I’ve been noticing that there are some militant gun owners who’ve chosen to get tattoos of the Second Amendment. This curious trend made me want to research exactly what these people thought they were accomplishing by doing so. On it’s face, it appears that they believe that, having read one sentence out of The Constitution, their brilliant legal minds were instantly able to deduce that all one needs to know are these 27 simple words regarding gun rights. As is quite typical of those who perform these simplistic and reductive acts, they should have read juuuuust a little further along, since there’s quite a bit more to the story.
Second Amendment: 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.
The “well-regulated militia” part is the subject of great debate, with some asserting that it limits the right to bear arms only to a militia. We will not address that issue here because it is, admittedly, vague. I will assume that this amendment gives everyone the same rights, militia or not.
The second part, which says that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed, is the part that appears to be quite black and white,(aka Tattoo-worthy) with some believing that it settles the argument about gun rights. That would be true until you remember that the Constitution is not limited to the Second Amendment. There’s a few other words in there as well…
Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This amendment quite simply states that if the Constitution does not address an issue, then the states may do so. It is often ignored by those who are biased toward the Second Amendment, since it doesn’t serve their purposes. What a shocker.I guess it also doesn’t look as good scrawled across one’s back on a drawing that looks like aged parchment.
So, by simply reading just one more of the Amendments, we should understand why any state can pass laws to modify the Constitution, within the limits of the Tenth Amendment.
Below you will find the language of the State Constitutions of 8 states, which do, in fact, modify the Second Amendment to make it mean something quite different. This list is not comprehensive, only a sampling of the states that have chosen to modify the right to bear arms in their respective states.
I picked out these specific states because there are many, like Michigan and Alaska, among others, which do not modify the Second Amendment at all. In those states, there is no infringement whatsoever on your right to bear arms. In the states I’ve list below, however,(some will surprise you), there are quite specific, legal limitations on your right to bear arms.
On a side note, if anyone doubts the veracity of what is printed below, I got it directly from the NRA’s web site at http://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-laws.aspx. We all know that the NRA would never lie, so we’ll use their data to make our point.
Florida: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.” (This basically says you can, unless we say you can’t).
Georgia: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.” (Same restrictions as Florida. Yes you can, unless we change our minds).
Kentucky: “All men are by nature, free and equal, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned: … 7) the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state, subject to the power of the general assembly to enact laws to prevent persons from carrying concealed weapons.” (If they can regulate concealed weapons, they can regulate all weapons).
Missouri: “That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.” (Same as Kentucky).
Oklahoma: “The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power, when thereunto legally summoned, shall never be prohibited, but nothing herein contained shall prevent the legislature from regulating the carrying of weapons.” (The legislature can regulate, which is basically saying that the legislature can “infringe”).
Tennessee: That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.” (Once again, if that “regulation” lessens anyone’s right, then it is “infringement” and is apparently legal in Tennessee of all places).
Texas: “Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime” (Who would have thought that Texas can decide when you can or can’t “wear” your arms).
Utah: The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the State as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed; but nothing herein shall prevent the legislature from defining the lawful use of arms.” (Here they simply say that your rights will not be “infringed” but that the legislature gets to define just what “infringed” means).
Interpret this as you will, but there is not a lot of road between “regulating” and “infringing”. You can debate this all you like, but the fact that some states limit your Second Amendment rights, and have for quite some time, proves, via statutory as well as case law, that they can.
For this reason, if you don’t want to look like an imbecile, it would be advisable that you know what you’re doing before you put ink to skin.
Unless looking like an imbecile is just how you roll…