Friday, March 9, 2007

Is the second amendment a collective right or an individual right?

Consider the second 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."
In the appeal for SHELLY PARKER, ET AL., Vs. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND ADRIAN M. FENTY, MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, in regards to the Washington D.C. "gun ban", the appeals court reverses the previous ruling finding that the second amendment refers to a collective right, rather than an individual right. For a summary see BREITBART.COM. Consider the following language from their decision:

"In determining whether the Second Amendment’s guarantee is an individual one, or some sort of collective right, the most important word is the one the drafters chose to describe the holders of the right—“the people.” That term is found in the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. It has never been doubted that these provisions were designed to protect the interests of individuals against government intrusion,interference, or usurpation. We also note that the Tenth Amendment—“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”—indicates that the authors of the Bill of Rights were perfectly capable of distinguishing between “the people,” on the one hand, and “the states,” on the other. The natural reading of “the right of the people” in the Second Amendment would accord with usage elsewhere in the Bill of Rights."
Notice how they, correctly, read the references to states rights vs. the rights of the people. The constitution doesn't take a highly educated scholar to interpret folks, it's written in plain english. Everywhere in the Bill of Rights, the language refering to states rights and the rights of the people is consistent.

The Supreme Court also interprets the language of the Bill of Rights this way. In United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990), the Court looked specifically at the Constitution and Bill of Rights’ use of “people” in the course of holding that the Fourth Amendment did not protect the rights of non-citizens on foreign soil:

'“[T]he people” seems to have been a term of art employed in select parts of the Constitution. The Preamble declares that the Constitution is ordained and established by “the People of the United States.” The Second Amendment protects “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments provide that certain rights and powers are retained by and reserved to “the people.” See also U.S. CONST., amdt. 1; Art. I, § 2, cl. 1. While this textual exegesis is by no means conclusive, it suggests that “the people” protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community.'
So, is the second amendment a collective "state" right, or is it an individual right? Consider the case of United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Miller, a rare Second Amendment precedent in the Supreme Court, the holding of which we discuss below, described the militia in the following terms:

The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia—civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.

The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. “A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.” And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.
According to Miller, the militia included “all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defence” who were “enrolled for military discipline.” And Miller’s expansive definition of the militia is in accord with the second Militia Act of 1792, passed by the Second Congress.

In reading the Federalist Papers and other documents concurrent with the Constitution and The Bill of Rights, it is quite clear that the second amendment is an "individual" right, and not a collective one.

Any questions?