“I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.” ~Virginia’s U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788. (LaPierre, 2009, p. 158).
Controversy is abundant over the second amendment and the verbiage in the amendment has become one of the most debated, argued and misinterpreted pieces of our constitution. The Second Amendment was written in 1789 by Congress and in 1791 it became ratified by the States and became a permanent fixture in our original Bill of Rights.
The Second Amendment was intended to protect and forever preserve all citizens’ rights to individually protect themselves and their lives. This right of self-protection stated:
“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” (Barton, 20ll, p. 5).
Over time, anti-gun enthusiasts have taken pieces of history, pieces of the amendment and out-of-context literature then used this information to suit their agendas. The words “shall not be infringed” are immensely self-explanatory. There is no other way to interpret “shall not be infringed,” but to declare and state that this “right” as stated, cannot be broken, undermined, encroached upon or any unauthorized use of the terms being restated. To infringe is to “encroach upon,” to “restate” or to “break the terms of” and ultimately to “undermine” the original intent. Those that want to argue that you do not have the right to keep and bear arms are arguing that you do not have the right to defend and protect yourself. This is a direct infringement upon “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
Later, anti-gun activists have argued that “the people” may not be “you or I.” They also argue that “the people” means the “socially organized people” such as the military, police and government. This is absolutely taking our history out of context. These rights were written into the constitution in order to protect “you and I” from the infringement of those “socially organized people” or “others” that would threaten our livelihood (Barton, 2011, p. 6-13).
One of the most utilized pieces of legal script used in the origination of the Second Amendment was known as “Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws” (Barton, 2011, p. 15). This commentary became a source for America’s legal system, attorneys and judges as well. The Blackstone Commentary was first introduced in 1766 in America and the commentary clearly stated that citizens have rights to own and use weapons for their own self-defense. It further stated that this is a “natural right” to be used for resistance as well as individual self-preservation in the event that society’s laws are “insufficient to restrain violence of oppression” (Barton, 2011, p. 15). This was a three part course of action. First, the citizen has the right when their rights have been violated or attacked to justice in the court of laws, secondly, the right to petition a grievance to the government and thirdly, the right of owning, having and using fire arms for self-preservation and self-defense (p. 15).
These citizen militias “being necessary to the security of a free state” were the reasoning behind the historical landscape under which the constitution and the amendment were written and intended. The “free state” was a priority of the times so that our future freedom from the risk of a government that was not of the people, by the people or for the people would not be threatened. This “free state” concept is still a priority as is self-defense and the right to defend our own lives. Our founding fathers were suspicious of the motivations of government for good reason. One of Jefferson’s famous quotes sums up this belief: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in Government” (Pratt, 1995, xii). There lies the number one reason to continue to fight for your right to keep and bear arms given to you by one of our founding fathers himself. He and the founders of the time knew what history has shown many times over: that governments with too much control over the people can and will become dangerous and that the people may, as a last resort, have to defend themselves. The most frightening thing about gun control is when the government itself wants to disarm you. You must ask yourself why? Our founding fathers didn’t want to disarm us. We had fought too hard to get where we were and they knew we were a necessary entity.
These rights were so important to our founders that our early history is peppered with examples of how undoubtedly vital gun ownership was in our history. In 1658, Virginia required every home own a working firearm and if you didn’t own one, after 1673, the government would provide one for you. In 1676, the law stated that you must carry it with you everywhere that you go. In 1632, the Plymouth Colony required that every citizen bear arms at all times or they would be fined. In 1639, no one was allowed entry to any public gatherings without their firearm in Newport Colony. Later, Connecticut added fines for failure to carry weapons and powder, then Georgia added fines and others followed suit. These laws are evidence that the government not only valued well-armed citizens, but demanded it. They considered every citizen a member of the militia. Every citizen was part of “the public defense” system (Barton, 2011, p. 16).
This brings us to the meaning of “a well-regulated militia.” The English militia system under Elizabeth I became a commonly understood “concept of a universally armed people ready to stand in defense of their nation” (Pratt, 1995, p. 7). In the context for which “a well-regulated militia” was written, this “militia” was the citizens of America and the “regulation” was the legal requirement of this militia to keep and bear arms. The citizens of America were “the well-regulated militia.” In the “Centinel” it was written that “a well-regulated militia” is “composed of the body of the people” (Halbrook, 1994, p. 80). The militia was comprised of the people and the people were considered necessary to the “security of the state.”
Why are the people no longer trusted or considered necessary?
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed-unlike citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
~James Madison, the father of the Second Amendment (LaPierre, 2009, p. 6).
Once again, we are reminded that we cannot always rely upon our own government to have our best interests in mind or to protect us in the event that we need to be protected. As was the case in our history, we may need to protect ourselves and it is vital to any self-reliant individual that he or she know how to take care of and defend themselves should the situation call for it. Other evidence in our history that the government may not have our back as we would like to believe is made obvious by the following quote:
“To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” Stated by George Mason in “his suspicion of government” (Pratt, 1995, p. xiii).
There is no doubt that our world is every bit as volatile and dangerous as it was in these vital formative years. To disarm citizens today is to say that the citizens are no longer valued and recognized as individuals who have the right to defend and protect themselves. Citizens are no longer respected as being a valuable piece of the public defense system as we once were. Our “rights of the people” are being infringed upon in a dangerous way. The government, media and gun control activists would have you believe that owning weapons leads to more violence. This again, is spinning of facts to suit agendas. The right to keep and bear arms and the right to carry them may in itself function as a crime deterrent. Criminals are unaware which citizens may be armed and which citizens may be able to protect themselves. This makes it more difficult to target people for the criminal. Those who choose not to own or carry weapons stand to benefit from those that do for this reason (Lott, 2010, p. 275).
Crime is a choice made by people. Owning guns does not make you commit crimes. And, criminals would be the primary citizens that would gain control of weapons should they be taken from the rest of us anyway. There is ample evidence of crimes committed against people via knives, bludgeoning, falls, drowning and many other methods. In absence of gun ownership or accessibility, where there is criminal intent, there will still be a crime committed using a different method. If someone intends to take a life, they will find another method if they cannot access a firearm. Most people if asked, would rather be shot than bludgeoned or stabbed. Taking citizens’ rights to protect themselves via a firearm, will not keep bad people from doing bad things, but the right to keep and bear arms will allow some of us to protect ourselves from these bad people doing bad things. The individual right to protect myself is an inalienable right. The Constitution, The Bill of Rights and The Second Amendment simply acknowledge that right and declare that my right shall not be infringed.
“The Notion that the Second Amendment somehow belongs to a small number of gun rights advocates is simply wrong. The Second Amendment belongs to all Americans.”
(Cornell, 2006, p. 218).
Barton, David. “The Second Amendment: Preserving the Inalienable Right of Individual Self-Protection.” 1st Edition. 4th Printing. WallBuilders. 2011
Cornell, Saul. “A Well Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.” Oxford University Press. 2006.
Halbrook, Stephen P. “That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right.” The Independent Institute. 1994.
LaPierre, Wayne. “The Essential Second Amendment Guide.” World NetDaily. 2007, 2009.
Lott, John R. Jr. “More Guns Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.” Third Edition. The University of Chicago Press. 2010.
Pratt, Larry. “Safeguarding Liberty: The constitution & Citizen Militias.” Legacy Communications. 1995.