play with the one Steve Niziol had stolen. He wanted to hold it and handle it. Having no idea how to safely handle a firearm, Moschella did what any kid might do with a gun he didn't know how to handle: He pointed it at Niziol's sister, Nicolette, who was in the back seat with him, to scare her. It worked.
That was mistake number two: Moschella didn't know the single most fundamental rule of handling a firearm: you never point a gun at anyone you don't intend to shoot.
When Nicolette screamed at Moschella not to point the gun at her, he next did what any inquisitive kid would do: He examined the gun, he put his finger on the trigger, and he pulled it, no doubt to see how it felt.
The gun happened to be loaded and cocked. It happened also to have a round in the chamber. And it happened to be pointing at the back of the seat where Moschella's best friend Teddy Niziol was sitting.
The boys' luck ran out at that point. Mistake number three was final, and fatal. The bullet slammed through the seatback of the Toyota SUV, entered Teddy Niziol's back, ripped through his right lung, punched a hole in his heart, and lodged behind his breastbone. The driver's door of the car opened and the dying teenager fell out. According to a newspaper report, Niziol's sister and friends "noticed that there was blood on the back of his seat and on the back of his T-shirt."
Niziol died there on the ground of the parking lot at Ridgewood High School.
The reactions to the tragedy from newspapers and those concerned with "gun control" were predictable. Ban handguns, register firearms, outlaw pistols, make everyone get a license to own one, reduce the number of guns on the street, ban guns from school, etc.
None of which would have protected Teddy Niziol from dying needlessly that day. None of the anti-gun pablum listed above would have saved him. Only knowledge could have spared his life; knowledge gained as a result of instruction given to both him and his friend Steve Moschella. Five minutes worth of information on how to safely handle firearms probably would have saved Teddy's Niziol's life. A few hours certainly would have. But few children today are fortunate enough to get that kind of instruction, and then usually only through the luck of one or both of their parents being shooters or hunters.
The question is, if we want to save the lives of the Teddy Niziol's of America, how can we ensure that necessary information and training is given them? So that when they inevitably do come in contact with a firearm, they'll know enough to forgo accidentally shooting someone.
Right now there doesn't seem to be an answer to that. Unfortunately, those who appear to be most concerned with the problem concentrate all their time and energy on having guns banned, or at least registered. But neither solution if they can be called that would have saved Teddy Niziol. The current gun control debate doesn't offer any hope for young people endangered by simple lack of knowledge that allows gun accidents to occur.
And so children will continue to die needlessly. Sometimes they may be in their schools' parking lot. Sometimes they'll be out for a night on the town. Sometimes they might be at home or in a friend's car. But without the training of how to safely handle a gun, they will continue to die.
For those who harbor an unreasoning fear of firearmsand the demagogic politicians who exploit that fear the answer is to ban firearms, or at least to drastically restrict and register them. Thus the "gun control" movement. However, that non-solution ignores the fact that millions of guns exist in private hands in America, and millions of people own them. There is also the inconvenience of the Second Amendment, which has been recognized as a guaranty of an individual right to keep and bear firearms, both in federal court and by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration in 2002.
What then can prevent the needless deaths of children from gun accidents? In a word, "knowledge." And currently only the National Rifle Association and other private Second Amendment organizations offer solutions with their training and safety programs. But that's not enough. Such programs depend upon the affirmative knowledge and activity of involved parents, who may themselves have no knowledge of the safety training available, or no interest, or other fears or objections.
So kids will still continue to die needlessly. Unless a solution can be found. Can it? I believe the answer is yes, and have a proposal to that end.
But first, let us leave the issue of needless deaths of young people from gun accidents, and examine another facet of the gun control conundrum.
II. Needless Deaths of Crime Victims Caused by Gun Control
On January 26, 2001 Diane Whipple, 33, was mauled to death in her San Francisco apartment hallway by two attack dogs"torn to pieces" in the words of one newspaper report. If she, the owners of the dogs, or any neighbor present had had a firearm, she might well have survived; she certainly would at least have had a chance at survival. But this was San Francisco, and California, and no one had a gun. So Diane Whipple died at the jaws of two large, vicious animals that had been trained to attack, rend, tear, and kill.
Five months later, on June 17, 2002, Dave Newman, 51, was mowing his lawn at his rural home in central Florida when three men with guns assaulted him. One shot him in the leg. They tied him to the lawn mower and moved to enter his house where his wife was alone. He managed to release himself. But so what? The criminals were armed, and he was not.
He ran bleeding into his nearby barn, called 911, and called his son-in-law who lived less than a mile away. One of the criminals saw him escape to the barn, and followed with a gun. Newman probably would have been murdered then and there, except for one thing: He had a loaded rifle in the barn, and used it to shoot his would-be murderer in the face with a rat-shot load from his .22 rifle.
Seconds later Newsman's son-in-law, Martin Harm, arrived. But what could he do? The criminals had guns. Plenty, as it turned out.
Harm was also armed. He crouched behind his truck and commenced a shootout with the criminals who had come back out of the house with a stolen money box. He emptied two large-capacity magazines from his Glock 9 mm pistol at the robbers, who dropped the box and at least one gun, and ran. Police arrested two of them a few hours later. That was in rural Florida. If not for the guns owned by Dave Newman and Martin Harm along with the knowledge of how to use themMr. And Mrs. Newman would have been robbed, and quite possibly murdered.
On May 16, 1997 Deborah Iverson was kidnapped as she walked out of her psychiatrist's office near Detroit, Michigan by McConnell Adams and Anitra Coomer, both age 21. After the two robbed her of $1,300 but before they murdered her, Deborah Iverson talked to them about her young sons, aged 2 and 4. She was strangled by Adams as she held pictures of her two children. If she had had a gun, in her purse, in her car, or in her hand, Deborah Iverson would have had a fighting chance. Instead, she died.
Not long before the murder of Deborah Iverson, a violent criminal cut the phone line at 4:00 a.m. to the home of 85-year-old Alberta Nicles in Muskegon, Michigan and broke in. The criminal ransacked the house looking for money and valuables, dragging Mrs. Nicles with him and ending up back in her bedroom. At that point the 32-year-old criminal stripped off Mrs. Nicles' pajama bottoms.
But the elderly lady remembered something: Her late husband had always kept a handgun in the house. It was still there, on a shelf in the closet under some blankets. Mrs. Nicles said she had money in the closet, and went to get it. She grabbed the gun, spun around, shoved the gun into Moore's stomach, and started firing.
"I shot him and he lying on the floor dead in the closet right next to my bedroom," said Mrs. Nicles when she called the police from a neighbor's house next door. "I shot him all over." If not for that nearly forgotten gun, hidden beneath the blankets, loaded and ready to use, Mrs. Nicles would have been raped and murdered.
What is the lesson of those who are fortunate enough to own and know how to use guns to defend themselves? What is the meaning of firearms in a society that Constitutionally recognizes that people have a right to keep and bear arms "in defense of self and society"? After all, the debate over whether the presence of firearms "causes crime" is over: Researchers and scholars have arrived at uniform conclusions: More guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens means less crime. That was the conclusion reached by Yale law professor John Lott in 1996 who later published his findings in the widely-read book titled "More Guns, Less Crime." Similar findings were arrived at by Dr. Gary Kleck, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, and Don Kates, a criminologist with the Pacific Research Institute in California. David Kopel, a lawyer, researcher, and former prosecutor in New York city, came to the same conclusion, writing "Trust the People: The Case Against Gun Control."
In fact, in a working paper published by John Lott and William Landes at the University of Chicago in 1999, the data showed that states which adopted laws requiring mandatory issuance of "concealed-carry permits" experienced "sharp drop[s] in multiple murders and injuries per 100,000 persons....Murders fell by 89 percent and injuries by 82 percent."
National polls have shown that guns are used defensively in America by potential crime victims somewhere about two million times every year. Yet to a large percentage of the American population apparently driven in part by gun control propaganda and compliant media biasit would be preferable for Diane Whipple, Dave Newman and his wife, Martin Harm, Deborah Iverson, and Alberta Nicles to die, than for them to own guns and have the means to use them (not to mention the Teddy Niziol's of the future who will continue to die from unnecessary accidents borne of ignorance).
For this reason, many on the Second Amendment side of the debate refer to anti-gun forces as the "Victim Disarmament Movement," which they point out operates to empower rapists, robbers, murderers and other criminals.
Surely, given the findings of the studies regarding the defensive use of guns in America, the gun control movement should embrace the safety programs espoused by the gun-rights organizations, as well as the right of potential victims to carry weapons which allow them to even the odds against criminal predators. But no such rapprochement has occurred, nor does it appear that any is likely to. The gun control movement continues as strong as ever, as if the multiple studies and statistical analyses supporting the right to keep and bear arms had never been done. In fact, the researchers were subjected to vitriolic attacks by anti-gun groups and the media when they published their scientific findings. Thus it is difficult to arrive at any conclusion other than this: The civil disarmament movement is driven by an irrational urge founded upon mindless fear rather than any calm appraisal of the facts.
Some method must be found to defeat the ignorance and fear that motivates the gun control movement. And for that I have a proposal. But first let's examine one more facet of the gun control conundrum, that which deals with terrorism and the new state of affairs after the 9-11 attacks on America.
III. Needless Deaths of Terrorism Victims Caused by Gun Control
The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, as well as the counterattack by the heroic passengers on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, opened the book on a new world for America, one that must be faced realistically and squarely.
Long spared the kind of terrorism and terroristic attacks that other countries have been subject to for years, our luck ran out on that fall day. The forces of terrorism out to destroy not only America, but western civilization itself if possible served notice on the U.S. that we are no longer exempt. Two months later President Bush made explicit the fact that America was in a state of war when he declared in a nationwide speech:
Our nation faces a threat to our freedoms, and the stakes could not be higher. We are the target of enemies who boast they want to killkill all Americans, kill all Jews, and kill all Christians. We've seen that type of hate beforeand the only possible response is to confront it, and to defeat it.
This new enemy seeks to destroy our freedom and impose its views. We value life; the terrorists ruthlessly destroy it. We value education; the terrorists do not believe women should be educated or should have health care, or should leave their homes. We value the right to speak our minds; for the terrorists, free expression can be grounds for execution. Thus was born a new reality. We have been repeatedly warned that there is no question but that new terrorist attacks will be made on America: The only question is when.
What effect, then, does this new reality have on the anti-gun conundrum? One observation should suffice: If there had been even a single passenger with a gun on each of the four airliners that were used as human-guided suicide bombs ... not one of the highjackings and subsequent mass murders could have occurred. Just one passenger with one gun on each plane would have prevented each atrocity.
Where will the next atrocity on American soil occur? The Islamo-Fascists served notice on the world in September 2004 that no one is exempt from terror, torture, and murder, as they took over a school in southern Russia and murdered hundreds of women and schoolchildren. When will they move to seize an American school filled with children? And what will unarmed teachers and administrators do but die with their students? Or will it be a crowded shopping mall? Or a theater such as that taken over by terrorists and wired with explosives in Moscow in 2002 where over 100 died?
All of the above is an ugly reality that must be faced by Americans capable to facing reality. Wishful thinking will not suffice. Paralyzing, irrational fear will not work. Only steadfast, real-world planning, education, and resolve will. The American military is well able to protect our country, our culture, and our people our civilization itself from any mass threat and any hostile regime anywhere in the world. But the new World War declared by Islamo-Fascism has made it abundantly clear that primitive, savage forces will be brought to bear on civilians men, women, and children wherever they can be targeted and massacred.
IV. The Second Amendment Solution
All that has gone before in this article is the reality that must be faced by all of us in the 21st century. It is a dangerous world, and that reality will not go away with wishful thinking, oxymoronic calls for "U.N. action," or immobilizing fear. It is time to reverse our slide toward passive victimhood as a society.
All Americans, from an early age, must be urged and given the opportunity to become fully familiar with and trained in the use of firearms. There was a time, not long distant in our history, when that was the case. Most fathers and mothers knew how to handle guns, and took the time to teach each ensuing generation, at an early age, the safe and respectful handling of firearms. With the advent of increased urbanization, suburbanization, and exurbanization not to mention the end of the military draft the civic virtues of learning and teaching the use of firearms has faded. Nor have the demographic shifts benefitted the ability of younger generations to learn shooting skills. Firing ranges are fewer and farther between, and it has become ever harder to find suitable sites for them.
In the meantime, some state and local governments New Jersey is notable in this respect have taken it upon themselves to harass and destroy lawful gun clubs and firing ranges, thus hastening the onset of ignorance and civil disarmament. Some towns, in the thrall of activist liberals, attempt to pass local anti-gun statutes. Other victim disarmament organizations utilize the judicial system in attempts to financially destroy arms manufacturers and dealers by filing "nuisance lawsuits" designed to bleed businesses financially, but with no chance of actually winning.
All of this must stop. Some in America are willing to give up life, liberty, and civilization itself, just as many Europeans in the mid-20th Century acted like sheep in the face of the Nazi and Fascist wolves. But the majority in the United States still seem able to think clearly, and apprehend reality with an unblinking understanding.
Every American state must pass laws that mandate the teaching of safe handling of firearms in the public schools; the ages of eight or nine are not too early, as an examination of American history testifies. In addition, marksmanship programs and rifle teams should be mandated offerings for boys and girls as they grow older, by perhaps 10 or 11 years old. In this way the needless firearms deaths through ignorance and unfamiliarity can be ended. Knowledge of safe and respectful gun-handling is the birthright of every American, and it is needed now more than ever.
In addition, every county in America should have at least one public shooting range and preferably several for the use of gun clubs and rifle and marksmanship teams, both school-affiliated and private. The trend toward dangerous ignorance regarding the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be reversed, and citizens must be encouraged and empowered to learn and practice the crucial skills of firearms handling and marksmanship, all of which is also the birthright of every American.
The United States of America is the hope and light of the entire world. Those who claim to the contrary including anti-gun liberals and anti-American intellectuals are wrong. And they are dangerously wrong. America is the bulwark not just of Western Civilization, but of all civilization. Our burden is also our privilege, as free men and women, to carry, own, and use firearms "in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state," as the third paragraph of the New Hampshire state constitution proclaims. Those who choose to remain blind to the risks of ignorance may shirk their responsibility. But it must be made clear that they must stand aside as responsible citizens shoulder the responsibility of eternal vigilance urged upon us by the Founding Fathers.
Let it begin, then. Let the state laws be changed to require public schools to teach 2nd Amendment skills, including the responsible and respectful care, handling, and use of firearms by all, starting at a young age. And let every county and town in America begin the process of creating shooting ranges for the use of the schools as well as the general public.
Starting right now.
Had this argument with a Lib Congress-critter from MD. She justified gun control on the basis that she can't control what her son's friends are doing over at the neighbor's house.
I responded that they could also be playing with sex instead of guns, so why not include Gun Safety education along with Safe Sex ed.
She told me to "shut up!". And I was a guest at her dinner table. LOL.
She told me to "shut up!".
Probably the same response she gave her kids when they asked about sex.
Who makes a .22 magnum handgun in semi auto?
"An armed society is a polite society." -- (I forget the author, but not the sentiment.)
Lazarus Long/Robert Heinlein.
Unlucky? He was involved in a burglary earlier that day and was too stupid to know how to safely handle a handgun, which, in this case, was stolen. Luck had nothing to do with it - and, now, the rest of the world is better for not having him on the street...
She told me to "shut up!".
I didn't know the Widder Heinz moonlighted as a Lib Congress-critter from MD. ;-P
Thanks. Now I remember. Was that in "I, The Jury?" (Just kidding.) Forgot the book. Brain cells blinking off. One by one, like the stars in another story by someone I forgot.
Exactly! Another stupid Criminal removed from the gene pool!
Didja ever notice how the left demands "full-frontal" sex education because "abstinence doesn't work if even one child experiments", but likewise demands zero gun education for fear that it would "arouse temptation"?
I once watched a man at the range try to fire a complete magazine from a brand new .22 mag pistol of that model without a ftf or a jammed slide. He tried most of the afternoon but never succeeded at anything except turning the air blue with his language. That model pistol was never popular and was dropped from production long before the company folded.
Loose change can always be found under the sofa cushions.....
I'm sure some people have had wonderful results with AMT products and love their AMT guns, but I haven't met or talked to any of those people myself.
Nightfall, by Isaac Asimov, if I remember right.
I only have experiencewith one example, a .22 mag pistol. It shot ok but hung up a bit. The owner loved it but not my cup of tea.
I very much doubt the validity of that statement.
Along with having a gun, one must be willing to use that gun without hesitation in a situation like that.
That means complete familiarity with their weapon and the confidence that they can hit what they want to hit.
Even most Second Amendment proponents don't spend the necessary time at the range to achieve that confidence.
I support a scholastic program to teach kids about guns, but the love of shooting must a lifelong pursuit.
More associations, like the VFW, the Boy Scouts, the Lion's Clubs, etc., should promote and sponsor shooting events and make them FUN!
Many people, like myself, don't hunt anymore, but everyone can enjoy shooting for the pure pleasure of shooting.
There already is one. It's called the Second Amendment.
No. She probably shoved a case of condoms at them and then told them to shut up.
Bump for the passage of the laws, and the Boy Scouts of America, where I, and my son, received my first gun training.
This is a very valid point, and on a packed airliner there would have been persons like that. A gun among the passengers might have found its way to the right person, particularly in the case of the forth airplane. Likewise, a gun, or likely guns) in the school in Breslan or Columbine mmay have resulted in far fewer deaths, by the earlier death of the perpatrators.
We need to move in the direction of a gun knowledgable society once more. A few years back, talk show host Melanie Morgan, (SF) was given the opportunity to learn about firearms, and moved from a scared mom to a knowledgable supporter of 2nd ammendment rights.
Expertise was not the issue at all; just mindset.
The people on those planes expected to be held hostage and hoped to recover their freedom. They had an image of an outcome where few died.
As soon as the hijackers' intentions were known, action was taken and resulted in the deaths of the hijackers. Since all aboard were killed, there is no chance that people unskilled in the use of firearms would have had a poorer outcome.
Virtually every courier carrying cash to load ATMs is armed and prepared to use that firearm to protect the cash. People everywhere, including on airlines, deserve the same protection.
My point was that one gun among the passengers was not enough. There needed to be ten or twenty or thirty for the odds to be in their favor of taking out the terrorists.
Everyone comes to the realization that death is imminent, and action is necessary, at different points.
Someone who is confident in their ability to change the situation will take action a lot sooner than someone who can't remember where the safety is on the weapon they have in their holster or purse.
Middle school Eddie Eagle programs on gun safety were violently opposed by the NEA and the rest of the Left. They, however, were all too happy to start teaching sex ed to elementary schools.
Being a gun nut, I talk to people about guns nearly every day.
I meet a lot of people who say they don't like guns.
I never let that slide. I find out "Why?".
Invariably, I discover they have no good reason except that they are completely unfamiliar with guns.
They're ugly, they make a loud noise, and they have the ability to kill.
I always invite them to one of our shoots.
I guarantee them that by the time they leave, they will have a much better appreciation of guns and the enjoyment of shooting.
I was thinking the same thing. They want to teach 12 year olds about safe sex but the idea of safe gun handling is out of the question because after all, guns are bad, bad, bad.
Mistake number one: Teddy didn't warn Steve whether the gun was loaded or not
"MISTAKE" NUMBER ONE = COMMITTING BURGLARY.
"MISTAKE" NUMBER TWO = STEALING A GUN.
The question is, if we want to save the lives of the Teddy Niziol's of America, how can we ensure that necessary information and training is given them? So that when they inevitably do come in contact with a firearm, they'll know enough to forgo accidentally shooting someone.
Who the hell says I want, or should want, to save the lives of stupid, vicious, fumble-fingered apprentice felons?
Even if I did, why would I want to teach them to be more competent with a weapon the writer doesn't want me to have or to use for self defense against them?
There is also the inconvenience of the Second Amendment, which has been recognized as a guaranty of an individual right to keep and bear firearms, both in federal court and by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration in 2002.
And by the Founding Fathers who wrote it, if he cared to read their commentaries and debates.
This SOB is a bleeding heart gun-grabber masquerading as a "reasonable" perplexed person "searching" for answers, and setting up straw arguments intended to propagandize exactly the opposite of what he appears to be saying.
Note also the "It's Bush's fault!" buried in there.
These are the snakes in the Liberal, gun-grabbing jungle that are much harder to spot, and hence more dangerous, than the shrilly open Brady-B*tch types.
I understand what you are saying.
But remember that there were four hijackers with box-cutters, perhaps each with the cutter at the throat of an innocent.
Against one person with a 17 round magazine in a Glock, they would have to mount a suicidal charge at the person with the gun. With even a small advantage of surprise, the odds shift to the armed passenger. If just two of the four hijackers failed to mount an immediate charge of the armed passenger, then the odds shift dramatically, I think. If the passenger ambushes at least one hijacker with a surprise head shot at close range, then there are only three men with box-cutters to fight.
If given the choice between being a single person with 17 rounds to fire versus two people with box-cutters, I choose the gun. There are circumstances where the man with the gun can lose, but there are also many dozens of passengers who can take advantage of the confusion to get in their licks.
Yes, this is exactly what happened to Melanie. She is the co-host of the KSFO morning show and Lee, (the lead dog) told her she was a good conservative except for her absolute insistance that things would somehow be better if there were no guns. She went to a range and reported her experiences on the air. She liked it, lost her fear, and may even be a gun owner now, (I don't recall her saying it or not, but she definitely supports the good guys on this issue too.) Incidently, she was one of the leaders in the recall effort to remove Grey Davis from office. Arnold was in, but he is not much of a gun enthusiast. (I moved from California when I could, to a much more friendly state. AL). Last week my son went with friends to a nearby range I did not know about. I think I will go over there and give it a try. Its been too long since I had the hardware out now that you mention it.
I envy you.
If I weren't working, I'd be at the range today.
Terrorists will never again find docile passengers.
Yes. And due to increasingly popular "shall issue" concealed carry licenses, there is an improved chance that a terrorist might be stopped dead by an armed American.
Unfortunately, our schools remain "gun free zones", for the most part, and there is little reason to believe that terrorists could not storm a school, collect the students and staff in a single location, and arrange an outcome little different from what happened in Russia.
Our teachers have a duty to arm themselves with assault rifles or invite armed citizens into their classrooms in order to repel an attack immediately.
I can't hardly make myself fly anymore.
I'd rather drive for twelve hours than fly for three.
I agree that all pilots should be armed and trained in the use of those arms.
This is a very complex issue.
Remembering some of my grade school teachers, I'd rather see a gun in the hands of a five year old!
I don't know the proper approach to a situation like Beslan, but I do know it can't become a standoff.
Something must be done immediately.
It took time for the terrorists to become organized and arm the bombs. That time should not have been allowed.
Better to repeal legislation authorizing government schools.
| The modern debate over the wording of the Second Amendment could be quickly resolved if the Amendment was read through the preamble to the Bill of Rights. A preamble to the Bill of Rights? What are you talking about? You mean the preamble to the Constitution don't you? No Senators Kennedy, Feinstein, Schumer, Lautenberg and your fellow gun-grabbing buddies, we mean the preamble to the Bill of Rights. Next to Hillary Clinton's billing records from the Rose Law Firm, this little known text might be the most closely guarded secret in American History.
Following the Federal Convention of 1787 and the subsequent ratification of the Constitution, the several States began submitting amendments to Congress for consideration. By September of 1789 Congress had reduced 210 separate amendments to 12. The amendments were inserted into a congressional resolution and submitted to the several States for consideration. Of these, numbers 2-12 were adopted and became the so-called Bill of Rights.
A little known fact about this resolution is that it contained a preamble declaring the purpose of the proposed amendments. Most modern editions of the Bill of Rights either do not contain the preamble or only include the last paragraph. The complete preamble, which is still part of the Bill of Rights, is printed below as it appeared in the 1789 resolution:
Congress of the United States,
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.t
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
As stated in the preamble, the only purpose of the proposed amendments was to prevent the federal government from "misconstruing or abusing its powers." To accomplish this, "further declaratory and restrictive clauses" were being proposed. The amendments, when adopted, placed additional restraints or limitations on the powers of the federal government. Thus, every clause of the Bill of Rights, without exception, is either a declaratory statement or a restrictive provision.
A declaratory clause, pursuant to English language dictionaries, is a simple statement or assertion. A restrictive clause is a statement that restricts or limits. If the Second Amendment is read through the preamble, it reads as follows:
Article II. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, (declaratory clause) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (restrictive clause)
The first part of the Amendment is declaratory, not restrictive, because it is merely an assertion or statement that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State. It does not grant the States or the people any rights. It also does not restrict the federal government from exercising any power. Thus, the first part of the Amendment has no effect on the right to keep and bear arms, "collective [State] or individual."
The second clause, like the first, does not grant the States or the people any rights. Therefore, any assertion that the Second Amendment grants rights, "collective or individual," is constitutionally inaccurate. In addition, since the Amendment did not create any rights, then the right enumerated, whether it be collective or individual, had to be an existing right.
This leaves us with only one option concerning the second part of the Amendment. It is restrictive, not declaratory, because it specifically places a restraint on the exercise of power by the federal government.
Those groups and individuals opposed to the private ownership of firearms claim this restraint pertains to the State militias. According to the Brady Campaign, the Second Amendment was adopted "to prevent the federal government from disarming the State militias."
The U.S. Constitution established a permanent professional army, controlled by the federal government. With the memory of King George III's troops fresh in their minds, many of the "anti-federalists" feared a standing army as an instrument of oppression. State militias were viewed as a counterbalance to the federal army and the Second Amendment was written to prevent the federal government from disarming the state militias.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence claims the Amendment was adopted to "ensure the right of the states to maintain their own militias."
The Second Amendment was adopted to ensure the right of states to maintain their own militia to protect themselves against foreign and federal encroachment.
The Second Amendment, as shown by the preamble, does not place any restraint on the powers federal government concerning the States or their militias. Consequently, any assertion the Second Amendment restricts the powers of the federal government concerning the State militias is patently false.
There is another way to use the preamble to prove this fact. In a sentence, a non-restrictive clause gives information that is not essential to the meaning of a sentence. This information can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. A restrictive clause gives information that is critical to the meaning of a sentence and cannot be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence. If the Second Amendment is read through this sentence structure, the declaratory clause in the first part of the Amendment is the non-restrictive clause because it does not restrain the exercise of power. Thus, the Amendment reads as follows:
Article II. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, (non-restrictive clause) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (restrictive clause)
This sentence structure triggers a question. Is the existence of a State militia essential to a people's right to keep and bear arms? The answer is no because people can have a right to keep and bear arms without the existence of a State militia. In the alternative, since the word militia, as used in the Second Amendment refers to an armed citizenry, not a State organized army, you cannot have a State militia unless that same people has the right to keep and bear arms.
Since the phrase--"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," is the non-restrictive or non-essential part of the Amendment, then, as stated above, it can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. In addition, this phrase is an incomplete thought and cannot stand alone as a sentence. Thus, it needs addition information to give it meaning.
Conversely, the phrase--"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," is the restrictive or essential part of the Amendment. It cannot be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. This phrase is a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence because it does not need additional information to give it meaning.
If the non-restrictive part is removed and the Amendment is read in a manner that allows the verbiage to stand alone as a complete thought, then the Second Amendment can be reduced to the following sentence:
[T]he right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Those groups and individuals who advance the militia interpretation of the Second Amendment have failed to grasp the significance of this verbiage. If the purpose of the Second Amendment was to prevent the federal government from disarming the State militias as organizations like the Brady Campaign claim, then this sentence structure accomplishes that goal. By denying the federal government the power to infringe the existing right of the people right to keep and bear arms, the State militias could never be constitutionally disarmed because the people of the individual States are the militia referenced in the Amendment. Thus, the States would retain the so-called right to maintain armed militias. Irrespective of how organizations like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence attempt to twist the sentence structure of the Second Amendment, it is the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms that ensures the existence of the State militias contemplated by the Founders.
In conclusion, the preamble to the Bill of Rights shows that the purpose of the Amendments was to prevent the federal government from abusing its delegated powers. To accomplish this, further declaratory and restrictive clauses were being added to restrain the exercise of power by the federal government. Thus, the preamble negates any assertion that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to grant the States the right to maintain armed militias. It also negates the claim that the Amendment granted the people an individual right to keep and bear arms. The sole purpose of the Second Amendment was to place an enumerated restraint on the powers of the federal government concerning the existing right of the people to keep and bear arms.
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