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The Mass Media

The Most Crucial and Often Overlooked Part of the Second Amendment


Do the leaders of this nation, ranging from the politicians to the media, not understand the basic laws or do they intentionally misrepresent it?

We’ve all heard it before: gun control is unconstitutional because the Second Amendment says that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But I want to ask: how many of us have actually stopped to consider it?

Notice how the word “people” is used rather than “persons.” The Oxford Dictionary defines “people” as a “human beings in general or considered collectively.” “Person,” on the other hand, is defined as a “human being regarded as an individual.” It is clear from this that the Second Amendment describes a collective right, not an individual right.

A collective right is a right held by a people, but not the individuals that make up that people. An example of a collective right is the people’s right to decide national interests and policies. No individual can make those decisions on their own.

An individual right is a right held by a person. An example of an individual right is the right of every person to decide their own interests and opinions. Even if a democracy votes that everyone should love chocolate cake, you have no obligation to do so.

Our founding fathers were clearly aware of this distinction, as shown in the Fourth Amendment, which switches between using the word “people” and “persons” when describing an individual’s right to protection from unreasonable searches.

Furthermore, this extremely common line of reasoning used against gun control advocates is based on a misquotation. The Second Amendment, in its entirety, reads, “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.”

The four words that should immediately jump out are right at the beginning. Not only does the Second Amendment make it explicit that it is referring to militias and not individual citizens, but it describes this militia as being subject to regulations.

Very few modern groups identify themselves as a militia, so let’s think about some examples that could be labeled as such.

The National Guard is a branch of the United States military, which is commanded by both state and federal governments. A town or city police department is, by its very nature, designed for combat. The same can be said of private security firms, that their purpose is to employ force. In what way are these not militias?

All of these organizations are inherently defensive, which is in line with the Second Amendment’s description of militia, “being necessary to the security of a free State.”

Now, for the elephant in the room. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment was an individual right. This overturned the unanimous 1939 decision that the Second Amendment refers to a collective right, and only weapons that could be reasonably used as such were protected.

However, the case was not about gun control in general. The court overturned a law that said handguns stored in the home must be disassembled or otherwise rendered inoperable. This is due, in part, because handguns are frequently bought with self-defense in mind. The majority opinion that is still held is that gun control is constitutionally based on the phrase “well-regulated.”

After all of this analysis, two prominent questions are brought to my mind. Do the leaders of this nation, ranging from the politicians to the media, not understand basic laws, or do they intentionally misrepresent them?

Which answer is worse?