“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.”
It seems simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, the wording and grammar, and the multiple attempts to interpret the Second Amendment throughout history, have added layers of intended and unintended legal, academic and emotional complexity.
Several states added the qualifying requirements that said state militias should be well-trained and regulated. And, the Articles of Confederation make it clear that “every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered.”
The Founding Fathers likely envisioned that citizens owning firearms would know how to use them and would be willing and expected to “step up” to the defense of state and country when called upon — to be the necessary militia. But as more states joined the Union and our society evolved, the vision evolved and became more sophisticated — the distinction between individual gun ownership for protection of family and property and the maintenance of a trained and well-regulated state militia became much clearer.
I don’t believe that the freedom and right to bear arms will be eroded if reasonably regulated. We continue to have free speech, yet regulations on that right have evolved over the years based on common sense and public safety, and we continue to have tremendous latitude on speaking freely.
I am a responsible gun owner. It would not occur to me to be without one or more guns for protection against the uncertainties and challenges of life. Nor would it ever occur to me to stockpile weapons, own and use assault weapons, or utilize large-capacity magazines. These latter things are part and parcel of our trained and equipped state militia and national military.
The recent events in Sutherland Springs, Texas, provide real-world support for this perspective. The perpetrator had an assault weapon, as did the hero who shot him.
President Trump stated, “If the neighbor who confronted the gunman hadn’t had a rifle, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.” However, if the gunman hadn’t had assault weaponry, far fewer people in that church would have likely been killed and injured before the gunman was brought down.
Our current reasonable and logical gun ownership regulations in California need to be in place in every state, rigorously and consistently enforced, and applied to both the public and private sale of guns.
We need to build on these regulations by immediately banning the private ownership of assault weapons, bump stocks, large capacity magazines and silencers. It’s time to stop the rhetoric and partisan hard-lining, and get about doing the business of the people for the protection of both the people and the Constitution.
Fran David, now retired, was city manager of Hayward and finance director in Berkeley.