S.J. Schwaidelson is a Minnesota writer who blogs at The Wifely Person Speaks.
Did you know there are two versions of the Second Amendment?
This is the version that was passed by Congress:
"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."
And this is the one that was ratified by the states and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, secretary of state:
"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."
A real "eats shoots and leaves" moment, eh? Well, it's worse than just bad punctuation.
As conceded by the Supreme Court, there is a direct link between the Second Amendment and the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which protects the rights of Protestants from disarmament by the Crown. That text reads as follows:
"That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law."
Lacking the phrase, "as allowed by law," our version seems to circumvent the ability of Congress (or anyone else for that matter) to make a determination about what the law permits ... and by extension, makes the passage of any law restricting guns a matter of constitutionality. So there is actually no law that can be made (according to the NRA) that can limit the ownership of any gun.
In District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that it was absolutely OK to own a gun unconnected to a militia, and ruled that said gun could be used for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. It was the first SCOTUS ruling that considered the Second Amendment to be protecting an individual right.
Since Day One, however, there has been debate over the intent of the amendment, and whether or not firearm type was limited to the scope of a militia. The Supreme Court has never defined the meaning of the word "arms," and subsequently any attempt to limit the type of firearms permitted has become a constitutional debate.
What has been omitted from the debate is common sense.
Lots of people have permits for and legally own handguns. Some people feel safer having one in the house, and they are supposed to be trained in the use and storage of such a weapon. One does not leave one's Glock lying about on the kitchen table for the kids to play with or take to school for show and tell.
Hunting guns are supposed to be used for sport and when not in use, I do believe they are supposed to be kept in locked storage. And lots of people participate in other marksmanship-type events, like skeet and pentathlon, safely and without incident.
But show me where in this country one needs to own a couple of Uzis, AK-47s, and a few customized M-16s thrown in for good measure. Does one need to ever stock thousands of rounds of armor-piercing ammo?
It's time to give up our delusions of frontier life; them days are long gone. Even in our most rural communities, there is not a single reason for anyone to own an assault rifle. Guns and ammo are not the same as laundry detergent and a 12-pack of toilet paper. We put warning labels on everything, but we still let people walk out of gun swap meets without so much as a name verification. How is it that New York City can ban giant sodas and too much salt in your fries, but cannot stop assault weapon ownership?
I am not suggesting all guns be banned, although I wouldn't exactly oppose that idea. But it's time to stand up to groups like the NRA and demand common sense be allowed back into the conversation. The gun lobby isn't about hobbyists or hunters or urban dwellers who feel safe with a gun in the apartment. It is just a group of people who seem to think it's more important to let anyone own weapons. Even people who might use them to shoot up a movie theater, or a school, or a community center. The list just goes on and on.
We have a big election coming up. Maybe now is the time to demand that common sense be restored to the gun debate. There are more of us who want to see assault weapons banned than want to see them protected. We, the people, can demand a halt to the insanity of insufficient gun control.