WASHINGTON - APRIL 19: Organized by the Second Amendment March group, about 500 pro-gun demonstrators rally near the Washington Monument April 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. Known as Patriots' Day, April 19 is also the anniversary of the American Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord, the Oklahoma City bombing and the attack of the Branch Dividian compound. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Since Ward Room’s posts on firearms always generate so much fan mail, Your Ward Room Blogger, Edward McClelland has decided to discuss the Second Amendment today.
Frequently, I hear gun owners describe themselves as “Second Amendment Absolutists.” By this, they mean they should be able to own any gun they want -- a potato gun, a .22-caliber pistol, an elephant gun, a bazooka -- and take it anywhere they want, hidden inside their pants. As justification, they point to a clause in the Second Amendment, declaring “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Second Amendment Absolutists cited this language in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, which overturned the city’s ban on handguns. They’re also using it in a lawsuit against Illinois’s ban on concealed weapons, which Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan have vowed to preserve.
If the Second Amendment Absolutists are going to be so literal, then I’m going to be even more literal, and cite the entire 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.”
As I read it, the amendment guarantees Americans the right to keep and bear arms so they can form a militia. Yet very few Second Amendment Absolutists belong to militias, or even look as though they’re in shape for combat.
So here’s my proposal for Quinn and Madigan: if the Second Amendment Absolutists are going to hold you to the second half of the Second Amendment, hold them to the first half: tell them they can carry any gun they want, anywhere they want, as long as they join the state’s militia, the Illinois National Guard. It would require one weekend a month of training, plus the possibility of active duty if the United States becomes involved in a war.
Conservatives are fond of saying that freedom does not just involve rights, it involves responsibilities. Which is why it’s surprising that Second Amendment Absolutists have only focused on the half that bestows rights, not the half that spells out the responsibility for which those rights were granted.
Following the entire Second Amendment would be a win-win situation for Illinois. Gun owners would no longer have to carry weapons where everyone could see them. And the National Guard could solve both its manpower shortage and its firepower shortage. The new recruits would all bring their own guns.
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