“Persons” versus “The People”

Will we need a constitutional amendment for individuals to retain gun ownership?


By Stuart Hale Shakman; posted 1-13-14; all rights reserved.


In isolation (as in the 2nd Amendment, without the context of the other 9 Amendments consummated simultaneously and collectively known as the Bill of Rights), the term referred to as “the people” might be interpreted to refer to individual persons.  This indeed is the dominant interpretation generally given, when considering the intent of the Second Amendment relative to the possession of firearms by the individual.


However, in surveying the Bill of Rights, it is noted

(1) Regarding “people” versus “persons”

(a) the word “people” appears 5 times, in Amendments 1. 2, 4, 9, and 10;

(b) the word “person” or  “persons” appears 4 times, twice in Amendment 4 (person) and twice in Amendment 5 (persons)

(c) reference to individual persons by other names is found in Amendment 2 (“Soldier”, “Owner”);  and Amendment  6 (“the accused”); and


(2) Of greatest interest in this discussion, in the 4th Amendment, a clear distinction is drawn between “the people” and “persons”.  The clause “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses …” seems to clearly indicate the collective nature of “the people” versus the individual nature of “persons”.


Thus it would appear that the two terms, “Persons” and “People” are indeed not interchangeable, as “gun rights” advocates would have us believe.


Accordingly, it is possible, in order for gun rights advocates to secure their “right” to their weapons in the future, adjustments in either the second or fourth amendments, or both, will be needed, in the event that a “liberal” Supreme Court majority someday assumes control of the court.


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Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

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.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

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.