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What Does the 2nd Amendment Actually Say?

What Does the 2nd Amendment Actually Say?

  • You can have any gun you want and no one can stop you.

    Votes: 15 34.9%
  • You can have any ARM you want. Why stop at guns? Knives, grenades, nunchucks, tanks...it's all good!

    Votes: 8 18.6%
  • Yeah, you can have a gun, but there are limits to that right, like every other right.

    Votes: 15 34.9%
  • You can have a gun so you can join in a militia instead of having a standing army.

    Votes: 7 16.3%
  • You can have an 18th century single-shot firearm and no one can stop you.

    Votes: 6 14.0%
  • You and your gun cannot be singled out by the government, it has to follow it's own laws

    Votes: 6 14.0%
  • As a principle you should have the right to a gun, but we're not going to explain how.

    Votes: 4 9.3%
  • It's purposefully vague.

    Votes: 4 9.3%
  • Other

    Votes: 10 23.3%

  • Total voters
    43

aberrant85

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Gun control is a hot issue, but it all comes down to the 2nd Amendment, which reads:

"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."

But what does that sentence actually guarantee?
 

Wiseone

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It means the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state being the reason why.
 

joko104

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It says:

1. the right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT be infringed." That is an absolute statement.

It gives as rationale that having an armed citizenry is necessary to insure freedom and this includes the ability to rapidly assemble a "militia."

A militia not only can be used as a domestic military force, but also in the instance of domestic chaos. For example, during Katrina, when all the police ran away nor was National Guard dropped it, a "militia" of citizens COULD (though wasn't) have been assembled by those people in New Orleans. Instead, the only efforts by the limited law enforcement was to forcibly disarm people.
 

Jerry

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Gun control is a hot issue, but it all comes down to the 2nd Amendment, which reads:

"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."

But what does that sentence actually guarantee?

It's pretty self-explanetory.
 

ecofarm

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"shall not be infringed"

Do you want us to define each word?
 

Boo Radley

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It means the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state being the reason why.

This is correct.
 
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aberrant85

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You can't google an online dictionary or what?

You mean this:

1arm noun \ˈärm\

Definition of ARM

1
: a human upper limb; especially : the part between the shoulder and the wrist
2
: something like or corresponding to an arm: as
a : the forelimb of a vertebrate
b : a limb of an invertebrate animal
c : a branch or lateral shoot of a plant
d : a slender part of a structure, machine, or an instrument projecting from a main part, axis, or fulcrum
e : the end of a ship's yard; also : the part of an anchor from the crown to the fluke — see anchor illustration
f : any of the usually two parts of a chromosome lateral to the centromere
3
: an inlet of water (as from the sea)
4
: a narrow extension of a larger area, mass, or group
5
: power, might <the long arm of the law>
6
: a support (as on a chair) for the elbow and forearm
7
: sleeve
8
: the ability to throw or pitch a ball well; also : a player having such ability
9
: a functional division of a group, organization, institution, or activity <the logistical arm of the air force>
— arm·less adjective
— arm·like adjective
— arm in arm
: with arms linked together <walked down the street arm in arm>
Origin of ARM

Middle English, from Old English earm; akin to Latin armus shoulder, Sanskrit īrma arm
First Known Use: before 12th century
Other Anatomy Terms

bilateral symmetry, carotid, cartilage, dorsal, entrails, prehensile, renal, solar plexus, supine, thoracic, ventral
Rhymes with ARM

barm, charm, farm, harm, smarm
2arm verb
: to provide (yourself, a group, a country, etc.) with weapons especially in order to fight a war or battle

: to provide (someone) with a way of fighting, competing, or succeeding

: to make (a bomb, weapon, etc.) ready for use
Full Definition of ARM

transitive verb
1
: to furnish or equip with weapons
2
: to furnish with something that strengthens or protects <arming citizens with the right to vote>
3
: to equip or ready for action or operation <arm a bomb>
intransitive verb
: to prepare oneself for struggle or resistance <arm for combat>
See arm defined for English-language learners »
Examples of ARM

They armed the men for battle.
The group of fighters was armed by a foreign government.
The two countries have been arming themselves for years, but now they have agreed to disarm.
We armed ourselves with the tools we would need to survive in the forest.
They arm people with accurate information.
arming women with the right to vote
Once the bomb has been armed, we have five minutes to escape.
Origin of ARM

Middle English armen, from Anglo-French armer, from Latin armare, from arma weapons, tools; akin to Latin ars skill, Greek harmos joint, arariskein to fit
First Known Use: 12th century
3arm noun, often attributive
Definition of ARM

1
a : a means (as a weapon) of offense or defense; especially : firearm
b : a combat branch (as of an army)
c : an organized branch of national defense (as the navy)
2
plural
a : the hereditary heraldic devices of a family
b : heraldic devices adopted by a government
3
plural
a : active hostilities : warfare <a call to arms>
b : military service
— up in arms
: aroused and ready to undertake a fight or conflict <voters up in arms over the proposed law>
Origin of ARM

Middle English armes (plural) weapons, from Anglo-French, from Latin arma
First Known Use: 13th century
 

Jerry

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You mean this:

1arm noun \ˈärm\

Definition of ARM

1
: a human upper limb; especially : the part between the shoulder and the wrist
2
: something like or corresponding to an arm: as
a : the forelimb of a vertebrate
b : a limb of an invertebrate animal
c : a branch or lateral shoot of a plant
d : a slender part of a structure, machine, or an instrument projecting from a main part, axis, or fulcrum
e : the end of a ship's yard; also : the part of an anchor from the crown to the fluke — see anchor illustration
f : any of the usually two parts of a chromosome lateral to the centromere
3
: an inlet of water (as from the sea)
4
: a narrow extension of a larger area, mass, or group
5
: power, might <the long arm of the law>
6
: a support (as on a chair) for the elbow and forearm
7
: sleeve
8
: the ability to throw or pitch a ball well; also : a player having such ability
9
: a functional division of a group, organization, institution, or activity <the logistical arm of the air force>
— arm·less adjective
— arm·like adjective
— arm in arm
: with arms linked together <walked down the street arm in arm>
Origin of ARM

Middle English, from Old English earm; akin to Latin armus shoulder, Sanskrit īrma arm
First Known Use: before 12th century
Other Anatomy Terms

bilateral symmetry, carotid, cartilage, dorsal, entrails, prehensile, renal, solar plexus, supine, thoracic, ventral
Rhymes with ARM

barm, charm, farm, harm, smarm
2arm verb
: to provide (yourself, a group, a country, etc.) with weapons especially in order to fight a war or battle

: to provide (someone) with a way of fighting, competing, or succeeding

: to make (a bomb, weapon, etc.) ready for use
Full Definition of ARM

transitive verb
1
: to furnish or equip with weapons
2
: to furnish with something that strengthens or protects <arming citizens with the right to vote>
3
: to equip or ready for action or operation <arm a bomb>
intransitive verb
: to prepare oneself for struggle or resistance <arm for combat>
See arm defined for English-language learners »
Examples of ARM

They armed the men for battle.
The group of fighters was armed by a foreign government.
The two countries have been arming themselves for years, but now they have agreed to disarm.
We armed ourselves with the tools we would need to survive in the forest.
They arm people with accurate information.
arming women with the right to vote
Once the bomb has been armed, we have five minutes to escape.
Origin of ARM

Middle English armen, from Anglo-French armer, from Latin armare, from arma weapons, tools; akin to Latin ars skill, Greek harmos joint, arariskein to fit
First Known Use: 12th century
3arm noun, often attributive
Definition of ARM

1
a : a means (as a weapon) of offense or defense; especially : firearm
b : a combat branch (as of an army)
c : an organized branch of national defense (as the navy)
2
plural
a : the hereditary heraldic devices of a family
b : heraldic devices adopted by a government
3
plural
a : active hostilities : warfare <a call to arms>
b : military service
— up in arms
: aroused and ready to undertake a fight or conflict <voters up in arms over the proposed law>
Origin of ARM

Middle English armes (plural) weapons, from Anglo-French, from Latin arma
First Known Use: 13th century
Yeah. Why ask everyone else to look it up for you when clearly you can do it yourself? Lazy much?
 

aberrant85

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Yeah. Why ask everyone else to look it up for you when clearly you can do it yourself? Lazy much?

I'm not going to stimulate conversation by defining things to myself. I want you to tell me what it means to see if we agree.
 

Jerry

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I'm not going to stimulate conversation by defining things to myself. I want you to tell me what it means to see if we agree.
You're not going to stimulate conversation by asking people to define words for you. That's lame.

We don't need to agree on what we each think it means because we have the Heller decision.
 

Guy Incognito

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Gun control is a hot issue, but it all comes down to the 2nd Amendment, which reads:

"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."

But what does that sentence actually guarantee?

No, it doesn't come down to what the second amendment actually says (whatever that means). It comes down to what the most recent Supreme Court interpretation of the second amendment says it says.

Originally, the second amendment protected a militia-based right. It has since expanded considerable due to Supreme Court caselaw, and now the second amendment represents a fundamental individual right to own guns.
 

aberrant85

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No, it doesn't come down to what the second amendment actually says (whatever that means). It comes down to what the most recent Supreme Court interpretation of the second amendment says it says.

Originally, the second amendment protected a militia-based right. It has since expanded considerable due to Supreme Court caselaw, and now the second amendment represents a fundamental individual right to own guns.

In other words the intended meaning of the constitution is technically not as relevant as the most recent interpretation of its meaning. Yes, I think that's true. I think in general the idea of constitutionality is an eternal tug-of-war with what the founders intenders and what we believe they would have intended if they were alive today.
 

Guy Incognito

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Yes, that is what I'm trying to get at. Arm, militia, infringe...

"Well-regulated militia" means more or less the same thing as it does today, as does "the security of a free State." Neither of these are identical to their contemporary meanings as you pointed out, but they are close enough that we are able to understand. "Keep and bear arms," however, had a very different meaning then than it does today, which is well-known to historians but lost on the modern reader. You might recognize "arma" from the opening line of Vergil's Aeneid. The framers certainly did. This phrase "to bear arms" is a calque from the Latin, in fact, as were many phrases from English common law. See the quote below, written by a distinguished history professor, for an illuminating discussion of what "keep and bear arms" actually meant to the framers:

1. Bear Arms. "To bear arms is, in itself, a military term. One does not bear arms against a rabbit. The phrase simply translates the Latin arma ferre. The infinitive ferre, to bear, comes from the verb fero. The plural noun arma explains the plural usage in English ('arms'). One does not 'bear arm.' Latin arma is, etymologically, war 'equipment,' and it has no singular forms. By legal and other channels, arma ferre entered deeply into the European language of war. To bear arms is such a synonym for waging war that Shakespeare can call a just war 'just-borne arms' and a civil war 'self-borne arms.' Even outside the phrase 'bear arms,' much of the noun’s use alone echoes Latin phrases: to be under arms (sub armis), the call to arms (ad arma), to follow arms (arma sequi), to take arms (arma capere), to lay down arms (arma ponere). 'Arms' is a profession that one brother chooses as another chooses law or the church. An issue undergoes the arbitrament of arms. In the singular, English 'arm' often means a component of military force (the artillery arm, the cavalry arm)
[...]
2. To keep. Gun advocates read 'to keep and bear' disjunctively, and think the verbs refer to entirely separate activities. 'Keep,' for them, means 'possess personally at home'— a lot to load into one word. To support this entirely fanciful construction, they have to neglect the vast literature on militias. It is precisely in that literature that to-keep-and-bear is a description of one connected process. To understand what 'keep' means in a military context, we must recognize how the description of a local militia’s function was always read in contrast to the role of a standing army. Armies, in the ideology of the time, should not be allowed to keep their equipment in readiness." [...]
In America, the Articles of Confederation required that "every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia sufficiently armed and accoutred shall provide and constantly ready for use, in public stores, number of field pieces and tents, a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and equipage" (equipage being etymological sense of arma). Thus is as erroneous to suppose that "keep" means, of itself, "keep at home" as to think that "arms" means only guns. Patrick Henry tells us, the militia's arms include "regimentals, etc."˜ flags, ensigns, engineering tools, siege apparatus, and other "accoutrements of war.
Some arms could be kept at home, course. Some officers kept their most valuable piece of war equipment, a good cross-country horse, at home, where its upkeep was a daily matter feeding and physical regimen. But military guns were not ideally kept home. When militias were armed, it was, so far as possible, with guns standard issue, interchangeable parts, uniform in their shot, upkeep and performance— the kind of "firelocks" Trenchard wanted kept "in every parish" (not every home)[.]"
To Keep and Bear Arms, Garry Wills
 

Guy Incognito

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In other words the intended meaning of the constitution is technically not as relevant as the most recent interpretation of its meaning. Yes, I think that's true. I think in general the idea of constitutionality is an eternal tug-of-war with what the founders intenders and what we believe they would have intended if they were alive today.

Right. This is broadly true of all texts. The intended meaning of the author is not nearly as important as the received meaning as interpreted by the audience. The Supreme Court puts a "gloss" on the Constitution with its opinions, such that the original intent becomes meaningless. The latest layer of the gloss is what the law actually is.

This is true of, for example, the first amendment. "Speech" originally only protected political speech. But after generations of changing social norms and developing Supreme Court caselaw, the first amendment came to protect much more than just political speech.
 

aberrant85

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"Well-regulated militia" means more or less the same thing as it does today, as does "the security of a free State." Neither of these are identical to their contemporary meanings as you pointed out, but they are close enough that we are able to understand. "Keep and bear arms," however, had a very different meaning then than it does today, which is well-known to historians but lost on the modern reader. You might recognize "arma" from the opening line of Vergil's Aeneid. The framers certainly did. This phrase "to bear arms" is a calque from the Latin, in fact, as were many phrases from English common law. See the quote below, written by a distinguished history professor, for an illuminating discussion of what "keep and bear arms" actually meant to the framers:

1. Bear Arms. "To bear arms is, in itself, a military term. One does not bear arms against a rabbit. The phrase simply translates the Latin arma ferre. The infinitive ferre, to bear, comes from the verb fero. The plural noun arma explains the plural usage in English ('arms'). One does not 'bear arm.' Latin arma is, etymologically, war 'equipment,' and it has no singular forms. By legal and other channels, arma ferre entered deeply into the European language of war. To bear arms is such a synonym for waging war that Shakespeare can call a just war 'just-borne arms' and a civil war 'self-borne arms.' Even outside the phrase 'bear arms,' much of the noun’s use alone echoes Latin phrases: to be under arms (sub armis), the call to arms (ad arma), to follow arms (arma sequi), to take arms (arma capere), to lay down arms (arma ponere). 'Arms' is a profession that one brother chooses as another chooses law or the church. An issue undergoes the arbitrament of arms. In the singular, English 'arm' often means a component of military force (the artillery arm, the cavalry arm)
[...]
2. To keep. Gun advocates read 'to keep and bear' disjunctively, and think the verbs refer to entirely separate activities. 'Keep,' for them, means 'possess personally at home'— a lot to load into one word. To support this entirely fanciful construction, they have to neglect the vast literature on militias. It is precisely in that literature that to-keep-and-bear is a description of one connected process. To understand what 'keep' means in a military context, we must recognize how the description of a local militia’s function was always read in contrast to the role of a standing army. Armies, in the ideology of the time, should not be allowed to keep their equipment in readiness." [...]
In America, the Articles of Confederation required that "every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia sufficiently armed and accoutred shall provide and constantly ready for use, in public stores, number of field pieces and tents, a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and equipage" (equipage being etymological sense of arma). Thus is as erroneous to suppose that "keep" means, of itself, "keep at home" as to think that "arms" means only guns. Patrick Henry tells us, the militia's arms include "regimentals, etc."˜ flags, ensigns, engineering tools, siege apparatus, and other "accoutrements of war.
Some arms could be kept at home, course. Some officers kept their most valuable piece of war equipment, a good cross-country horse, at home, where its upkeep was a daily matter feeding and physical regimen. But military guns were not ideally kept home. When militias were armed, it was, so far as possible, with guns standard issue, interchangeable parts, uniform in their shot, upkeep and performance— the kind of "firelocks" Trenchard wanted kept "in every parish" (not every home)[.]"
To Keep and Bear Arms, Garry Wills

Damn, Guy Incognito! This is what I'm talking about!!
 

Lutherf

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The founders believed that to preserve liberty the people must be free to defend themselves from tyranny. Heck, they just finished proving that the concept worked. They also knew that peace would be fleeting and that in time someone would try to control the nation. The options they saw to defend the nation were a standing army on the one hand and militias made of the general population on the other. They had already limited the power of the federal government to call up armies but the anti-federalists wanted a stronger assurance that the bulk of the military might would always be in the people rather than the government so they drew up the 2nd Amendment specifically to guarantee that no matter what an outside force OR A DOMESTIC ONE did to develop military power the people would, should they choose, be free to take up arms in defense of their liberty.

To that end, the second amendment means that the people shall be free to keep and bear arms which they find are necessary to preserve their liberty. That includes national defense as well as self defense. It was assumed that most people would keep small arms suitable for self defense but that they might band together to procure more expensive heavy arms to defend against more organized threats.
 

aberrant85

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The founders believed that to preserve liberty the people must be free to defend themselves from tyranny. Heck, they just finished proving that the concept worked. They also knew that peace would be fleeting and that in time someone would try to control the nation. The options they saw to defend the nation were a standing army on the one hand and militias made of the general population on the other. They had already limited the power of the federal government to call up armies but the anti-federalists wanted a stronger assurance that the bulk of the military might would always be in the people rather than the government so they drew up the 2nd Amendment specifically to guarantee that no matter what an outside force OR A DOMESTIC ONE did to develop military power the people would, should they choose, be free to take up arms in defense of their liberty.

To that end, the second amendment means that the people shall be free to keep and bear arms which they find are necessary to preserve their liberty. That includes national defense as well as self defense. It was assumed that most people would keep small arms suitable for self defense but that they might band together to procure more expensive heavy arms to defend against more organized threats.

Yes, I think that's mostly the intent too. It makes sense that an 18th century country could get by in a war by having each soldier bring their weapon. But as for ships and cannons, they must have known that they'd have to have a standing army to maintain those, so there must have been some push and pull in the concept of keeping the bulk of the army at home. Now, of course, there are $1 Billion aircraft, ICBMs, aircraft carriers, and nuclear subs in modern warfare. Obviously the bulk of our military is no longer in the soldier's home, so does that defeat the intent of the 2nd amendment?
 

Kal'Stang

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Gun control is a hot issue, but it all comes down to the 2nd Amendment, which reads:

"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."

But what does that sentence actually guarantee?

Just going by what it says (the letter of the law) is not enough. You must also go by the Spirit of the Law. Which was to have the citizenry as well armed as the governments active military. Which means the Citizens should be allowed to have anything that is commonly used by the active military.
 

Buck Ewer

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The country was brand new and had just won a guerrilla war against a repressive colonial government 3000 miles away. There was no guaranteeing that they would not come back to take over again...or that the French might decide that since they helped us beat the Brits that they could to take colonial rule here for them selves. This worried Jefferson and the 1st continental congress, so they wrote this amendment to keep all young men ready and armed in the event of just such an invasion by an overseas army.
The 2nd amendment is A SINGLE SENTENCE about the need for a WELL REGULATED militia ... and, at the time, every armed white male between 18 and 45 years old were the pool to draw those militia-men from, so they all needed to have their own guns to be at the ready to join a militia. In fact that group were the militia, self-armed and just waiting to be called It was sort of the first idea for an emergency military draft.
The gun nuts in this country believe that gives them the right to own every thing and anything that goes bang and can kill. Bad reading of an old idea whose time has passed.
I voted that it gives them the right to own and bear a single shot, muzzle-loading musket with black powder.
The idea of a militia drawn at a moments notice from armed citizenry is antiquated, out-dated and plain obsolete. The idea has been supplanted by well organized, local, militia type, armed services like the National Guard. But now they supply the guns.
If these modern gun nuts want to take this amendment so literally I like the idea of limiting them to the type of "arms" Jefferson was literally writing about at the time.
You want literal ...we give you gun coo-coos literal.
Every single one of them, with musket at the ready, can and will be called into service at a moments notice to serve, in a well regulated way, at the governments pleasure, where ever and whenever it thinks they are needed. I would like that. Non-whites and women and men over 45 or under 18 would, of course, be exempt because we are taking the amendment literally as it was written and intended 240 years ago.
The third amendment is equally arcane and obsolete and has never been updated or edited either... but nobody is building personal arsenals around a bad interpretation of that outdated obsolete amendment.
That's the jist of it. It is an antiquated amendment, necessary at the time, about the need to form a militia to fend off an invading army and the last phrase in this single sentence is only about the means to do so.
 
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Wiseone

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One shouldn't get too caught up in dictionary definitions, they are often very different from legal ones.
 

Kal'Stang

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No, it doesn't come down to what the second amendment actually says (whatever that means). It comes down to what the most recent Supreme Court interpretation of the second amendment says it says.

Originally, the second amendment protected a militia-based right. It has since expanded considerable due to Supreme Court caselaw, and now the second amendment represents a fundamental individual right to own guns.

It was not expanded. It always meant that. Otherwise the ones in charge back then would have made laws banning ordinary citizens from having guns. But they didn't want that because the very reason that the Brittish had such a hard time was due to the fact that the citizens were armed. They saw the value of the citizenry being armed against what they considered a tyrannical government trying to control them. In order to prevent such a tyrannical government from happening they well recognized the fact that an armed citizenry was the best way to prevent it.
 
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