Even in the aftermath of mass shootings, gun advocates proclaim their Second Amendment “rights”. But what does the Second Amendment actually guarantee?

It says: “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.”

One of the great tragedies of modern America is that the NRA and its allies have convinced people to ignore the first two clauses of that four-clause sentence, while making the final clauses sacrosanct. Any sentence should be read in its entirety to understand its meaning:

  • “A well-regulated militia”: Are mass shooters or criminal gangs well-regulated militias?
  • “being necessary to the security of a free state”: America was founded as a free state after citizen-soldiers used single-shot muskets to defeat the British Empire. We didn’t have a standing army at the time. The founders were establishing a national security mechanism to protect against attempts by foreign adversaries to reassert authoritarian control over our newly formed “free state.”
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NCAA Football: Southern at TSU

Nov 11, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Southern University Jaguars fans pray for the people who lost their lives in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs shooting, before the Jaguars played against the Texas Southern Tigers at BBVA Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea For the Advocate

  • “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” These final two clauses (and they are two because of an oddly placed and seemingly unnecessary comma) come on the heels of the first two clauses. Basic grammatical rule tell us that this final part(s) is contingent on the first two parts.

I believe in the Second Amendment, which is why I support the U.S. military, a well-regulated militia that protects the security of our free state. Nothing in the Second Amendment guarantees Americans the “right” to own any kind of gun or number of guns they want. In fact, the first thing it speaks to is the term “well regulated.”

Of course, the Second Amendment was written 226 years ago. Would it be reasonable to make immutable laws now for weapons that will be used in the year 2243?

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Gun advocates cite restrictive gun laws in Chicago and other high-crime cities as evidence that gun laws don’t work. This is not a good point, since it’s easy to buy guns in neighboring states, essentially negating those laws.

Gun advocates say if you pass gun laws, only “bad guys” will have guns. But how do they know? We haven’t tried. And the ATF’s National Tracing Center, which should be an excellent resource for tracking guns used by “bad guys,” is legally barred from using computers to do so. To those who say we can’t do anything about this, I ask, why is it that the U.S. is the only developed country where these atrocities regularly happen? How many mass shootings and daily gun deaths must occur before we try to do something, anything, to stop them?

Peter Robins-Brown

freelance writer

New Orleans