There are two ways to change laws.

One way is tedious. You have to get a majority of citizens to share your views, motivate them to vote for representatives, get a majority of the representatives to vote for a bill, then get the president to sign it.

The other way to change laws is easy. You simply get activist judges to change the definitions of words that are in existing laws.

On March 18, the Supreme Court heard the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), a case regarding the Second Amendment, which reads:

“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 ACLU argued that the term “the people” should have its definition changed to mean “the state militia,” as the ACLU website states under the section “Gun Control”:

“We believe that the constitutional right to bear arms is primarily a collective one, intended mainly to protect the right of the states to maintain militias. … The ACLU therefore believes that the Second Amendment does not confer an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns.”


Using the ACLU’s new definition of “the people,” the Second Amendment would read:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people ‘the state militia’ to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The absurdity of the ACLU’s definition of “the people” is revealed when its definition is applied to the rest of the Constitution and Bill of Rights:

PREAMBLE: We the people “the state militias” of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union … establish this Constitution. …

ARTICLE 1, SECTION 2: The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people “the state militias.” …

FIRST AMENDMENT: Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people “the state militias” peaceably to assemble …

FOURTH AMENDMENT: The right of the people “the state militias” to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. …

FIFTH AMENDMENT: No person “state militia” shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment of indictment of a grand jury. …

NINTH AMENDMENT: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people “the state militias.” …

10th AMENDMENT: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people “the state militias.”

18th AMENDMENT: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people “the state militias.”…

In U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez, (494 U.S. 247, 288, 1990), Justice William J. Brennan Jr. argued:

“The term ‘the people’ is better understood as a rhetorical counterpoint ‘to the government’ … that rights that were reserved to ‘the people’ were to protect all those subject to ‘the government.’ …”

Justice Brennan continued:

“The Bill of Rights did not purport to ‘create’ rights. Rather, they designed the Bill of Rights to prohibit our government from infringing rights and liberties presumed to be pre-existing.”

In United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, the Supreme Court wrote:

“‘The people’ protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community. …

“The Fourth Amendment’s drafting history shows that its purpose was to protect the people of the United States against arbitrary action by their own government.”

The ACLU’s definition is more disingenuous when one realizes the U.S. Constitution already covered the subject of “militias” in Article 1, Section 8:

“Congress shall have Power … to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union. … To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia … reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia. …”

In the debates of the Massachusetts Convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution, 1788, Samuel Adams stated:

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”

James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 46, published in the New York Packet, January 29, 1788:

“The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition. …

“In the several kingdoms of Europe … the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

The ACLU’s mis-definition of “the people” reminds one of Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823, where he warned of attempts to try “what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it”:

“On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will conform to the right definition when they rule on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”


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William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker and best-selling author who contributed a chapter to the book “Judicial Tyranny-the new kings of America?”

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