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The Second Amendment Explained

by Jeff Lewis on April 11, 2012

“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.”

I was recently involved in yet another conversation with a liberal who tried as hard as he could to convince me the second amendment was never intended to allow private citizens to keep and bear arms. He argued that the framers use of the term militia was a reference to a government military unit similar to today’s National Guard.

The fact that we now have a National Guard he contends, is reason enough to repeal the second amendment. After all, if a private citizen wants to keep and bear arms, he should enlist in the National Guard.

In order to fall for this line of reasoning, four things need to be in place:

  1. Ignorance of what the term “militia” meant at the time. (Hint: It meant ordinary citizens with the capability to band together to fight back threats to their liberty, whether from an external threat or a threat from within, like an over-reaching government.)
  2. Ignorance of the stated views the framers had regarding a well-armed citizenry.
  3. An ability to completely ignore the second part of the statement; i.e. “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
  4. Ignorance of the history of tyranny. Any student of history knows the first right that is abolished on the way to tyranny is the right of free citizens to bear arms. When the tyranny fully take root, any guns left in the hands of the citizens are quickly rounded up. Why do you think they do that?

The Second Amendment

I will concentrate here on my second point and provide what the framers said they meant, in their own words.

Thomas Jefferson spoke to the topic directly with his comment,

“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Jefferson’s justifications for his statement are found in comments like “when the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty,” and “force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.”

Jefferson also wrote,

“For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.” He expounded on his point when he stated “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.”

Is there really any question as to where Jefferson stood on this issue?

John Adams was rather direct when he stated the following:

“Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion… in private self-defense,” and even more controversial and bold when he offered “the right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.”

Was John Adams too ambiguous?

Thomas Paine told us:

Arms 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.”

George Washington said:

“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” Then he seemingly justified his belief with the statement “it will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”

James Madison went right to the point of the current debate when he observed:

“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” Then he made sure to warn us as to why the first statement is needed when he argued “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.” 

Samuel Adams told us:

“The Constitution shall never be construed… to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”

Patrick Henry said:

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” And to see the first statement not come true Henry said “The great object is that every man be armed.”

So there you have it in the framers’ own words.  The next time someone starts telling you the framers never intended for ordinary citizens to carry guns, just refer them to this article and ask, “then why did they write all these things?”

A final quote from Rush Limbaugh – “You know why there’s a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one.”

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