While the Second Amendment’s place in the Bill of Rights is more a matter of accident than priority, there is no question that it is at least as important as all of the other right enumerated.
Deniers can whine all they want; there is no question that the right to keep and bear arms existed as one that was independent of the Constitution, the government or even the United States. It was considered as what we might call a natural right. The authors of the Constitution and the original amendments said so in their writings.
That it was considered to be an individual right is equally well-documented, including in the way the Second Amendment is worded. James Madison was a well-educated man familiar with composing legal documents. He was sufficiently familiar with the law to understand the distinction between a prefatory clause and an operative clause and sufficiently literate to know what a dependent clause is in English grammar.
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State” is both a prefatory clause and a dependent clause. It’s a prefatory clause as it introduces a reason for the operative clause but it does not limit the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
By analogy, it is equally valid to say, “A well-informed populace, being necessary to the prosperity of a Free State, the right of the people to own and read books shall not be infringed.”
As a dependent clause, the militia clause requires the keep-and-bear clause to be true. It cannot stand as a grammatically proper sentence on its own.
The Second Amendment is secure, at least for the foreseeable future. The process required to ratify a new amendment that would modify or repeal the Second Amendment is a sure bulwark against revisionism. It takes just 13 states refusing to ratify to block a new amendment and it is quite easy to identify that many states without pushing too hard. In reality, it is far more difficult to come up with 13 states that would ratify a change.
The argument that those resisting a tyrannical government would be easily crushed by the military is grounded in a misguided belief that the government’s ability to impose force on the American populace is unlimited.
The government’s ability to crush a widespread resistance is severely hampered, both by the likelihood of mass desertions and the wish to avoid complete insurrection by an outraged populace. The government can’t just launch artillery barrages into American subdivisions and air superiority buys you only so much. Moreover, it’s highly likely that the resistance would include veterans fully familiar with military tactics and the operation of military hardware. You don’t win a war against your own people.
Police chiefs’ desks would be littered with badges as officers left instead of enforcing what they believed to be illegal laws. County sheriffs are already refusing to enforce some laws.
Those that point out that other countries are fine with restrictions miss a crucial distinction: we aren’t them. Rebellion and resistance are in our blood; we don’t have the trust in our government that other governments enjoy. At the time the Bill of Rights was being considered, it was remarked that Americans, unlike the citizens of any other country, have the right to be armed and that right was one of the surest defenses against oppression by tyrants.
The assertion that the French, British and others don’t live under tyrannical governments is trivializing the point made by Mr. Frank. Hitler disarmed the Jews; the people of Russia lived under tyrannical tsars until they were “liberated” by tyrannical Marxist revolutionaries who continued to keep them underfoot. In Japan under the shoguns, a peasant could be executed on the spot for even possessing something that could be considered a weapon.
In many European countries, the right to have and carry weapons was limited to nobility and their enforcers. Even in the British Bill of Rights in 1689, which said the citizens had the right to maintain arms for the defense of themselves and the crown, there was a distinction about who the “citizens” were.
Not so in the United States. While there was still a distinction about who was a “citizen” every citizen had the right to be armed. As the definition of citizen was expanded, so was the right to be armed. This was one of the key points of the awful Dred Scott decision. Blacks could not be citizens because if they were, they would be able to have guns.
The Founding Fathers were wary of the tyranny of the majority. It is why the United States is not a pure democracy. It is a republic and there’s a big difference. It’s one of the main reasons for the Electoral College: to prevent a few populous states from lording it over the rest. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s plurality came from just two states, California and New York. Donald Trump won the popular vote of the majority of the states. In fact, discounting California and New York, Trump won the rest of the popular votes by an even larger margin. The Founding Fathers’ design worked exactly as intended, preventing two states from dictating to the other 48.
Most of the calls for the modification and repeal of the Second Amendment also come from would-be tyrants. Frustrated in their attempts to impose increasing control over other citizens, they look to eliminate the barricade that prevents them. Perhaps they are well-meaning, but they are wannabe tyrants nonetheless. The fact that none of the measures they have proposed would have a significant beneficial impact on public safety does not stop them from attempting to control others who present no threat to the common weal.
So, yes, we will resist tyranny. Not with the force of arms but with the desire to preserve our freedoms through our voices and our votes. We will demand the respect of all of our civil rights, not just a select few deemed palatable.