A Well Regulated Militia? Or a Wrongly Decided Supreme Court Case?

After witnessing the increase in mass murders over the past decade, the Spirited Reasoner believes it is time for all of us to question the wisdom of the opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). That decision, supported by a bare 5-4 majority, was split along the all-too-familiar conservative/liberal lines. It held that the District of Columbia’s ban on the possession of handguns violated the 2nd Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. Although that decision applied only to the District of Columbia, which is a branch of the federal government, Justice Scalia seemed to be arguing that the 2nd Amendment protected the rights of all individual U. S. citizens to own weapons.  

Ten years—and many innocent lives—later, we are left to wonder whether that reasoning ever held any water. Let’s stop a moment to consider the actual words of the 2nd Amendment:

“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 doesn’t take a legal scholar, or history major, to understand that the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect state and local militias, but only so long as those militias were “well regulated.” In other words, this was not an amendment designed to protect any ragtag, unregulated band of kooks deciding to live off in the woods somewhere, declaring themselves to be a “militia.” (Folks doubting this interpretation should ask themselves what the framers meant by the phrase “well regulated.”)

Instead, the 2nd Amendment envisioned state-sanctioned militias like the National Guard, under the leadership of state governors. Weapons owned by the individual members of these militias would likely be stored in an armory—again, in a manner to be well regulated by the states. While it makes sense that a member of this state or local militia would need to carry a weapon while drilling or on active duty, it makes absolutely no sense to separate this weapon from the official purpose of the well regulated militia. In other words, the 2nd Amendment should never have been interpreted to apply to non-militia members or purposes.

But now, having gone too far, our U. S. Supreme Court has already encouraged young people to see just how far Justice Scalia’s reasoning can be extended.

Today’s news includes a story about the suspect in a Missouri Wal-Mart disturbance. This young man—who was carrying a rifle and handgun while wearing body armor before he was stopped—was quoted as stating that he merely wanted to test his 2nd Amendment rights. Hopefully, this nation is ready to conclude that the so-called “right to keep and bear arms” was never meant to go this far.

Spirited Reasoners believe that many of those who seem to worship the 2nd Amendment would do well to read it from the beginning.