Most visitors to this site will know, at least by paraphrase, the following sentence in the Constitution:
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.
But that is only a small part of the United States Constitution. Its a document that almost anyone can read yet it is a document that is too often read with a predisposition with respect to what the reader wants to find or wants the law to be. This tendency is not limited to individuals but sadly has negatively impacted much of this Country’s legislation and judicial decisions in the last 100 years.
For firearms owners, users and researchers, the Constitution is but the starting point.
As a starting point and a point of reference, it is important to understand what the Constitution is and what change resulted from it. First, think of the Constitution in the context that it was written, ratified and implemented. It was not an abdication of power by several sovereign States but it was essentially a treaty among the several independent States that certain duties and powers would be delegated by them to a limited federal government.
This was a significant distinction and restriction. Consider by comparison the relationship between a state, its interior counties and its cities and towns. Operating under the theoretical grant of authority from the citizens, a state is the supreme power vis-a-vis the counties and cities. The state is the principal authority among these governmental entities. It has complete authority, subject to the citizenry, over the counties and cities within its borders.
The state-county-city model is not the model that existed, originally, among the sovereign states relative to the limited delegation of specific and restricted authority to the “federal” government by a contract, a treaty, we call the Constitution. Recall the original terminology of the United States of America. Not just “America” – its a geographic designation. Not just “US” – that is an abbreviation. Its the States acting in unison by agreement through a written contract. We have forgotten that. Our legislators, of modern vintage, particularly out federal legislators and elected federal officials, prefer because of their need for power to deny it. Our modern federal judges seldom concede it because the very Constitution that they are sworn to defend at the same time substantially constrains the authority that they now believe that they – individually – possess.
There are a great many other documents that are routinely consulted, depending on the portion of the Constitution being evaluated, to “discern” its original intent and meaning. Here are some of the wonderful Internet resources that provide excellent and extensive resource facilities on the text and content of the United States Constitution.
- Offical Government Site of Constitution includes images of Constitution and other historical documents.
- Government Printing Office – Constitution Resources This site has electronic and print documents including analysis and interpretation of the Constitution and annotations of cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States
- Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute
- National Constitution Center
- Constitutional Source Project
- Wikipedia – The Constitution
- Constitution Society
- The Constitution Online.
- Constitution Society Liberty Library Presently hosts 150+ source and related documents
Yale University has the following historical documents available: