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GUEST COLUMN: The origins of the Second Amendment

By: TOM MENZA
February 23, 2018 Updated: February 23, 2018 at 4:30 am
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As a father and grandfather I profoundly share the grief and sorrow for those families in Florida that lost 17 innocent children to gun violence for no reason. When I heard the news I was sorting photos of grand kids taken over the holidays. I felt a rush of tears and then anger when thinking "if it were one of mine."

The 17 children in Florida were killed with a gun designed for military combat and this fact now requires serious dialogue on what the Second Amendment really meant when written. When in the military I carried an AR-15 for a year in Vietnam. As a lawyer and retired college professor of both Constitutional Law and U.S. History, I must now emphasize the Second Amendment was not about guns.

To fully understand its original purpose, it must be quoted in full: "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." (Remember the part ".security of a free State.") When the Bill of Rights was written in 1789, having a gun in one's household was a non issue. There were no laws for or against any ownership of guns. Guns were then a common possession in most households. They were used for hunting and in some areas for self protection from bandits, brigands, and hostile local native tribes. The rifle was a household tool of the time like a broom or shovel and there was no issue of legal ownership then and for the next 200 years.

So what was the purpose of the Second Amendment? When written, a key issue for the new independent 13 states was preventing a central government from having too much power and potentially becoming another despotic monarchy. The states needed more rights than the central government. And the phrase ".security of a free State." referred primarily to each of the individual 13 states. One of the rights for states to assert their continued independence from a central government was to have their own militia. The real issue of the Second Amendment was the affirmation of states' rights and the limiting of federal power. The state militia was both symbolic and a reality of this fact. For the next 200 years the amendment had nothing to do with private ownership of guns.

The end of the Vietnam War resulted in significant cuts in military spending in the late 1970s. Gun manufactures, like Colt that made the AR-15 for the U.S. military, were now losing business. They approached the National Rifle Association (NRA), which since the late 1800s had been more of a social club of target shooters, hunters, and rifle collectors and outside any issue of politics and the then non issue of gun ownership. But the gun makers bought the NRA with cash and bribed our Congress with "campaign contributions" to create a fake Second Amendment threat issue in order to sell more guns.

It worked.

Today the CEO of the NRA has a salary of nearly $1 million per year. Our corrupt Congress places more importance on the millions of dollars it receives each year "in donations" from the NRA than the need for public safety. And we have a society now saturated with all manner of guns. There are those for legitimate hunting, sport shooting, and home protection. But the AR-15 now sold openly and with limited regulation has only one purpose, killing humans in military combat. As for Colt, the maker of the AR-15, they are making a cash profit. It's pure business for them. And 17 more beautiful children are dead.

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Thomas F. Menza, USAF (Ret), is an attorney, a retired professor and lives in Colorado Springs.

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