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Senate.gov Invents Second Amendment Controversy

Friday, September 27, 2013

Perhaps we were too harsh on textbook publishers last week for botching the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment, as even those in charge of the official website of a body sworn to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" apparently can't be expected to get it right. The official website of the United States Senate features a "Virtual Reference Desk" section on the Constitution which offers an explanation of the Second Amendment that reads, "Whether this provision protects the individual's right to own firearms or whether it deals only with the collective right of the people to arm and maintain a militia has long been debated." The passage downplays the individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment and gives undue credence to an interpretation of the amendment long-held in disrepute and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010.

While there remain a handful of radical anti-gun advocates who bitterly cling to the incorrect "collective" and "sophisticated collective" right interpretations of the Second Amendment, no debate is apparent in the platforms of the two major political parties, who, along with two independents, populate the upper house. The 2012 party platform of the Democratic majority states, "We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans' Second Amendment right to own and use firearms." The 2012 Republican platform states, "We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment."

In fact, other parties that routinely field candidates for the presidency and senate haven't weighed in for the collectivists either. Expectedly, the Libertarian platform reads, "We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms." The 2012 Green Party platform for 2012 is silent on the matter.

Further, the writers of the materials on the Senate's website needn't have even parsed through the U.S. Supreme Court's Heller and McDonald decisions in order to come up with a more appropriate explanation of the right; they could have merely looked to the history of their own governing body. In February 1982, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution released a report entitled, "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms." The interpretation of the right offered in the report was unambiguous, stating, "The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and the court in the first half-century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner."

The content of the Senate website is the responsibility of Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson, who spent 16 years as a staffer for the NRA-PVF "F"-rated Sen. Tom Daschle. Those with questions regarding the content of the senate's website are asked to contact the Office of the Secretary Webmaster at webmaster@sec.senate.gov. With enough encouragement, the writers of Senate.gov may be convinced to accurately list the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment and provide it with the same respect offered by political parties (at least facially), the U.S. Supreme Court, the general public, and the Senate itself.

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