When you ask proponents of the "collective right" interpretation this question, they usually do not know how to respond because they are simply parroting the company line. Since exposing these individuals as constitutional frauds can be a fun and enlightening experience, the author has included some possible responses to the question and the facts to refute them.
POSSIBLE RESPONSE NUMBER 1: "THE STATES NEEDED A 'COLLECTIVE RIGHT' AMENDMENT BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION GRANTED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THE POWER TO DISARM THE STATES' MILITIAS."
This response is based on the mistaken belief that the government established by the Constitution was granted general legislative authority throughout the United States. In reality, the Constitution established a federal government of limited enumerated powers. [See Article I of the Constitution."powers herein granted."] Under this system of government, the federal government can only exercise those powers specifically granted by the Constitution. There are no implied powers beyond the granted powers.
If the purpose of the Second Amendment was to prevent the federal government from disarming the States' militias as these individuals claim, then the Constitution would have to contain a clause that granted the federal government this power. In other words, the States, under this interpretation, needed an amendment to prevent or restrain the federal government from exercising a constitutional power.
A review of the Constitution shows that the federal government was not granted the power to disarm the States' militias. Thus, there was no need for the States to adopt a subsequent amendment. Why restrain the federal government from exercising a power it was never granted in the first place?
Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the Constitution negates the assertion that the federal government was granted the power to disarm the States' militias. This provision states in part:
This provision precludes the States from maintaining an army or navy, without consent of Congress, but authorizes them to engage in war, when attacked or in eminent danger, independent of the federal government or a declaration of war by Congress. In should be noted that this provision has no effect on the States' militias.
How could the States, 3 years before the adoption of the so-called "collective right" Second Amendment, engage in war when invaded or in imminent danger without an armed militia? Were the States supposed to send their militias into battle and throw rocks at the invaders? And why, when the Constitution specifically recognizes the power of the States to engage in war, would the federal government want to disarm forces designated to protect the United States from invasion?
POSSIBLE RESPONSE NUMBER 2: "THE STATES NEEDED A 'COLLECTIVE RIGHT' AMENDMENT BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION GRANTED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT EXCLUSIVE POWER TO ARM THE STATES' MILITIAS."
When the Constitution was submitted to the States for ratification in 1787, it granted Congress two specific powers concerning the militias of the several States. These powers are found at Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 15 and 16:
On August 23, 1787, a committee report was delivered to the members of the Federal [Constitutional] Convention concerning the militias. The following exchange took place during the debate:
Mr. King's statement shows that the intent of Clause 16 was to give Congress three (3) options for "arming" the States' militias when called into federal service. First, Congress could require the individual militiamen to report with their own military weapon. Second, it could require the militiamen to report with military weapons supplied and paid for by the individual State governments. Third, the federal government could supply and pay for the weapons.
This raises some interesting questions. How could citizens be constitutionally obligated to furnish their own military weapon, when called into federal service, unless there was an existing right to purchase and posses such a weapon? And how could the States furnish arms to their militias unless they already possessed the "collective right" to arm their militias? According organizations like The Brady Campaign, it took the so-called "collective right" Second Amendment, which was adopted 3 years after the Constitution was adopted, before the States and the members of their militias were "afforded" or "guaranteed" the right to keep and bear arms. As shown by Mr. King's statement, this assertion is patently false because these so-called rights existed prior to, and independent of, the Constitution or the Second Amendment.
Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 15 and 16 are the only provisions where Congress is granted legislative power concerning the States' militias. Neither provision grants the federal government any authority over these militias unless and until they are called into the actual service of the United States. When the States' militias are not in federal service, the federal government has absolutely no authority over them. Thus, the States have the power to maintain armed militias independent of the Constitution or the powers of the federal government.
POSSIBLE RESPONSE NUMBER 3: "THE STATES NEEDED A 'COLLECTIVE RIGHT' AMENDMENT BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION DID NOT GRANT THE STATES THE POWER TO ARM THEIR MILITIAS."
This assertion is based on the mistaken belief that the States derive their powers from the Constitution. The States were created prior to the adoption of the Constitution or the creation of the federal government. In reality, the federal government was created by the States, via the Constitution, and derives all of its powers through a delegation of power from the several States.
When the States adopted the Constitution they agreed to place some restraints on their individual powers for the benefit of the whole. All of the constitutional restraints on State power are enumerated in Article I, Section 10. A review of this provision shows the States did not place any restraints on their powers concerning the militias. Thus, the States did not need a "collective right" amendment to arm their militias because they were not restrained from exercising that power originally.
The process for amending the Constitution [Article V] also disproves the assertion that the States could not arm their militias without a constitutional amendment. Since all amendments must be ratified by a vote of three-fourths of the States, proponents of this interpretation are claiming the States had to pass a constitutional amendment in order to grant themselves a state power. In other words, the States had to get permission from themselves in order to arm their militias. To put this in perspective, it's like asking yourself for permission to go the store to buy a loaf of bread. If you ponder the logic of such a proposition for a second, it is easy to see the absurdity of this interpretation of the Second Amendment.
If the States needed a constitutional amendment in order to arm their militias, then the States cannot exercise any power without a grant of power from the Constitution or a subsequent amendment. Where are the provisions in the Constitution granting the States the power to build schools, form police departments, or arm their law enforcement officers? There are none because the States exist independent of the Constitution and do not derive their powers from that document.
The amendment process is the method for the States to amend federal powers or grant their federal government new powers. Proponents of the "collective right" interpretation would have us believe that the amendment process is the method for the federal government to grant subordinate powers to the States. There is not a single clause in the Constitution that grants the States any powers or so-called "rights." All of the powers enumerated in the Constitution are a grant of power from the States to the federal government.
As shown above, the various "collective right" interpretations of the Second Amendment can be negated without resorting to the wording of the Amendment by simply asking a question.
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Greenslade focuses his writing on issues surrounding the federal government
and the Constitution. He believes politicians at the federal level, through
ignorance or design, are systematically dismantling the Constitution in
an effort to expand their power and consolidate control over the American
people. He has dedicated himself to resurrecting the true intent of the
Constitution in the hope that the information will contribute, in some
small way, to restoring the system of limited government established by
If you are interested in finding out more about the Constitution, take a look at this book. I use it in many of my articles and it is the best book I've found on this subject. Bob
Reprint of the 1868 edition. ''Perhaps the ablest analysis of the nature and character of the federal government that has ever been published. It has remained unanswered.'' This review of Judge Story's Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States is perhaps the ablest analysis of the nature and character of the Federal Government that has ever been published. It has remained unanswered. Indeed, we are not aware that any attempt has been made to challenge the soundness of its reasoning. The great vise of Judge Story and the Federalists consisted in desiring the clothe the federal government with almost monarchical power, whereas the States had carefully and resolutely reserved the great mass of political power for themselves. The powers which they delegated to the federal government were few, and were general in their character. Those which they reserved embraced their original and inalienable sovereignty, which no state imagined it was surrendering when it adopted the constitution. Mr. Madison dwelt with great force upon the fact that ''a delegated is not a surrendered power.'' The states surrendered no powers to the federal government -- they only delegated them. 160 pages.