February 5, 2013

Second Amendment was written to reassure states

Letter to the Editor

It is a shame that Kathleen Mahoney (letter, "Learn why amendments written as they were," Jan. 21) didn't follow her own advice and research the history of the Second Amendment.

If she had, she would have discovered that Second Amendment didn't deal with individual rights but focused on guaranteeing the collective rights of the states within the context of the newly formed federal system.

The U.S. Constitution gave Congress the right to raise an army and a navy, but it also provided for the calling forth of the militia to suppress insurrection and to repel invasion. Congress could pass laws dealing with organizing, arming, disciplining and governing of the militia when employed in the nation's service, but the Constitution reserved to the states the right to train and to appoint officers.

The president, according to the Constitution, was commander in chief, not only of the army and navy, but also of the militias, "when called upon for actual service for the United States."

The Second Amendment was written to reassure the states about their right to have militias in the face of the potential threat posed by the new national army that might be established.

For that reason, the Founding Fathers intentionally worded the Second Amendment in such a way as to emphasize the importance of the state militia as the first line of defense against internal and external threats and to reinforce the importance of the state control over it.

The discussion of the Second Amendment was never about the individual rights of citizens to possess weapons. The Maine Supreme Court understood this in 1986 in State v. Friel, the decision that led to Speaker John Martin's absurd rendition of Section 16 of the Maine State Constitution which was approved by referendum in 1987.

Louis T. Sigel


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