Thursday, August 9, 2007


I want to expand upon a point I made in the comments section recently, because it's one far too many people fail in grasping. When interpreting the U.S. Constitution, we cannot limit ourselves to the text alone; we must take into consideration the intent behind the words: what was the goal or end the authors were trying to meet? If we neglect this obligation, we create a comfortable zone for misinterpretation.

For example, let's take the 2nd 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.

The local militia was a volunteer organization, peopled by free individuals who owned guns. They formed this body for the protection of their homes and families against Indians, road agents, etc. The militia was not an arm of the government. Rather, it was a communal effort. We know this by examining history. Militias as understood by the Founders don't exist at present in most states. Ignorant people who know little about the Constitution and even less about the time in which it was drafted claim that the National Guard is the current equivalent. Wrong. National Guardsmen are government employees, beholden to bureaucratic whims. They usually serve their respective states; but in some cases--the current Iraq fiasco being one--the federal government takes hold of their reins. The neighborhood watch movement bears closer resemblance to militias than the National Guard.

All of this leads me to my point: if militias don't exist, now, and we cannot contextually examine anything outside the Amendment's textual confines, we soon draw (or become susceptible to) the conclusion that the right to bear arms is defunct, obsolete. However, if we study history and the writings and speeches of the men who cobbled the Constitution together, we realize that they understood the Amendment as covering individual rights, for purposes of self-defense and taking action or making a stand against a corrupt, overreaching government. But this reality doesn't dawn upon us by reading the Amendment; it becomes apparent by knowing our history and the intentions behind the words.

Constitutional constructionism doesn't mean enslaving oneself to the phrases of the document; it means reading the words and abiding by the original intent behind them.

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