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From Muskets to Assault Rifles: The Second Amendment Is Outdated

Tommy MacArthur, Contributing Writer

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The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, guarantees the right to a well regulated militia and the right to bear arms. People tend to ignore the first half and focus on their government-given excuse to possess a firearm.

No matter what your beliefs regarding guns are, most can at least concede that some regulations are necessary for the general safety of everyone. Still, a large portion of America seems to believe that the act of restricting any kind of gun is a slippery slope leading to the restrictions of all guns, or even a veiled effort by the government to disarm the populace intentionally.

In order to have this debate, we need to consider the time and circumstances under which this amendment was ratified.

The basic theory behind the Second Amendment is that, in the event that the government falls under the control of an authoritarian or tyrannical regime, there will be an opportunity for the American people to overthrow the corrupt government, which at the time was a possibility. To a certain degree, it was considered a civic duty to be prepared to restore liberty. Setting aside the fact that today, overthrowing a government without tanks, planes, or thermonuclear warheads would be virtually impossible, we need to consider the wording of the 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.”

A militia is, by definition, a martial force composed of the regular population rather than the official military. Militia were vital in the early days of the American Revolution, and in the early republic, the necessity for discipline and organization was well understood— hence, the inclusion of the phrase “well regulated Militia.”

The understanding that our current “regulation”—or lack thereof—has been too lax is easily proven. A boy, too young to rent a car, legally and openly purchased a weapon capable of killing 17 teachers and classmates from a sporting goods store. That is something that no reasonable person could call “well regulated.”

It’s also fairly important to understand that the founding fathers were not infallible. We should be less focused on what they intended, and instead focus on what actually works. In their time, a standard Revolutionary-era flintlock musket could fire at most four rounds a minute, and it had extremely limited ammunition, power, and accuracy. In Las Vegas, Stephen Paddock killed 58 and wounded almost 500 in under ten minutes, using an entirely legal weaponry.

There is no reason for anybody to be capable of that, whatever may have been understood by the founding fathers. The Second Amendment was meant to make us safer, but, in practice, it has done the opposite.

This piece also appears in our March/April print edition. Correction: An earlier version of this piece mistakingly claimed that 851 people were injured by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas.

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From Muskets to Assault Rifles: The Second Amendment Is Outdated