Ever since public hearings began on gun control bills at the state Capitol this year, the issue mentioned the most has been the Second Amendment.
Numerous witnesses at public hearings – in front of legislative committees and special committees – have mentioned the amendment that was written centuries ago.
Robert Steed, a witness Tuesday at a hearing of the insurance committee, told lawmakers that the Second Amendment is only one sentence and 27 words. But politicians, he said, have chosen to “rip it apart, dismantle it” as the debate continues.
“How many ways can we dissect one sentence?” Steed asked the committee. “The words ‘shall not be infringed’ mean exactly what they say.”
He added, “It takes courage to stand on Constitutional principle.”
The 27 words are: “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.”
The Second Amendment was upheld in 2008 in a famous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5 – 4 margin with the majority opinion written by longtime Justice Antonin Scalia. The ruling struck down the strict gun laws in Washington, D.C.
But Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent, said that gun rights are related to those in the military because of the opening phrase of “a well regulated militia.” He added that Scalia had taken “a strained and unpersuasive reading” of the amendment in his majority ruling.
Justice Stephen Breyer, known as a liberal on the court, agreed with Stevens, saying that the Founding Fathers had been talking about “militia-related, not self-defense related, interests” by specifically mentioning a well-regulated militia.