An essay on the Second Amendment? Isn't that supposed to be a scholarly sort of paper? Well, um, probably. But it is the end of the school year, I'm brain-fried, and I really can't bear the thought of another high-sounding, scholarly production. So, I decided to make it children's level, throwing in some ten-dollar words every so often. Here it is, for what it's worth.
“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.”
What does that mean? Like all legal documents, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is a challenge to decipher. Despite its puzzling wording, this amendment serves to safeguard the rights we enjoy as citizens of the United States by defending our country from invasion and protecting us from our government. A “well regulated militia” includes all able bodied citizens capable of bearing arms in the defense of our country. The militia is you, me, and everybody else born or naturalized in the United States. We, the militia, are “necessary to the security” of our nation – we are a critical protection of our “free state”. The phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” allows us to keep and carry a weapon – a practice critical to maintaining our country’s freedom.
Imagine that you are constructing a snow fort with your friends. All morning you work, rolling snowballs, struggling to stack them, and filling in cracks. Finally, the frigid walls stand chest-high, though the structure is far from perfect. As you all pause to admire your handiwork, a normally quiet friend comments, “I think we all ought to be allowed to make and carry snowballs.” Silence ensues as the group turns to stare in astonishment at the speaker. No one ever prohibited the manufacture of snowballs, and who really cares anyway? What’s the big deal with snowballs?
There are two “big deals”. The first “big deal” consists of the neighbor kids who admire your fort a little too much. In fact they’d be thrilled to take over your fort and turn you out on the street, figuratively speaking. If you are interested in protecting your carefully built castle, the marauders must be driven away with snowballs. If you can’t make or carry snowballs, your neighborhood bullies may easily capture your snow fort, coercing you into obeying their commands. At the onset of the fort’s existence, it is only logical for all of your friends to make and carry snowballs just in case the neighbors attack. Everybody is part of the militia.
But after awhile, you observe that it is very inefficient for every one to drop their work and come running whenever the neighbor kids approach the fort. You also notice that a few of your friends possess a lot more skill in the art of snowball throwing than others, to the point that they alone are fully capable of driving off the hooligans without the rest of the group’s assistance. Based on this observation, your friends collectively come to a conclusion. One third of your friends continue to practice throwing snowballs, remaining in the vicinity of the fort to chase away any assaulting neighbors, while the other two thirds work on building additions to the fort and snitching cookies from the house kitchen for all to enjoy. Now instead of a militia you have a standing army.
Now you also need a manager to run all the different divisions of labor; the builders, the cookie lifters, and the snowball throwers. Accordingly, the group selects three friends to be “organizers”. The “rule maker” composes rules based on the majority opinion of your friends. The “judge” decides disagreements and enforces the rules. The “boss” double checks the rules before they’re enforced as well as commands the company of snowball throwers.
For a while, this arrangement works fairly well. The cookie lifters and builders occasionally toss a few snowballs around just for fun, but most often leave the icy spheres to the snowball throwers. But unexpectedly an enraged builder hurls a snowball at a mischievous cookie lifter, badly injuring the trickster and frightening you and all of your friends. The “judge” rules that the culpable builder must undergo a day of cookie withdrawal and face a more severe sentence on repetition of snowball throwing. But the many of your friends, including the “rule maker” think differently. Why not prohibit cookie grabbers and builders from making or carrying snowballs altogether? After all the standing army of snowball throwers are the only persons employing snowballs for a useful purpose.
You might remark, “That sounds great! What’s wrong with prohibiting snowball manufacture?” Well, nothing, until the professional snowball throwers under the command of the “boss” decide that since they alone possess snowballs, you must obey whatever they require. Rather than enjoying the fort, you must now build ceaselessly. Instead of sharing in cookie plunder, the confections you snitched fresh from the baking sheet will be consumed by powerful snowball throwers. If you attempt to halt your work, pilfer a cookie or desert to the neighbors, you’ll face a shower of hard-packed snowballs hurled by a squad of trained throwers. That is, if you’ve relinquished the right to make and bear snowballs.
With the ability to bear snowballs, you are capable of resisting coercive actions on the part of your governmentally run military. You can fight back with your own snowballs, forcing tyrants to allow you your rights, or expelling them from the fort altogether. This constitutes the second “big deal” concerning snowballs. Once you surrender the right to keep and bear snowballs, your fort does not belong to you any more.
The right to keep and bear arms is important because a “well regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free state.” History and experience taught the American states that in order to maintain freedom, and consequently the other rights of citizens, a country must possess a “well regulated militia”. Since militia is, by definition, self arming citizens, the populace of a “free state” must be armed. A “free state” which disarms her people is easily overrun. A weaponless citizenry offers an easy target for aggressor nations even if military personal carry weapons.
Most importantly, the Second Amendment defends citizens of a democracy from tyranny. A weaponless people are a powerless people. Without the means of defending themselves, citizens are easily reduced to dumb obedience. A democracy cannot survive when its people are helplessly subjugated because a democracy “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” The power of a democracy is directly proportional to the power of the people who compose it. If power is denied the people, a democracy ceases to exist.