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Gun Control (a Legislative Issue)


Our rights as they pertain to bearing arms and to owning guns are spelled out in the second amendment of the Constitution as follows.

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.

There has been a lot of debate as to the precise meaning of this amendment, with many individuals and groups often interpreting it in very different ways. There are some who feel that it gives individuals the right to have whatever weapons they want, and the government should not be able to put any limits on this right. On the other hand, there are some that say it gives the government the right to impose some strict controls over gun ownership.

Given our modern world with its vastly more destructive weapons, it may be a good idea to rewrite this amendment in a way that would more clearly define our rights and obligations as to gun ownership. Even so, if we break this amendment down into its component parts, we may find it is clear enough for us to come up with the right balance of gun ownership rights and controls.


The first half of the second amendment states that a “well regulated” militia is needed to protect the security of a free state. At the time this amendment was written, we did not have a large standing army or the ability to move troops rapidly from one place to another. Therefore, local militias were very important for the protection of local communities.

One of the key components of this part of the amendment is the bit about the militia needing to be well regulated. At the time, the meaning of “well regulated” probably referred to being well trained. If so, then the right to keep and bear arms would apply to militia members who are well trained. On the other hand, to regulate also means to control or to direct, so this amendment would include the idea of the government being able to control those who could keep and bear arms.


The second half of the second amendment starts out with “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. Some say that this is talking about the rights of individuals. However, it does not say individuals, it says people. The word “people” refers to a group of human beings, not individuals. In fact, based on the context, the word “people" most likely refers to the citizens of a state or the state itself. If so, this right actually means that the state’s militia can keep and bear arms, not that individuals can do so.


The second half of the second amendment also states that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. We must first take note of the fact that it uses infringed instead of limited. Although there are several definitions for “infringe”, the ones that best apply here are the ones for "to exceed the limits of" and "to advance beyond the usual limit". With this amendment using the word infringed, it is saying that limits can be placed on this right if they do not go beyond the usual limits.

Therefore, this amendment does allow for the government to impose controls on our rights to keep and to bear arms. The key to determining what controls or limits can be imposed is in determining what the usual limits should be. If we accept that the word “people” does refer to the state, then it is the right of the state that cannot be infringed by the federal government. Even if we did assume this amendment refers to individuals, then the federal government can still impose the usual limits on our rights.

Whole Amendment

When talking about gun control, many gun advocates would like us to ignore the first part of the second amendment. As with any law or amendment, we cannot simply ignore some part of it just because it does not suit our needs. To understand what rights the second amendment gives us, we must look at the whole amendment to determine what its intended meaning was.

Since the idea of allowing people to keep and to bear arms stems from the second amendment’s declaration of the necessity of a “well regulated” militia, we could reasonably conclude that this amendment only applies to people who are part of the militia. Therefore, there would be no constitutional right for anyone else to keep or to bear arms. In addition, one could also reasonably conclude that the amendment gives the government the right to impose some limits on the rights to keep and to bear arms, if those limits did not go beyond what would be considered the usual limits.

Of course, it is quite possible that the writers of the amendment would have expected that everyone would want to come to the aid of their country, and to protect it and its citizens from harm, whether that harm came from an external or internal source. Therefore, for everyone to be assured that their right to keep and to bear arms is protected by the second amendment, we could simply presume that gun ownership comes with an implied obligation to be part of the local militia, and to get the needed training that they would need. This would also mean that, in times of need, gun owners could expect to be called upon to be part of their local militia.

However, today we really do not have local militias as we did when the second amendment was written. Today, we have a standing army, national guards and some state guards. Although there are many so called private militias, all 50 states prohibit private paramilitary activity. Therefore, since local militias are no longer being used, the second amendment may no longer even be relevant. That is, unless we use the National Guard in place of militia.

Usual Limits

Our next step will be to determine what usual limits we should be able to impose on keeping and bearing arms. Since the goal of a militia would be to protect our security, we would want to think in terms of setting limits on the arms that would help in protecting our security. The idea being that the right arms being in the hands of the right individuals can help protect us, but the wrong arms or the wrong individuals could endanger our security. Therefore, the two big things to consider in setting limits on arms would be what types of arms we should allow individuals to keep and to bear, and who should be allowed to keep and to bear these arms.


When we talk about what types or arms that we should allow individuals to keep and to bear, the first thing we should consider is that we have much more destructive arms today than our ancestors did when the second amendment was written in 1791.

Back in the late eighteenth century, the state of the art in arms was a musket, which could only fire one round at a time, was not very accurate, and needed a half a minute or more to reload. A single person with a musket could often protect himself or herself from a single human or animal attacker but did not pose much of a threat to others. It would require a large group of individuals to protect a community from bigger threats or to pose much of a threat to others.

Today, automatic weapons can fire a dozen or more rounds in seconds, can be quite accurate in the hands of the right individuals, and can also be reloaded in seconds. In addition, we have hand grenades, rocket propelled grenades, high explosives, shoulder fired missiles, and numerous types of bombs that go all the way up to the thermo-nuclear kind. Today, with these weapons, a single individual could protect himself or herself from multiple attackers and could pose a real threat to many others.

In battle, we obviously want to give our troops as much firepower as needed to do the job without endangering themselves. Determining what level of fire power to use in battle is a question for the military. What we need to do here is decide how much firepower we want to give an individual when not in combat. For most of us, our day-to-day lives rarely, if ever, put us in a dangerous situation where we would need a firearm. Of course, there is always the chance of encountering some dangerous animal or criminal. In these cases, a simple semi-automatic pistol may be all that is needed.

As far as limits for individuals go, I think we can all agree that we would not want them to keep or to bear nuclear bombs. They simply would not provide any real protection and would be too much of a threat to others. The same could be said for most other bombs, missiles, high explosives or grenades. If these arms are needed to protect a community, they would be better kept in a secure armory, where they would be available in case of a threat but where they would not pose much of a threat to the community.

An automatic weapon also poses more of a risk to others than protection for an individual. Unless of course, the individual is up against many attackers, which seems unlikely except if the individual is a criminal, and the attackers are instead law enforcement offices. For simple protection, a semi-automatic handgun or rifle should be sufficient. Therefore, it would also seem best to keep any automatic weapons in a secure armory with the other more deadly arms.


The next thing to consider is who should be allowed to keep and to bear arms. Again, we want to protect ourselves and our community, so we would want to limit these rights to individuals who can help to protect us and to keep arms out of the hands of those who would do us harm.

In general, most individuals could probably be trusted to handle a firearm responsibly, but there are many individuals who would potentially do more harm than good if they had a firearm. For instance, if someone is not mature enough, has criminal intent or has some other mental deficiency, then he or she may end up misusing a firearm.

To start with, we should limit firearms to those individuals who have proven they are mature enough to handle a firearm responsibly. This would mean children would not be allowed to keep or to bear arms until they have proven they have matured enough. This would mean criminals would need to prove they have reformed. Individuals with mental deficiencies would need to prove they had recovered and are not prone to relapse.

Of course, being mature is not enough. When someone is mature enough to drive a car, we do not simply let them start driving on our streets. Instead, we make the individual take the appropriate written and driving tests to demonstrate that they have learned the skills needed to properly drive a car before we let the individual out on the road. In a similar way, we need to require individuals who want to keep and to bear arms to prove that they have learned how to properly handle a firearm before we let them have one.

When individuals get their driving licenses, they only must prove they can handle a car under normal driving conditions. Most of the time, this may be sufficient, but it would be better to have drivers prove that they can also handle themselves when the driving conditions are not as good and when in various emergency driving situations. If drivers had to learn and to prove they could drive defensively in these situations, our roads would be much safer.

When it comes to a firearm, there is a big difference between being on a firing range and being in various situations out in the community. We do not let our police or military personnel carry a firearm unless they have been properly certified on the firing range and in various potential real-life situations. We know that even with the proper training, police and military personnel do occasionally still make mistakes.

If we do not know when and how to use a firearm appropriately in public, then we could end up doing more harm than good. Picture all the situations like robberies or attacks where one or more individuals could be threatening us with one or more weapons. In most cases, our response should not simply be to pull out our weapon and to start shooting the bad guys. Instead, we would need to evaluate each situation based on who might be in the line of fire, whether anyone else might have a gun, whether the police may be there or on the way, whether we could be mistaken for one of the bad guys, and all the other relevant details and possible outcomes.

Training is not only needed for use in public situations, but also for use in the home. It has been found that guns kept in the home are more often used in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault or suicide than they are used for self-defense. Among other things, we need to know how to tell the difference between a burglar and a family member coming home late, and how to keep a gun out of the hands of family members who are not properly trained or who might pose a threat to others or to themselves.

If we are in one of these deadly situations and we do not evaluate things correctly or take the proper actions, we could end up killing innocent bystanders, friends or family, or getting ourselves killed. Therefore, if we want to keep and to bear a firearm, then we should be required to get the proper training and to prove that we can not only hit a target in a firing range, but also can handle ourselves in various situations where various other individuals could be around.

Open Carry

About half the states in the U.S. allow individuals to openly carry some types of firearms, either with or without the need to get an open carry license. In general, this is a bad idea. Research has shown that the presence of a visible gun makes us more aggressive. In addition, with all the active shooter incidents that now occur each year, it is hard to know whether someone openly carrying a gun has bad intensions. There have been several instances in recent years related to someone openly carrying a gun where innocent individuals have been shot or killed.

Let's take a situation where there are a few individuals in some place who are openly carrying guns. What if someone mistakes you for an active shooter? What if that person had a gun? What if there was an active shooter and you shot someone with a gun, who turned out not to be the active shooter? What if you did shoot the active shooter, but then the cops mistake you for the active shooter? Unless we can come up with ways to keep us safe when individuals openly carry guns, we really should not allow it.

Founding Fathers

What did a well "regulated militia" mean to our Founding Fathers? In Federalist Paper Number 29, Alexander Hamilton explained at great length precisely what a well-regulated militia was, why our Founding Fathers thought we needed one and why they wanted to protect it from being disarmed by the federal government.

Basically, Hamilton defined a "well regulated" militia as what we today call the National Guard. It should be a properly constituted, ordered and drilled (“well-regulated”) military force, organized state by state. The militia needed to be uniformly organized and disciplined so that it could operate like a proper army. Although it was organized state by state, it needed to be under the ultimate control of the national government.

Our Founding Fathers did not want the government to have an army made up of full-time, professional soldiers. Although there was a small continental army. They wanted our military force to be made up of regular citizens who would serve as part time volunteers. They argued that such citizens could not be used by a tyrant against the population the way that a professional army could.

The right for a "well regulated" militia (National Guard) to keep and to bear arms could then not be infringed. Our Founding Fathers wanted to make sure it could not be disarmed by the federal government, so that a future tyrant could not disarm it and then use some mercenary army to impose martial law.

As state militias were initially instituted, all white males between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to join their state militias. Therefore, at least all white males between the ages of 18 and 45 would have had a right to keep and to bear arms. Although those arms would have been the ones they needed as being part of the militia. Today, we do not have a requirement to be part of the National Guard, which replaced the militias. Only those individuals who volunteered would be part of the National Guard.

If we want to defend the Second Amendment, then it should apply only to those individuals who meet the criteria laid down by Hamilton: Those who volunteer to join their National Guard, undergo the rigorous training needed to attain “proficiency in military functions” and to perform the “operations of an army,” serve as ordered under the ultimate command of the president and to be subject to military discipline. In addition, it should only apply when individuals are acting as members of their National Guard.


As we can see, although the second amendment does give us some rights as they pertain to keeping and bearing arms, those rights can and should be limited. The goal is to protect ourselves and our communities, so we need to limit our arms to those that are appropriate to that task, and to the individuals who will be able to responsibly handle those arms and have learned how to use them properly.

We need to make sure that only individuals who have the right intensions, maturity and intelligence and who are trained to handle a firearm properly can get one. Only those individuals who have passed an appropriate background check and have obtained the appropriate firearm certifications, should be licensed to buy, to keep and to bear a firearm. To simplify things when buying and carrying a firearm, these individuals should be issued an appropriate gun license. No matter the venue or situation, guns should only be sold or transferred to individuals with a valid gun license.

We also need to make sure we know what arms and personnel are available to protect our community, all guns and gun owners should be registered with the local community. Owners would need to properly store and secure their firearms so that they did not fall into the wrong hands. When sold, the gun title would need to be transferred to the new owner. Lost or stolen guns would need to be reported immediately to the local police.

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Last Updated:
Tuesday, December 26, 2023
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