In announcing his executive orders on gun control, President Biden had the audacity to state to the American people that ‘No amendment is absolute‘ and that nothing he is recommending ‘impinges on the Second Amendment’. Are either of these statements true? I don’t think so.
The states adopted the Second Amendment intending to codify—in no uncertain terms – that the federal government shall have NO POWER to infringe on the citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. Yet, the federal government routinely acts as if this limitation doesn’t exist at all. President Biden is merely the latest leader to pretend the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to him.
Let’s dissect what it says: “ A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, (A) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms (B) shall not be infringed. (C).”
There are three parts to this single-sentence amendment: an introduction to the right (A), a definition of the right (B), and a limitation on the federal government over that right (C).
First comes the introduction to the right: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”. Here the authors of the amendment are introducing the right and describing one of the reasons why the right is necessary. They are not imposing a limitation on the right, nor stating that this is the only reason why the right exists. This phrase has been seized upon by gun control advocates to try to impose limitations where none exist, but if the authors had intended the right to keep and bear arms be limited to the militia, they would have said so. For instance, the Second Amendment might have been phrased as “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, so long as they are serving in a well-regulated militia” or “the right of the people who are serving in a well-regulated militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. “ But that’s not how they wrote it, nor how the states adopted it.
Next comes a definition of the right: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”. Other amendments clarify other rights, such as the right of the people peaceably to assemble, which is defined in the First Amendment. In the Second Amendment, the right which is being specified is the right of the people to keep and bear Arms. Notice that it places no limits whatsoever on the types of arms the people can keep and bear. It does not say, for example, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms which the federal government approves of” but says simply “the right to keep and bear Arms” with a capital A.
Finally, the Second Amendment places a clear limitation on the federal government’s power over this specific right. This limitation is expressed as “shall not be infringed”. That’s pretty clear language. It is saying that this right (to keep and bear Arms) shall not be infringed. The federal government is prohibited from infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms in no uncertain terms.
President Biden said his executive orders don’t “impinge on the Second Amendment”, but they certainly do infringe. The definition of infringe is to act to limit or undermine something. ANY limit on the right to keep and bear arms is, by definition, an infringement and thus prohibited by the Second Amendment. That’s the WHOLE POINT of the Second Amendment– to prevent infringement of any sort by the federal government.
In the same press conference, President Biden said that “no amendment is absolute”. With all due respect, the words “shall not” are not negotiable. The federal government SHALL NOT INFRINGE on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It is very hard to interpret this clear text any other way, yet gun control advocates will go through any number of mental contortions to conclude that it means something other than what it clearly says.
Since the federal government routinely acts as if there are no limitations on its power, it is up to the states to resist unconstitutional encroachment. All federal gun control laws, regulations, and executive orders should be declared null and void by the states, as Arizona recently has done. Similar efforts are underway in at least 10 other states. This process is called ‘nullification” and it is the same logic by which states have decided that the federal government should have no role in marijuana policy.
Here in New Hampshire, SB 154 would nullify any Presidential Executive Orders which restrict or regulate the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough. We should also nullify similar federal laws and regulations. As a matter of principal, why should the states honor ANY law passed in direct contradiction to the constitution which is supposed to be the “law of the land”? Why even have a constitution if we allow the federal government to flout it at will?