The Founding Fathers were some very smart and well educated men. Many of them read the classics in Latin and Greek. For the most part, they were successful in life. When they sat down to write the Constitution in 1787, they were looking at ten years of government failure because of the weak Articles of Confederation written in 1777. They were 10 years older and wiser. Today, it remains a brilliant government organizational diagram. With the exception of some self-imposed rules in Congress, it should still work. The Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791. Virginia was the last to ratify. The Founding Fathers were no longer revolutionaries; they were the United States of America.
Now while they did an excellent job, the Constitution was not perfect. There was that slave thing accepted in all States, not just the South. They got that wrong. We found it was better to have the President and Vice President from the same party. 12th Amendment. We changed that because they got that wrong. We changed the election of the Senate from state legislatures to popular vote. That was because of gerrymandering and corruption. Sound familiar? But I’m getting off track. Of course, there are the 18th and the 21st Amendments, better known as Happy Days Are Here Again. Women’s vote was the 19th Amendment. The Founding Fathers did not get everything right. Nor did those who followed them. We have had the brains to fix the errors in the past, it is time we do so now.
The 2nd Amendment was written at a time when standing national armies were considered dangerous in peace time. It was the considered opinion of the time that States should raise militias to come to the defense of the nation. The Continental Army was disbanded after the Revolutionary War. The 2nd Amendment was written to authorize the States to have militias.
Here is Madison’s first draft of the 2nd Amendment:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed, and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.’’
In the conscientious objector provision, Madison clearly used the phrase ‘’bearing arms’’ to refer solely to the possession of weapons for military use. Records of debates in the Continental and U.S. Congresses between 1774 and 1821 include 30 uses of the phrase ‘’bear arms’’ or ‘’bearing arms’’ other than in discussing the proposed Second Amendment. In every single case, the phrase has an unambiguously military meaning.
We have corrected errors in our Constitution before. The 2nd Amendment was clear at the time when all understood “to bear arms” referred to soldiers in a trained, “and well regulated” militia. That is no longer the understanding. It is time to remove “militias” from the language. It is time for a new amendment about gun ownership.
A new Weapons Amendment should be general in nature but should cover who can own a gun and what kind of guns are permitted. I will leave it to the legal experts to write but I believe it should cover what weapons may be owned by civilians and which are for professional use only. It is long past time we clarify weapons ownership in America.
George DeSerres, U.S. Army, Retired Culpeper
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the March 30th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.