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The Interpretation of Scripture and the Role of Context in this Interpretation - Accurate Essays

The Interpretation of Scripture and the Role of Context in this Interpretation






The Interpretation of Scripture and the Role of Context in this Interpretation

The author of ‘Second Thoughts’, Akhil Reed Amar discusses his understanding of mainly the second and third amendments and what the right to bear arms really means according to him. The NRA, the National Rifle Association term the Second amendment as having a lot of meaning while several gun control groups in the country term it as not saying much. Amar interprets the scripture of the Second and Third amendments and derived the meaning according to what several organizations affiliated to the government think. He also describes how the scriptures are related in terms of the modern day understanding and how it was understood in the eighteenth century when it was being composed. His interpretation of the scripture brings the induction it is not right to bear arms. As the author accurately notes, the right to bear arms comes with an enhanced difficulty in the control, licensing and registration of guns that therefore making it not right to bear arms, a contravention to the constitution as it is popularly interpreted.

Politically the issue of the citizens possessing firearms is dominated by the National Rifle Association. The Senate and the House have disagreed thus far in whatever decisions they have been making. The Congress on the other hand has been the lead team in making decisions that prove to be the most acceptable however, their decision encompass shows concerning guns and the youth. The debate has however boiled down to civic leaders and politicians who have resolved to suggest more serious restrictions be made regarding the possession of firearms. The restrictions suggested include the creation of strict limits on the quantity of weapons that can be purchased on one transaction and mandatory licensing schemes.

The question one asks is would the measures being implemented to become stricter in gun handling cases violate the constitution and if the National Rifle Association is actually right. The solutions are termed that if the second amendment is properly understood, one would draw a lot of meaning from it and the opinion of the National Rifle Association regarding it is not correct according to Amar. The words of the Second amendment state that “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.” To modern readers and schools of thought, the language used is quite confusing; the contentious issues being how the two clauses relate to each other and how the two clauses have different subjects and yet they are put in one sentence.

The first clause suggests a right for the existence of militia and the second clause seems to suggest the right of people possessing guns. According to Amar, there are three schools of thought that interpret the statement differently. The first one is the gun controllers who interpret the reading in a statist way. Their interpretation is that the amendment gives a right to the state government to create professional militias that include the Special Weapons and Tactics teams and the National Guards. In this view, the ordinary citizens are not covered by the amendment. The second school of thought is the owners of the guns. They view of the amendment in a broad and libertarian way. They argue that it protects the right of any individual willing to own a gun for personal protection, for sport and for hunting purposes. In this view, personal weaponry is not encompassed in the amendment.

Amar views that both the statist and the libertarian views of the amendment are wrong. He argues that the statist reading goes sideways to the obvious fact that the language used by the amendment is a command language. This is seen where it states that the right shall not be infringed. This clause appears on the second part of the amendment and it refers to the people and not the state. Amar suggests that there are other parts of the constitution that speak of the people and the state differently and in the time the constitution was being created, the founders meant to differentiate the state and the people. He adds to say that the militia referred to by the eighteenth century composers of the constitution was not in comparison to today’s SWAT teams and National Guards. The militia then referred to all the voters in the nation.

The libertarian view of the scripture, Amar says, has its own misconceptions. He says that the amendment speaks of a collective right for the people rather than that of any person individually. The phrase used ‘bear arms’ is a distinct military phrase. Amar’s opinion is that a person who shoots targets or a hunter carries a gun but the phrase ‘bear arms’ cannot strictly apply to any of them. Amar states the importance to understand how all the words of the amendment should not only be fit together but also how they relate to other words that are found in the constitution.

He says that the words of the amendment may seem odd and not easily comprehensible but the reason for this is due to the modern misreading of the two key words militia and people. The modern conception of the words misinterprets them and imposes modern assumptions to eighteenth century writings. Amar says that the two words, which are the key nouns in the amendment, were the different ways of stating the same fact. During the time when the founding fathers were constructing the constitution, the two words militia and people meant one and the same thing. The militia meant the people and the people, militia. He says that an earlier draft of the amendment created a link between the two clauses. The draft was later revised after being termed as redundant and clumsy.

The modern way of translating the amendment according to Amar would be to state that “An armed and militarily trained citizenry being conducive to freedom, the right of the electorate to organize itself militarily shall not be infringed.” The school of thought would then be called communitarian as opposed to the other two; libertarian and statist schools of thought. The two latter schools of thought dominate the modern comprehension and interpretation of the amendment. This is because, as stated above the statists view the militia as the government rather than the people and the libertarians view the people as private persons rather than the collective citizens of the nation.

The three schools of thought however come to a point of agreement when the constitution talks about the people since the connotation is agreed across all. This is evident in the preamble of the constitution when it refers to the citizens as we the people. Here all three schools of thought view the meaning to be referring to the collective citizenry of the nations rather than a specific group of people. He mentions another example as the Philadelphia constitution of 1787 where it also refers to the people. He states that the meaning there too is public and not individualistic and private. Amar further continues to differentiate the term persons and people. He gives the example that only a part of the people that are entitled to special rights are referred to as persons but not people. ‘People’ is used to refer to the citizenry and not individual and private groups.

He gives an example where women in 1787 were given the freedom of worship and protection of privacy in their specific homes and were referred to as persons. They however were not given express rights to specially participate in matters involving the people like voting. He states that the bill of rights seconds the readings of the communitarian school of thought. The first amendment refers to the people and gives them the right of assembly in constitutional conventions and any other political gatherings. The Ninth and Tenth amendments also refer to the people and give them the right to democratically govern themselves. The fourth amendment, Amar says, is trickier than the others since it refers to both the people collectively and the individual persons.

The amendment gives right to the people to have their own houses and to be secure in them, have documents and effects and be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of either. As is seen, the term ‘people’ is used collectively with the individualistic terms like ‘persons’. The wordings as used together focus on the protection of individual persons and private domain. Amar states that in all amendments the sole purpose was the protection of the express rights of the people though individualistic terms are used. The defense of the persons and the people by the jury is also mentioned in the article. He states that it was introduced as one of the most secure rights of the people. The statements used in most or all of the amendments denote the security handed to the people by the constitution. For instance terms like, security found in the second amendment, secure, found in the fourth amendment, securities, found in the draft amendment, and shall not be infringed, just to name a few.

Amar compares the jury to the militia. He states that the militia was formed, just like the jury, by the government but at the same time standing outside it. Both groups were meant to represent the interests of the people. The jury was and still is meant to check the judicial system and the judges. The militia on the other hand was summoned to vote and discharge their public obligation. He continues to say that the two groups are composed of amateurs who are put together to check on professional and permanent arms of the government. The jury was to check the judges and prosecutors while the militia was to check a standing army. Both groups had the embodiment of political public or collective action rather than any private pursuits.

In conclusion, Amar states that the owning and possession of weapons in the country would be hard to control. This is because the restriction of the number of weapons bought and who owned them would be an uphill task fro the government. Secondly, the monitoring of registration and licenses for each and every weapon bought would be a hard task too. Third, the door-to-door searching of guns would be a total failure since the guns that have been bought up to now without regulation have been stashed away and might even outnumber the people. The task of disarmament also would be impossible and a violation of the constitution. Therefore the authors of the second amendment were right in stating that the government would know exactly who had the guns; every voter. This makes them also right in requiring all the people who owned guns to be properly monitored and trained. The gun control that is being fought for today may not be exactly what the composers of the amendments had in mind, but years after they did they were actually close enough, Amar concludes.



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