You might be surprised to learn that there are several “official” versions of the Second Amendment. One of these versions, passed by Congress, 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.
Another version, ratified by the states, 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 mechanical differences between these versions have generated controversy over the amendment’s interpretation even today. The primary battleground for this controversy is within the issue of gun control. Opponents of gun control argue (broadly) that the Second Amendment affords American citizens the right to own and use firearms with impunity. Gun control supporters interpret the amendment as guaranteeing citizens the right to form militias for the common defense. The specific text of the amendment is vague enough, especially with the discrepancies between versions, that both sides’ views can be valid. Congress has passed legislation to limit the dissemination of certain types of weapons, but today’s Congress Week post deals with a different type of gun law: taxes.
Language in the 1983 Crime Victims Compensation Bill would have diverted funds collected from the 10% federal excise tax on handguns toward compensating the victims of firearm-related crime. However, these funds were already appropriated toward the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Fund. These moneys paid for wildlife conservation and hunting safety education nationwide. Diverting these fund would result in a nearly 30 million dollar decrease among state economies. The National Rifle Association (NRA) petitioned several congressmen, including Jack E. Hightower, to deny the legislation on these grounds. The following letter from our Jack Hightower collection is accompanied by data and arguments for a “Nay” vote.