There’s a reason so many Americans think that the Second Amendment guarantees limitless and unregulated access to guns — and it has very little to do with what the constitution actually says.
In an exclusive video op-ed for Mic, Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, explains where all of our nation’s misconceptions about gun rights really come from — and it isn’t the Founding Fathers.
“What’s the exact wording of the Second Amendment?” Waldman, an expert on constitutional law, explained. “It’s very short. ‘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.’ And we’ve been debating about what that means for centuries.”
He added, “The founders thought that the Second Amendment was about protecting against tyranny. They really thought that these militias of citizen soldiers could stand up to a potentially tyrannical central government. But they thought, as they said, that they had to be well-regulated, they had to be following the laws.”
Waldman said that there were gun laws during the time of our nation’s founding.
“Back in the time of the founding, there were gun laws,” he said. ”For example, in Boston you were not allowed to have a loaded gun at home because they tended to explode and set fire to the houses.”
As politicians debate whether arming teachers or security is a better solution to solving school shootings than regulating access to guns, Waldman pointed to a little-known anecdote from the University of Virginia that might reveal how our nation’s founders felt about weapons at schools.
“In 1824, the board of regents of the University of Virginia voted to ban guns on campus,’ he said. “Who were these gun grabbers? Well, James Madison, who wrote the Second Amendment, and Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence.”
Why do we have so many misconceptions about gun rights? Who’s been leading the effort to reshape our understanding of the Second Amendment? Watch Michael Waldman’s exclusive video op-ed with Mic here.
March 7, 2018, 3:31 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.