Reframing the Debate: The Right to Bear Arms

“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.”

Whether you read this amendment as “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State AND being necessary to the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” or as “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, AS WELL AS the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall BOTH not be infringed,” it should be clear that the framers of the Constitution believed that “the people” have a right to keep and bear arms.

(The first phrasing would indicate that having a well regulated militia supports the ability of the people to bear their own arms. The second phrasing would indicate that a well regulate militia and the right to bear arms are related but not dependent upon each other.)

The debate that bogs this poor amendment down is gun control, but in its essence, this amendment is about freedom and self defense. Defense not only from other people, but also from the government itself.

But we also need to ask ourselves, who are the people? And, why is there a distinction between the civilians, citizens, and military personnel?

You might think these questions are silly or irrelevant, but please, slow down and take the time to think about them. If we want to understand what is happening in Libya, then we need to answer these questions.

Where do we draw the line between “civilian” and “rebel.” A few weeks ago, many rebels were nothing more than discontented citizens. When did that change? When they sat at their computers and blogged against the government? When they spoke out? When they went to protests? When they broke a law? When they picked up guns? When they pulled the trigger?

No matter when you make the distinction, does the rebel ever stop being a citizen? Unless he can find a way to fully remove himself from society, I think the rebel would remain a citizen. A citizen of what, I am not quite so sure, but a citizen at any rate.

If citizens, however, have the right to bear arms, can they ever stop being a civilian? And on the other side of the same coin, just because a citizen has not taken up arms, are they not rebels? Just because they are not holding guns, does that automatically mean that they are merely civilians?

Personally, I think there are no civilians. There are citizens who agree and citizens who disagree. There are citizens who fight and citizens who choose not to fight. Neither should be blamed for the outcome of any situation for being one or the other. Fighting and taking a stand has consequences, but inaction has consequences as well.

Please consider this post as the opening of a debate. In later posts I would like to return to these themes and these questions again. I will refer to Federalist Papers and founders thoughts. I will refer to current events. This is only the beginning.

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