Ask the average fifth grader to define the Second Amendment and they’ll likely—and quickly—respond that it’s the right to bear arms. While, at the most basic level, the answer isn’t wholly incorrect, it also doesn’t take into account the many nuances of the Constitution or the spirit with which the Amendment was written. Seth Meyers got serious when he addressed this very matter on Wednesday night’s “A Closer Look.”
As Meyers explained:
“Entrenched powerful forces have perpetrated a monumental, decades-long fraud in convincing people that it is their constitutional right to own arsenals and military-grade weaponry. And they’ve invested large sums in convincing people that that made-up right—a right five Republican justices made up out of whole cloth not that long ago—is constantly under threat.”
Meyers’s sentiments aren’t something he came up with on his own, nor are they anything new. As the Late Night host noted, it was a topic former Chief Justice Warren Burger was passionate about and addressed directly in the early 1990s.
Officially, the Second Amendment states: “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.” Meyers shared a clip from 1991 in which Burger, a Conservative, explained that “If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as a Second Amendment… This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word fraud—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
While the term “well-regulated” is right there at the beginning of the Amendment, politicians and the very powerful (and deep-pocketed) gun lobby have gone to great lengths to redefine what that phrase means. As Meyers continued:
“The idea that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s unregulated right to own an arsenal of military-grade weaponry is so insane, and was shrugged off as ridiculous for so long, that in 1982 Senate Republicans went to the absurd lengths of issuing a report that claimed to have discovered ‘clear—and long lost—proof that the Second Amendment was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms.’
It is absolutely insane that Republicans claimed to have found ‘long lost’ proof that changed the meaning of a document written in 1787 in 1982! Which definitely means one of them had just seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and then said, ‘You know, sometimes people find old sh*t. I’m just saying!’”
What it all comes down to, Meyers noted, is the power of the NRA—one of those so-called “special interest groups” Burger mentioned—to influence the politicians who make the laws that would allow for stricter gun laws. (And which had the audacity to ban guns during Donald Trump‘s appearance at its upcoming annual conference on Friday.) Instead, however, we get such brilliant alternative ideas as the one recently proffered by the one and only Ted Cruz: Make sure schools only have one door… which will work out really well in the event of a fire or other emergency.
You can watch Meyers’ full conversation above.