OK. So here's the most recent Eng essay. Hope everyone enjoys...and shout out to Kate for all her help during the rewrite !!!
18 September 2009
Lock and Load: Second Amendment Rights to the Constitution
“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.” (United States Constitution: Bill of Rights) This is probably the most quoted and misquoted line in the United State Constitution, second only to the First Amendment. These words are etched in stone on the headquarters of the National Rifle Association and in the hearts of the American people. The statement gives freedom but comes with restrictions. For example, guns are not allowed to be carried on federal or school property. In addition, one must have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Virginia, or to carry at all in some states. There exists a laundry list of restrictions and requirements allowing and barring the average John Q. Public from possessing a firearm. However, because of the ambiguous nature of our country’s constitution and recent events such as the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, it stands to reason that the American public would clutch even more tightly to whatever will give them the right to defend themselves and their loved ones. Because of said nature, the Amendment allows for a much heated debate. It poses the question: are student’s constitutional rights being violated by banning the possession of firearms on campus if they feel the need for self-protection? To answer this question one would have to accept two very specific ideologies as fact; namely, that the Second Amendment does in fact give citizens the right to bear arms and that the right is subjected to limitation (i.e. only in the defense for the state or one’s self while engaged in any action that would be in direct assistance to the nation). For the sake of this discussion, both assumptions are accepted. Therefore, it is a direct violation of the Second Amendment to deny any person, student or otherwise, the right to have access to a firearm in the case where there is an apparent and legitimate threat to the security of a person’s life by way of oppression of the liberties guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution.
Regardless of whether one is in agreement or not with the private possession of firearms there is one aspect of this that is not open for debate. The Constitution does make some guarantees, and states specifically that the American people have the right to “keep and bear arms.” Thomas Jefferson may have deemed that “…all men are created equal” (Declaration of Independence) it does not mean that they were all born with the knowledge of how to use a firearm and the maturity to handle one. This is why there exist so many restrictions upon this particular civil right. The fact that the U.S. Constitution gives us the ability to defend ourselves is just one small aspect of what makes America a nation of freedom and opportunity. Rather it is the applicable times and places of the amendment that cause such discord among the public, not the motives of individuals or the individuals themselves.
The right of the state to be able to form a militia and defend itself is perhaps one of the greatest liberties that our Founding Fathers gave to us while crafting the Constitution of our government. It is one that sets us apart from almost every other nation on earth. Yet the awkward verbiage gives us the sword to defend ourselves while cutting the very hand that wields it. Often we find that some will take advantage of that murky wording to suit their own needs, or worse, to justify actions bred from fear and ignorance. Thus, the argument that a student should be allowed to carry a firearm on campus if he or she is in fear for his or her life is just one of the many questions this debate raises, yet there are additional issues that should be addressed before discussing the assumed violation of civil rights. Just what exactly is the student in fear of? Is it another student or is he afraid that his school and consequently his life will be over thrown by terrorists? Why hasn’t the school stepped in to intervene on behalf of this student? Frankly, unless the student is an active and on duty member of law enforcement, military police, or perhaps a Minuteman left over from the American Revolutionary War, there is absolutely no need for students to carry a weapon on campus and by allowing it, it is no longer fulfilling a civil right unless said student is defending himself against tyrannical opposition and oppression. Consenting to anything less is gratuitous, and by doing so, it cuts into the authority and validity with which officers of the law are bestowed based upon the United States Constitution, the states' Bill of Rights, and the consent of the people of our nation. Ironically, it is the government’s attempt to compromise on the original intent of the amendment written by the Founding Fathers that causes a row to begin with. However, by denying the student all accessibility to a weapon should the need arise the school would be in direct violation of the Constitution. Perhaps a better solution would be to keep in place the strict policies regarding carrying a weapon on one’s person and redefining the accessibility of a weapon to a citizen in a public or federal venue at times of crisis.
Each state called for a ratification of the Constitution, not surprisingly, resulting in the crafting of the Bill of Rights and giving us the oh-so-vague Second Amendment. Both Virginia and North Carolina asked, “that the people have the right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state."(The Right to Keep and Bear Arms) The Virginia Bill of rights goes on to say, “That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”( 42-Virginia Bill of Rights) One will notice that with each mention of the people’s right it is yoked to the necessity of a militia. There is no free standing clause or amendment stating that the people have the right to possess weapons merely for the sake of owning them.
The right that the Second Amendment gives citizens to keep and bear arms is part of the foundation that sets Americans apart from the rest of the world. Our Constitution not only gives us the right to defend ourselves, but the responsibility to pick up those arms in the face of tyranny and oppression; oppression of ourselves and of others and to overthrow it if need be. This constitutional amendment built a nation of people that possess a unique sense of justice, safety, and independence. It offers security in knowing that no matter where we are, be it work, home, or even school should the need arise we are able to rally and defend ourselves, not remain helpless in the face of oppression but be a nation of action against it.
Word Count: 1,328
Hatch, Orrin G. Senator. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Washington 1982. Retrieved 17 September 2009. http://www.constitution.org/mil/rkba1982.htm#42
Hatch, Orrin G. Senator. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Washington 1982. 42. Id. At 1030 Retrieved 17 September 2009. http://www.constitution.org/mil/rkba1982.htm#42
Untied States Constitution: Bill of Rights. September 17, 1787. Retrieved 17 September 2009. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rights1.asp#2
Virginia Bill of Rights. June 12, 1776. Retrieved 17 September 2009. http://www.constitution.org/bor/vir_bor.htm
Jefferson, Thomas. Declaration of Independence. June 28, 1776. Retrieved 17 September 2009. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html