"On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed"
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson, p322.
What the Constitution does or does not "mean" isn't based on what modern people claim it is, nor should it.
It doesn't necessarily mean what the Supreme Court says, Marbury v. Madison notwithstanding. That august body has overturned itself many times. Judge Taney, speaking for the majority in Dred Scott v. Sanford, for example, ruled that people could be property.
It is wrong and extra-constitutional to redefine the elements, rights, powers, or provisions of the Constitution outside the amendment process to suit your political and philosophical preference or goal.
It is not the "living document" myth, where it mystically changes itself with time and circumstance, as propounded by those who want to change it's meaning without changing it's TEXT. Those who attempt that are wrong and their motives are and should be suspect! The framers provided a clear and unconfused mechanism within the document to change it to fit changing times: the Amendment process.
We have a central government of limited and "enumerated" powers which are spelled out in the Constitution, and any powers seized or exercised outside that framework are extra-constitutional: a cute term for illegal. Such unlawful appropriation of power renders the very principle of constitutionally limited government invalid and may in fact breach the entire socio-political contract on which this nation, and our constitutional republic, is based. There is a great danger in that breaching; a breaching by all three branches of the national government that has occurred with increasing frequency since the 1930's. We are endangering our national existence by allowing it to continue.
We should and must either amend the Constitution to allow the central government to accrete new powers; to change the nature or provisions of our enumerated rights; or we must live by the words written there. Those words should be interpreted NOT in modern parlance, but in the words, thoughts, and intention of the people who wrote them: as Mr. Jefferson so succinctly stated above. It is not just about the 2nd Amendment but is about all powers and all rights contained within the Constitution, although the 2nd Amendment provides the most striking example of the destruction of a right through "redefinition."
(The American Colonies were) "all democratic governments, where the power is in the hands of the people and where there is not the least difficulty or jealousy about putting arms into the hands of every man in the country. (European countries should not) be ignorant of the strength and the force of such a form of government and how strenuously and almost wonderfully people living under one have sometimes exerted themselves in defence of their rights and liberties and how fatally it has ended with many a man and many a state who have entered into quarrels, wars and contests with them." --George Mason, of Virginia, "Remarks on Annual Elections for the Fairfax Independent Company" in The Papers of George Mason, 1725-1792, ed Robert A. Rutland (Chapel Hill, 1970)]
Here we see Geo. Mason, of Virginia, commenting on the strength of the American government and militia system over European systems in comments to a militia company. Again we find the reference to there being no danger in "putting arms in the hands of every man in the country" once more confirming the framers universally held view that there was both a right to possession of individual arms, and that the militia consisted of all the people of the nation.
"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."--Richard Lee, Letters from the Federal Farmer, (1788)
R. H. Lee was an "anti-federalist" opposed to the new more powerful central government in "Mr. Madison's document" (the proposed Federal Constitution). He and the other "anti-federalists" feared it would first raise a "standing army," then "disarm the people" and thus be able to impose tyranny.
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States." -- Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (1787).
Webster was a "Federalist" and was making his point to counter fears that the new central government could become oppressive; pointing out that since everyone in the nation would have arms a runaway central government, and any standing army it raised turned tyrannical, could NOT prevail against such a force.
Note that both gentlemen used the same phrasing: "the whole body of the people" and that they are "armed?" Unambiguously indicative of the universal and respected right to individual arms extant at the time of the Constitution's formation.
Here were two contemporaneous men arguing diametrically opposed views on the establishment of, and the nature of, the constitutional republic we have inherited. Both were involved in the process of creating the United States, and both arguing that an armed "body of the people" with their individual arms is the ultimate protector of freedom! That isn't "bi-partisan" agreement, it is unanimity!! There can be no stronger argument that the Second Amendment is, in fact, about the whole populations right to arms than when the people who were there at the time make it.
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