“Fixing” the Second Amendment

“Fixing” the Second Amendment April 15, 2014

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, having spent much of his career trying to interpret the Constitution away, now wants to change it.  He has written a book entitled Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.  He has published an op-ed piece on how he thinks the Second Amendment can be “fixed” by adding five simple words.  See them, along with some thoughts, after the jump.From John Paul Stevens, The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment – The Washington Post (an article that gives his reasoning and the context for his proposal):

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

But a militia means that its members bear arms.  Why would there need to be an article in the Bill of Rights that says militia members can carry weapons?  Surely the original language says that the people need to keep and bear arms so that there can be a militia.  Not that there needs to be a militia to permit people to keep and bear arms.

I am curious, though, about the militia provision.  If the Constitution says that a militia is “necessary,” shouldn’t we have a militia?  That military organization of trained citizens only mobilized when there is a need was an alternative to a standing army, which many considered to have the potential of being misused by tyrants.  Even during the Civil War, units on both sides were basically local militias–which went by the name of their states and localities–that came together under a higher command.  Now we have a vast, expensive, powerful national military establishment.   Are any libertarians and strict-construction Constitutionalists concerned about that?


Browse Our Archives