Friday, May 30, 2014

How the National Rifle Association Changed the Meaning of the Second Amendment



Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is out with a new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” which challenges certain popular assumptions.

In a review of Waldman’s tome, Joe Nocera of The New York Times notes that “of all the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second was probably the least debated” by members of Congress.

Nocera quotes Waldman as follows: “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia.” 

In time, of course, the militia idea died out, replaced by a professionalized armed service. Most gun regulation took place at the state and city level. The judiciary mostly stayed out of the way. In 1939, the Supreme Court upheld the nation’s first national gun law, the National Firearms Act, which put onerous limits on sawed-off shotguns and machine guns — precisely because the guns had no “reasonable relation” to “a well-regulated militia.”
But then, in 1977, there was a coup at the National Rifle Association, which was taken over by Second Amendment fundamentalists. Over the course of the next 30 years, they set out to do nothing less than change the meaning of the Second Amendment, so that it’s final phrase — “shall not be infringed” — referred to an individual right to keep and bear arms, rather than a collective right for the common defense. 


  1. Which only goes to show how stupid some people are about the Constitution and its meaning.

    1. its not stupid its one of our rights ur just a dumb ass

    2. The dumb ass is you who obviously has no clue of what the second amendment meant when it was passed. Read Madison.

  2. Ah, but lets not forget that this interpretation of the Second Amendment as an individual right didn't come as a result of a vote. It was decided by the Supreme Court which is presumably nonpolitical.
    And it seems to follow a trend the court has been taking towards more individual freedoms as evidenced when it found DOMA to be unconstitutional. Its good to look at the first ten Amendments as a list of limitations on government.

  3. Waldman was just interviewed on MSNBC, of course he is correct.