The case for American exceptionalism is often overstated. It is true that our Constitution, at least when it was first written, was a revolutionary document, in both senses of the word: it represented a huge shift in the way that the state was conceived, but also an attempt to free a citizenry from perceived oppression.
Because of the unique historical circumstances in which it was written, the Constitution put in place laws that appear to be similarly unique. However, when looked at in a historical perspective, many of these (such as the right to free speech) are unique in extent rather than quality: they make a right that was de facto in early modern England into a de jure provision.
There is one part of the U.S. Constitution, however, that may well be totally unique: the Second Amendment.
The 27 words that make up the amendment, “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,” are perhaps the most controversial, and perhaps the most misunderstood, in our entire Constitution. I’m not going to add another interpretation to the hundreds already available. Instead, I want to look where the amendment came from, and then look at whether it is, indeed, unique.
by Sam Bocetta