WHAT does it mean to “bear arms”? The Second Amendment to America’s constitution 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.” Concerned by the number of firearms in America, and the epidemic of gun violence they cause, many commentators (including Johnson) have in the past examined the first half of the amendment. It seems obvious to some that the first clause qualifies the second: the right to bear arms is tied to militia service.
But gun-rights advocates think the second clause stands alone. Among them was the late Antonin Scalia, who in 2008 wrote a Supreme Court opinion, DC v Heller, holding that the amendment guarantees an individual right to guns, no militia service required. He went on to explain “bear arms”. For him, “to bear” was simple enough, meaning “to carry”. And “arms” were just weapons. He conceded that there was an idiom,…Continue reading
What does it mean to “bear arms”?