Fact: the Second Amendment does not grant you the right to keep and bear arms.
I’m probably going to make a few enemies here, but it’s about time to correct this common misnomer. You probably have seen this message a million times, especially on Facebook, in some ad for a gun rights group, or a meme, or some person commenting in opposition to state concealed carry permits. They almost always say something like, “the Second Amendment is my only gun permit.”
First off, the Constitution does not grant us rights. The Constitution serves as a rule book. It delegates power to the federal government, outlines its responsibilities and declares its restrictions.
Second, the Bill of Rights protects natural rights and privileges from federal government usurpation. That’s it. It further defines the limits of federal authority. It doesn’t give you a right. And it doesn’t stop other governments from infringing on them. It certainly doesn’t turn the federal government into a liberty enforcement squad.
A natural right is a right that cannot be given away or taken away by a government, otherwise known as an inalienable right. Privileges are bestowed by government to protect rights. Robert Natelson wrote in the Original Constitution, “The rules protecting natural rights made up the First, Second and Third Amendments, and parts of the Fourth and Fifth…The external limitations pertaining to privileges preserved important features of traditional Anglo-American law…These external limitation took up most of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and all of the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth.”
Let’s break down what the Second Amendment encompasses. Essentially, it serves as two restraining orders on the federal government: one protecting the state; and the other, the individual.
A state militias has the right to self defense. It provides security for the state through the citizens of the state. Why institute state militias? Natelson writes in the Original Constitution, “Widespread ownership and competence in arms would deter the government from threatening liberty….the Second Amendment reduced the need for federal standing armies.”
The individual right to bear arms, a natural right to defense, was also put off limits to the federal government. This natural right was meant to protect home and family, even from the federal government.
Since the right to keep and bear arms is a natural right, no government may give it. And no government may take it away. But you have to understand the Second Amendment in context of the delegation of powers. It doesn’t give you blanket protection to walk around anywhere with a firearm. State governments are limited by their own constitutions, and if they further restrict gun ownership, the federal government does not come into play. You must fight against state infringement on your natural rights at the state level.
You should no more expect the Second Amendment to protect you from state infringement than you would expect it to protect you from British infringement if you were traveling through England.
The Second Amendment is not a gun permit. It is simply a further restriction on federal power, as the preamble to the Bill of Rights makes clear.
The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.