Whenever this argument is made people are reminded that the Second Amendment to our Constitution allows private citizens to "keep and bear arms" which is a right that cannot be taken from us. However, not everyone agrees with this argument for a number of reasons.
One is the claim that the Second Amendment is there to allow people the right to go hunting. It is said that back in the 1700s, when this amendment was passed, people had to hunt and kill animals in order to provide for their meat but today that's no longer necessary. Although it is nevertheless agreed that people should still be allowed to hunt or use guns for sporting purposes, they don't need semi-automatic, high powered, large capacity magazines to do this, so it is said that those kinds of weapons should and can be banned without violating the Second Amendment.
Another reason given is that back in the 1700s there was the threat of Indian raids and so people needed guns to protect themselves but today, with our modern police force whose duty is to protect us from every domestic harm, there is no more need for individual citizens to be armed.
A similar argument is that the Second Amendment states that private citizens were allowed to have guns because they belonged to a local militia but today, with a well armed national military, militias are no longer needed which therefore removes the need for private individuals to own weapons.
Yet another argument is that when the Second Amendment was passed guns consisted of a long barreled, single shot rifle that had to be reloaded after each lead ball was fired. The average time to reload a rifle back then was about a minute. But today, there are guns and rifles capable of firing ten to thirty rounds of bullets in rapid succession which can then be reloaded in a matter of seconds. Therefore, it is said, that our founding fathers could not have possibly imagined the kinds of guns we have today and if they could they would never have wanted them in the hands of private citizens, especially when they have the ability to kill large numbers of innocent people in a very short space of time.
There are some who state that the Second Amendment was written to allow the colonists of that time the ability to defend themselves against England's army when they made war against us. During the Revolutionary War it was the common farmer of that day who served in the Continental Army and who used their own weapons but today our government has a strong military who is much better equipped and prepared to protect our us from foreign invasion. For this reason it is argued that there is no need for the average person to own guns in order to protect our homeland. And to say that we have to protect ourselves from our own government seems more like a theoretical academic exercise of some far-fetched scenario than of any real possibility.
The one theme that is common to all of these arguments is that the Second Amendment was made for a different era and that in the modern world in which we now live such an amendment is no longer needed because it is an outdated and potentially dangerous practice. To those who don't know the history behind why the American people in 1789 demanded that the right to keep and bear arms be given an ironclad guarantee in our Constitution are easily swayed by these arguments. Therefore to understand why the Second Amendment is so important for us today we need to understand why it was put in the supreme law of our land.
The first settlement in America was in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and those who came did so to harvest the natural resources of fish, animal skins, and other items that were of value to those back in England. These men were adventurers and, as such, they were their own army and depended on one another for their physical safety. In 1620 the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts but they came to worship God, however, like the men of Jamestown, they had to depend entirely on themselves for their own protection. But, as they began to prosper and more people began to migrate to the New England area, settling new towns, the threat of violence increased as the Indians became more alarmed and agitated over how their land and way of life was being taken over by an ever increasing number of foreigners.
To protect themselves from Indian raids, each town was built like a fort, with high walls around it and every able bodied male made up the fighting force that would engage in battle whenever that became necessary. This fighting force was known as the militia, which was the local government's army.
By 1676 there were 110 colonized towns in the New England area with a population of around 80,000 people. The clash between the culture of the Indians and that of the foreign immigrants finally reached a boiling point when Metacomet, the sachem or leader of one of the Indian tribes formed an alliance between several other Indian tribes and launched a series of attacks against the colonists in an effort to drive them from their land. This was known as King Phillip's War and it was the militias from each of the towns who combined forces to defend their lives and defeat Metacomet's army.
But Indians were not the only threat. As more and more English settlers arrived, both France and Spain saw an opportunity to claim some of this land for themselves. However, the local militias were mostly for self-defensive purposes and were not equipped or designed to fight against a foreign nation. Therefore, to protect their property, England sent its own troops to America which resulted in what is known as the French and Indian war.
However, the regular British soldier in America was there to protect England's interests rather than those of the colonists, who had to provide for their own security, and as the colonists continued to spread further along the coast of North America, the militias became their primary means of self-defense.
After the French and Indian War had ended, England was heavily in debt because wars are very expensive to wage, therefore Parliament felt that since they had spent a considerable amount of money protecting the colonists from the French that the colonists should bear the responsibility of paying for the war. This was the reason given why, on March 22, 1765, Britain passed the Stamp Act as a way to raise the money needed to pay off its war debts.
But that's not how the colonists saw it. As far as they were concerned, the war with France had nothing to do with them so they resented being taxed for something they had not wanted nor had gotten any substantive benefit from. But what made matters worse was that on March 4, 1765 Parliament passed the Quartering Act.
At this time British troops were stationed in America to be at the ready in case France once more tried to seize land belonging to England, but taking care of the needs of these troops is also an expensive undertaking so the Quartering act made it mandatory that each local town in America had the responsibility of providing bedding, cooking utensils, firewood, beer, cider, and candles for the British soldiers stationed within their boundaries, as well as providing them places to stay in unoccupied buildings or taverns (which acted like inns).
This further angered the colonists and they protested but their complaints went unheeded and in time England began putting further taxes on the Americans to help defray the costs of wars they were fighting in other countries. With each new tax the colonists became more irritated with England and as each petition they sent to the King of England was ignored the angrier they became at the way their own government was treating them.
By August of 1766 riots started to break out in New York city against laws passed by Parliament and Parliament retaliated by suspending the New York Assembly in December of that year. This action infuriated the colonists. As tensions continued to grow, England sent warships into Boston harbor in May 1768 and two months later England suspended the colonial government of Massachusetts. The next month British troops occupied Boston. Now, instead of protecting the colonists from external danger, the British army was being used by the government of England to inflict unfair and unpopular laws that had been forced upon its own citizens.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, George Mason introduced in the House of Burgess the Virginia Resolves which expressed Virginians opposition to British policies. England retaliated by sending Lord Dunmore to take control of the government in Virginia and once he became the governor, he closed down the Virginia House of Burgess with the aid of the British army. Then, on June 2, 1774, Parliament revised the Quartering Act to allow British soldiers to stay in the occupied homes of private citizens. As tensions over these unreasonable demands increased, violence continued to erupt between the two sides to the point that on February 9, 1775 Parliament declared that the American colonists were in a state of rebellion.
With that decree British troop were sent to America to impose a form of martial law. British troops were now authorized to search homes and any other place they wanted without a warrant. They could break into any one's private home and search it at anytime, often times helping themselves to whatever they wanted. This amounted to an illegal search and seizure that was being done to Englishmen by the British army with the permission of the government of England.
What made this so onerous is that England had a Bill of Rights that guaranteed all British subjects certain rights yet many of those rights were being denied to the American colonists who were subjects of England. One of the rights that all British subjects enjoyed was that of habeas corpus but now Americans were being arrested and held indefinitely without being charged with any crime.
Another right was that of free speech but now British soldiers began destroying printing shops, arresting State delegates, and imprisoning ministers because they printed, said, or preached things that the government of England didn't like. Another right that all Englishman had was that of self-defense. From the very first time America was colonized, its people had weapons to protect themselves but now British soldiers began confiscating the guns of certain individuals or groups.
In addition to this, the British troops were used to prevent the colonists from peaceably assembling. In Boston, an organization known as the Son of Liberty would meet in taverns and homes to discuss how to disrupt the British troops until the King appointed governor issued a decree that such gatherings were illegal. To circumvent this law, members of the Sons of Liberty would meet in small groups of two or three under a large oak tree in the center of Boston. This oak became known as the Liberty Tree.
In March of 1775 a group of delegates from Virginia held their second session of the Virginia Convention in a small church in Richmond, Virginia. The reason why they met there instead of in the capital city of Williamsburg was because Lord Dunmore had not only banned the Virginia delegates from meeting together but had issued an order that if they were caught meeting they were to be put to death, so they quietly slipped out of town and traveled about a hundred miles to the small town of Richmond located on the James River where they gathered in St. John's church to conduct a secret meeting.
Outside of St. John's church the Virginia delegates had stationed lookout guards to warn them of any danger from British authorities while inside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry and others were discussing how to respond to all the violations England had perpetrated on their rights. Most people know about Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" speech he made that day but what most people are not taught is that he also proposed raising a voluntary militia in every county in Virginia to defend their rights against the abuse of England and it's army.
And this same attitude began gaining support in other states where the militia was no longer viewed as a means of defending themselves against Indian attacks but as the means of defending themselves from their own government. Private citizens carried their guns with them wherever they could, including as they worked in their fields, so they could be ready to come together as a militia on a minute's notice, hence earning themselves the title of Minute Men.
On April 19, 1775 British troops hoped to sneak out of Boston to make a midnight raid to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams in the town of Lexington and also go to the town of Concord to confiscate the arms and ammunition of those whom England had labeled as "rebels," but they were spotted and Paul Revere made his famous ride to warn Hancock and Adams as well as to alert the militia.
As morning approached, the Minute Men of that area confronted British troops in Concord where a short but important battle occurred because it was the spark that ignited the American Revolution. After the Americans had declared their independence from England, it was the militias from the various states that made up the Continental Army as they fought to protect their liberty from what they viewed as the tyrannical government of King George III. After the war for independence the Continental army disbanded and each soldier went back to his profession but they continued to stand ready to grab their weapon at a moment's notice to fight for their country.
Later, as the delegates from each state considered what kind of government they should have, one thing they were all agreed upon was that they were very much against having their own "standing" army. A standing army is one that stands ready at all times to fight as directed by their central government. Today we would call this a professional army. Because of the abuse of military power by England that our founding fathers had experienced firsthand, their biggest fear was that if our own government ever created their own standing army there could come a time when a tyrannical leader or congress would use that army to suppress the rights of its own citizens just as England had previously done to them.
This was one of the fears that anti-federalists of that day expressed as they opposed the newly proposed federal Constitution. During the ratification debate in New York three signers of the Constitution wrote a series of 85 papers that have become known as the Federalist Papers, where they addressed the concerns of the anti-federalist. In Federalist Paper #46 James Madison explained that even if the United States were to have a regular army it would be the militias from every state who would "form a barrier against the enterprises of [the] ambition" of tyrants. He then went on to say that this is the reason why all the "kingdoms of Europe… are afraid to trust [their] people with arms."
After the Constitution was ratified by all the states and the first Congress met in 1789 they adopted their own Bill of Rights. These were rights they felt came from God and could not be taken from them. In fact, they felt that it was the role of government to protect these rights and so, to make sure that their own government would never have the power to take away these rights, they included them as part of the supreme law of the land. These rights included the freedom of the press, speech, and religion, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to habeas corpus, the right to be protected from warrantless searches and seizure of property, and the right to keep and bear arms.
The Second Amendment 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." This amendment had nothing to do with hunting rights or to allow people to use guns for sporting events. The purpose of giving people the right to keep and bear arms was specifically meant to make sure that all American citizens had the ability to provide for themselves a civilian militia which could be used against any standing army and this meaning is clearly stated when it declares that a militia is necessary for "the security of a free state."
In 1786 a rebellion broke out in Massachusetts known as Shay's Rebellion and it was the Massachusetts militia that was call upon to put down the insurrection. In 1791 a group of people living in Pennsylvania objected to a tax on their whiskey and violently rebelled. It was the Pennsylvania militia that was called up to assist the regular army put down this revolt. During the war of 1812 it was the militias, called from various states, who came together to assist the American army. In 1861, when President Lincoln sought to put down the rebellion of the seceding Southern states, he had to call upon each Northern state to send militiamen in order to make up the Union army.
This was the intent of the Second Amendment when it says that a well regulated militia is "necessary" and for there to be a militia it is just as necessary that each citizen have "the right to keep and bear arms" because a militia is made up of the citizens of each state. And the amendment just as clearly states that this right "shall not be infringed." To say who can and cannot have a gun, or what kind of gun they can have, or how many guns they are allowed to possess, or what size magazine is or isn't acceptable are all infringements on the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. Yet, today there are currently 243 pages of federal gun laws, all of which infringe on our right to keep and bear arms in one way or another.
The argument that private citizens don't need guns for protection from their government is not founded on fact. Unfortunately, we see our own government today taking many of the same rights away from us as England had done to the colonists, which includes the continuing effort to chip away at our right to own guns, so there is every reason to be fearful of a large government who has a large and powerful standing army at its disposal that can be used against its own people just as England had done back in 1775.
One individual person alone cannot take on a well trained army by themselves but a group of armed men, standing together, can. Someone may argue that in this modern era that such a situation is not possible but it was armed rebels who caused the corrupt government of Muammar Gaddafi to fall in 2012. Those who say that private citizens should not be allowed to own "assault weapons" are limiting the kinds of weapons that people may need against a tyrannical government whose army does have and uses assault weapons.
There are those who will say we have nothing to fear about an America army taking away our freedoms by force but the fact is that the FBI, ATF, TSA, and other governmental policing agencies have already used lethal force against American citizens. Waco with David Koresh, Ruby Ridge with Randy Weaver, and Miami with Elian Gonzalas are just a few examples out of many that could be cited. During hurricane Katrina, police entered homes in New Orleans without a warrant and illegally searched and seized weapons from law abiding citizens. All of these are a violation of our Constitutional rights and they are being perpetrated by the very government who has sworn an oath to uphold and defend our rights as outlined in the Constitution.
Critics of gun possession say they're not trying to take guns away from anyone; they just want to make sure that those who own guns use them responsibly, but then they propose laws that infringe on what guns a law abiding person can and cannot have. Yet, the Constitution clearly states that the federal government is prohibited from passing such laws but still they do it. And if they are willing to disregard the Constitution and violate one of our rights, then there is every reason to believe that they will continue to violate our other rights as protected by the Constitution.
We often hear those who say there needs to be restrictions on people's right to bear arms is that all they are trying to do is protect the innocent yet, despite all the gun laws that have already been passed, innocent people continue to die. And each time that happens these same people who say they don't want to take away anyone's right under the Second Amendment propose even more laws that further infringes upon our right to keep and bear arms.
If laws don't stop gun crime then we should be very suspicious of those who continually call for tougher and stricter gun laws because the more citizens are denied their ability to be armed, the easier it is for someone to take away all of their other liberties as well. The fact is that when citizens are armed it makes it much more difficult for a tyrant to come to power.
That's why every would-be dictator first must take guns away from the people they wish to rule over. Hitler did this in every country he invaded, including his own country of Germany. Stalin did it in Russia, Mao did it in China, Saddam Hussein did it n Iraq as do all other dictators. Therefore, whenever we see gun critics wanting to get rid of guns by playing on people's fears while disregarding evidence to the contrary or failing to consider other constitutional solutions, that should be cause for alarm because it may be an indication that those who want to put limits on our right to bear arms may have an ulterior motive, despite their assurances that they are only doing what they think is best for the country.
However, guns are not only used for homeland security but for self-defense as well and the right of self-defense is an inalienable right. Man has a God given right to protect himself, his family, and his property and government has no authority to take that right from him. If a person chooses not to use a firearm to protect himself then that is their right but the Constitution guarantees each American citizen the right to have a firearm for their own protection if they want to.
In the 1700s people had to protect themselves from Indians and poachers but today we need to protect ourselves from street gangs, thieves, rapists, and murderers. People say that's why we have police but the police can't be everywhere a crime is committed. In fact, criminals only commit crimes in places where they think there are no police. The job of the police isn't so much to stop a crime from happening as it is to apprehend and bring to justice those who commit crimes. To say that a person doesn't have the right to protect themselves with a gun because we have police is to deny them their inalienable right of self-defense.
It is said that strict gun laws are necessary in order to keep people from misusing guns and killing innocent people but killing someone has always been illegal regardless of the kind of weapon used. It's a self-evident truth that those who commit crimes are not law-abiding citizens. Therefore, it doesn't make any difference to them what laws are passed because they will continue to disobey the law.
But the critics will ask, "What about someone who kills innocent children in a school? Shouldn't something be done to make sure that such a tragedy never happens?" Of course but passing a law banning guns doesn't prevent the criminally minded from obtaining and using a gun in a school. Therefore, it is the school's responsibility to protect the children in their care.
Suppose that a fire broke out in a school. If school officials have not taken the proper precautions to protect their students in the event of a fire, they would be held responsible and be properly accused of negligence. That's why they have fire alarms and fire drills. But for some reason when a criminal breaks into a school and starts shooting because proper precautions were not taken to protect the children from this kind of danger, it is the gun that gets blamed, not the killer or the school or the government officials who likewise share in the responsibility to protect the children.
Passing a law to make it illegal to bring a firearm into a school does absolutely nothing to protect the children from someone who is intent on murdering people, whether done with a gun, an axe, a knife, a bomb, or any other lethal weapon. In fact, of all the school shootings that have occurred in every country not one of them was because guns were allowed in school. Obviously the opposite is just as true. Where firearms have been allowed on school grounds, such as with an armed security guard, there has not been one reported incident of violence with a gun.
The lesson we learn from this is that the presence of weapons in the hands of responsible citizens does act as a deterrent. This is why many companies have security guards, why off duty police are hired to do private security work, and why there are so many private security firms. To take away a law abiding citizen's constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms simply because of what a few criminals have done is not only unfair and unjust but it is illegal because it violates our rights under the Second Amendment. It's like saying we should ban everyone from driving a car because there are too many people killed with automobiles.
In 1997, the government of Australia passed a law mandating that its citizens had to give up their privately owned guns in an effort to help reduce crime. More than 630,000 firearms were turned in and destroyed, costing the government over $500,000,000. Yet, just one year later, nationwide homicides were up by 6.2%, assaults were up by 9.6%, and armed robberies were up by 44%. In Great Britain, Parliament passed a ban on handguns in 1998 and ten years later, for the first time in its history British police (known as "bobbies") had to start carrying guns because of the number of criminals who were using guns to commit crimes.
There is no evidence that more law abiding citizens having guns has had an adverse effect on society. In fact, just the opposite is true. Statistics show that 95% of all guns sold have never been used in a crime, whether it resulted in a death or not. According to another federally funded report done by the University of Massachusetts Sociology Department for the Institute of Justice, gathered from talking to prison inmates, 15% of guns used in crimes had been acquire through theft while 80% of them were bought illegally on the black market from drug sellers, gang members, or other criminals who had stolen them. According to a 2010 FBI report entitled, "Crime in The United States" firearm murders has been steadily decreasing since 2006. In the four year period from 2006 to 2010, murders committed by a firearm had decreased by 14% while, during that same four year period, the number of guns sold legally has increased by 30%.
Whenever American's right to keep and bear arms is infringed in anyway, it does more than just violate the Constitution, it is detrimental to the security of our country as a whole if, for no other reason, than it places us in greater jeopardy of losing all of our other freedoms by a tyrannical government. This is why the answer to society's gun problems is never to implement more gun control.
"It is to be doubted whether such a militia could be conquered by a regular army. Those who are acquainted with the last resistance of this country against the British will be inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides, the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, forms a barrier against the ambitions of tyrants that is more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any nation can admit to. Notwithstanding the militaries that have been established in the various kingdoms of Europe, the governments there are afraid to trust their people with arms.
"Were the people to possess the advantage of local governments, chosen by themselves, who could bring together the national will and direct the local forces by officers appointed from the militias, it may be said with great assurance that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be quickly overturned in spite of the legions of troops which protect them.
"Let us not insult the citizens of America with the idea that they would be less able to defend the rights that are in their possession than those poor souls who are subject to the arbitrary powers of tyrants would be able to rescue themselves from the hands of their oppressors." (Federalist Paper #46 in easier to understand wording)
Return to Nature of Freedom menu
Return to main menu