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Why The Second Amendment Is Like The Bible

March 27, 2018

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“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.”

Amazing how so few words can create such controversy. Often misquoted, misused, and abused, this sentence has caused more confusion and delusion than the Bible. Well, okay, maybe not as much as the Bible, but still a lot. Like the Bible, words are taken out of context, used to defend a particular viewpoint, and open to interpretation. Like the Bible, the Second Amendment’s meaning is layered.

When Bible scholars look at the meaning of a verse or passage, they ask three questions: What does the original say? What did it mean when written? And, What does is mean for us today? This approach could serve interpretations of the Second Amendment as well.

The question of what does the original say is easy as it stands today as written in 1791. It is interesting to note that the first draft said …”to the security of a free Country,“…., and was changed to free State by the insistence of the southern states. The reason being, they did not want government interference in the slave militias; patrols that kept slaves from rebelling and brought runaways back to their owners.

This helps us in interpreting the original intent. The right to bear arms was tied to a well regulated militia. Until 2008, the rulings of the Supreme Court centered around the idea of the militia. Ironically, for the discussions today, the case of United States vs. Miller (1939) stated that a shotgun with a barrel less than eighteen inches was not protected under the Second Amendment saying, “Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense.”​

It was in 2008 when things changed. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of District of Columbia vs. Heller that, “We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”  What was still possible was the right to regulate fire arms in the case of “unusual” weapons, which is what the 1939 case had stated regarding sawed-off shotguns.

Like the Bible, the Second Amendment has been co-opted by the far right. Extreme fundamentalists use a strict interpretation of the Bible, and anyone who disagrees is condemned. Sadly, this rule book approach has done more harm than good. As for the Second Amendment, the group that began as a safety and educational source for the proper use of firearms has become one of the most influential and feared political entities in the country. The NRA went from its roots in 1871 of educating marksmen, to a political juggernaut that can make or break a candidate’s chances of being elected.

Using fear to persuade people believe that any regulation on firearms will lead to the removal of all guns and large amounts of money to line the pockets of lawmakers, the NRA has been successful in thwarting attempts to curb weapons such as assault rifles.

This stand is the same as creationists saying if you don’t believe the world was created in six literal days then you are not a believer. While the Bible describes creation this way, science has proven that there is more to how the world came about than a few verses in Genesis state. Our knowledge has expanded opening up a different interpretation of the process.

In the same way, the availability of military-style weapons to the general public requires a re-examination of the meaning of the Second Amendment. The ideas of background checks, age limits, mental illness and national data bases, banning of assault weapons, banning bump stocks, do not infringe on the right to bear arms. My right to own a handgun or rifle is not thwarted by any of the above.

The real problem is one of dialog. Like gay rights, divorce, or interpretations of the Bible, it is hard to get religious people to agree or even listen to each other. More so with gun advocates and those wanting restrictions. Rather than intelligent conversations, both sides of any of these issues are too quick to resort to name calling or close-mindedness.

Maybe it is just human nature to think one side is right and one side is wrong. While this attitude in regards to the Bible results in heated debate and a plethora of denominations, sects, and cults, this division over the Second Amendment results in lives lost.

 

 

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