In light of the controversy concerning the concealed carry weapons permit holder list and the State of Missouri sharing it with federal agencies, I believe it is important to take a careful look at the Second Amendment and why is it so important.
The Second Amendment reads:
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. (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html )
Because the reference to a militia comes before the reference to people, some people argue that the right to bear arms is reserved for those serving in a military unit. The Second Amendment has been before the Supreme Court several times, a recent and significant case occurring in 2008 with the District of Columbia v. Heller. Until this point, the 1939 ruling in U.S. v. Miller led many to interpret the amendment as favoring the militia limitation.
The District of Columbia had one of the most, if not the most, restrictive gun laws in the nation. The Court issued a decision in this case that favored the individual's right to bear arms. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion emphasizing the plain language of the amendment in context to the other amendments of the Bill of Rights. Briefly, the majority reasoned that people hold certain rights: the right to free speech, assembly, and petition as well as the individual right to be secure against the state's right to search and seizure without the state having probable cause. Scalia also made the argument on the basis of consensus and philosophical right.
Prior to the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the overwhelming majority of states had provisions ensuring the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Why? This takes us to the philosophical argument.
In law we have a defense against a murder charge known as self defense. Why do we have this provision? Obviously, because the right to life gives someone the right to defend themselves. This is fundamental to our system, that a person has rights that cannot be violated by the state without cause and due process. As Scalia points out, this permeates our system and is included in the Second Amendment.
What is more fundamental than the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as contained in our Declaration of Independence? The right to life is listed first. However, how can we say we have the right to life if we are not allowed to defend our right to life? Without the right to life, and to defend that right, what other rights do we really have? Obviously, these are rhetorical questions: the other rights do not matter if we are dead. This is the basis of the Heller decision and Second Amendment interpretation.
I hope this helps clarify this important issue. As always, please contact me with your thoughts.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City and Missouri. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working me to make Missouri a great place to live.