The Gun Thing, Part V: The Founding Fathers’ Intent
The Second Amendment is without a doubt the most potent expression in the Bill of Rights of the idea that the proper relationship between the individual and the state is one in which the state is subservient to the citizen.
Remember that the idea of America is a radical one. Never before in human history had it been successfully asserted that the governors are subservient to the governed. This is how it was articulated in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Read it carefully:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
How do the people “alter or abolish” a government that has become destructive of the ends of securing our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Prudence dictates that we begin by voicing opinions and making our cases for or against whatever proposal is on the table.
We can elect representatives who pledge to vote in our interests.
We can do all sorts of the things at the ballot box, from initiatives to referendums and all manner of legislative action.
We can put judges in place who share our ideas.
We can engage in peaceful protests. We can practice jury nullification and state nullification.
And, failing all of that… we can take up arms, and shoot our way out of an oppressive government, just like we did when threw off the British crown.
Why did the Founding Fathers include the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights? To “allow” people to hunt? No. To fight the redcoats? No. To be part of an armed militia under government supervisions? Emphatically no.
Here are some of the Founding Fathers, in their own words, about what they intended the Second Amendment to do:
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms. . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”—Thomas Jefferson, “Commonplace Book”
“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens.”—The Federalist, No. 29 - Alexander Hamilton
“[A]rms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. . . Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.”—Thomas Paine, “Thoughts On Defensive War, 1775
“Are we at last brought to such an humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having our arms under our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?” - Patrick Henry
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