Monday, December 24, 2012

The Second Amendment, Part One

"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."

Proponents of gun control call them "assault weapons".  Other specifically designed terms are also used in describing AR-15 rifles, such as "military-style, automatic weapons".  I suppose the purpose in choosing these terms is to place the weapon in a negative context.  The possibility of new gun control legislation has once again caused a "run" on semi-automatic weapons, magazines, and the ammunition related to these weapons.  In the last five years, demand for firearms and related products has risen due to concerns about the right provided by the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution being altered, weakened or even removed. There is a definite "assault" occurring, on the Constitution in general, and this Amendment in particular.

In this two-part blog post, we will take a concise look at what the Amendment says, why it was created, and how we can protect and strengthen it now and in the future.

The Amendment quoted at the beginning of this post seems pretty clear, when taken literally.  The second half of the sentence informs us that the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  It is a right, just as the other rights guaranteed by the document are rights.  In fact, if we look at the first part of the sentence, it is likely the most important right because it protects the other rights provided...but more on that later.  It is when one views this document as dated, fluid, or open to interpretation that it becomes less clear what was meant by the authors, those who signed it into law, and the states that ratified it.

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks."  Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to his young nephew)

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. 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." Thomas Jefferson (1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334) 

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference-they deserve a place of honor with all that's good." George Washington 

"The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."  Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (of the John Marshall Court)

"That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United states who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms..."   Samuel Adams (in "Phila. Independent Gazetteer", August 20, 1789)

"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."  George Mason ( co-author of the Second Amendment during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788)

It is clearly stated that it is a right provided to the People.  Just as the other rights in the document are afforded to individuals, so it is with this one.  Gun control advocates attempt to alter this right by saying the "militia" (mentioned earlier in the sentence) means that it is not a right for the general populace or citizens, but only for an organized military force (a national or state army).  This does not coincide with all of the other rights provided by this document which pertain to individuals...the People.  This thought does bring us to the purpose or intent of the Amendment, though.

The basis for this Amendment is not so we can enjoy hunting, the shooting sports, or the aesthetic art of a fine firearm.  It was designed to ensure the security of a free state and protect it from those who would prefer it not be free.  This is important to comprehend.  The citizens of Colonial America were not relegated to keeping and using firearms designed solely for hunting or target sports.  No distinction was made because there was none to make.  These individuals used their weapons for multiple applications.  The weapons were the most modern and advanced that technology and their financial affairs allowed.  Defending the state and ensuring its freedom begins with individuals having the capability to defend themselves and ensure their individual freedom.

The AR-15, like any gun, is a tool.  An inanimate object is not good or evil.  It is the user of the tool that determines whether it will be used for good or evil purposes.  While the design of the AR-15 is similar to what it currently being used by our military forces for the defense of freedom, owners of AR-15 rifles use the weapon for defense, hunting, shooting sports...various applications.  It performs in an outstanding manner in all of these ways.  That favorite deer hunting caliber, the .30-06, was a military round designed for use in the "Great War" and used to defend our nation against tyranny by our soldiers in WWII.  The Mauser bolt action, used by many current hunting bolt action rifles, was originally designed and refined for military purposes.  There is a long and valuable history of most of our favorite firearms being originally designed for military purposes, yet later employed for other applications with great success. 

So anti-gun individuals can use whatever misnomer they desire to attempt to influence the minds of individuals that there exist "good" or "bad" guns...what remains is a clear and precious document provided for us for such a time as this.  The 2nd Amendment, as written, is invaluable in forming a strong basis to defend this right and the other rights provided to us by those who risked everything to ensure liberty.  It is our responsibility to enjoy our rights by first protecting and defending them.  Our next blog post will offer ways that we can do this and links to help us inform ourselves and others.  

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