Many may not remember their basic U.S. History courses as to why the Second Amendment exists in the first place. Certainly, when enacted, there was no thought of restricting type of firearm, or where, or who could carry. So its placement as the second most valued freedom in the Bill of Rights had nothing to do with personal safety or hunting, these were already assumed. It was specifically placed right after freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly to make certain that these freedoms were never taken from us. It was aimed (pun intended) squarely at the government. But certainly we have no fear of the government today?
One must remember that early patriots did not ask the existing British government if they could revolt. They argued in The Declaration of Independence, that they were “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” coming from a much higher source than mere man and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” God is referenced five times in this document and thus, they believed, He sanctioned their rebellion. They were expected to suffer evils while sufferable, “but when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
The right of revolution requires the means of revolution and this is the primary reason the Second Amendment exists. Normally the ballot box is the only self-correction needed but they had no intention of forfeiting the right to revolution they exercised giving us liberty in the first place. Nor did they assume that future generations would never need the serious self-correction they used.
The wordage of the 2nd Amendment was stronger than any other sentence in the Constitution. “A well regulated militia [the people], being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” They saw this right as being connected with a free country and specifically forbade the federal government any authority with respect to it because historically it was always a government that took away liberty.
An armed populace twice proved its value to liberty in the Revolutionary War. First, many do not remember why Lexington and Concord were so important. The Americans learned that the British planned to go door to door to confiscate their firearms so they gathered and hid them in these two villages. Now the British night gun raid, and Paul Revere’s desperate midnight ride warning the Americans enroute, so they could retrieve their guns to use against the British, makes sense.
Second, the Battle of Saratoga preventing the conquest of the northeast by General Johnny Burgoyne was stopped, not by the military, but by angry farmers with their own military styled “assault” rifles. This American victory encouraged other countries, notably France, to inter the war on our side. We would not have won the war without an armed citizenry.
The Founders’ attitude regarding guns—even military issue— was clear. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” And George Washington said: “A free people ought not only to be armed,” but also, “they should promote such manufacturies [sic] as tend to remind them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies” (Gun Control, Freemen Report, May 31,1975, p. 1).
But many do fear our government today. If freedom is measured, as it was in Jefferson’s day, by the “least government is the best government” we are less free today than when ruled by the British. We fear when all three branches ignore constitutional restrictions of their power. When the Executive Branch issues more restrictions on our behavior, through executive orders, than Congress passes new laws. When Congress will not limit itself to listed powers. When the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in such a way as to bestow themselves with powers never intended by the founders such as healthcare, marriage, and abortion.
We fear when unelected bureaucrats (DOJ, FBI and CIA) refuse congressional (the peoples’) oversight. When justice for sharing classified documents differs widely for a Clinton from that rendered General Petraeus. When pro-Clinton investigators exonerate Hillary on her 33,000 deleted emails on a personal server (many classified), are the same investigators as on the Mueller Special Counsel designed to alter the results of a presidential election, equal justice is compromised and the Justice Department is weaponized.
The Second Amendment is the Constitution’s final check on tyranny. We have the same right of revolution the Founder’s used, fully expressed in The Declaration of Independence. Widespread gun ownership has never been a threat to truly free societies. An armed citizenry keeps the government on notice of the governs’ ability to resist should inalienable rights be taken from them.
A popular slogan runs. “I love my country but I fear my government.” Given the unconstitutional antics noted above perhaps we should hang on to the 2nd Amendment as designed as our final option against tyranny? An option we hope never to have to use again.
Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.