Sunday, August 24, 2008

The 2nd Amendment, the Militia and your rights

I have been thinking quite a bit about the Second Amendment lately, doing some research and listening to what some people have to say. As we all know, I am an avid supporter of the Second Amendment, but I am always curious why other people are not.

Two of the most common arguments I hear against the Second Amendment, are as follows
  • The Constitution was written hundreds of years ago, surely the founders did not know what sort of technology we would have today, and they did not intend for ordinary people to use these types of weapons. The Second Amendment should evolve as society evolves.
  • The Second Amendment refers to the militia, which today is the current military. It says nothing about citizens owning firearms

So these got me to thinking, do these two arguments hold any sentiment of truth? In order to find these answers I did some research to find some quotes by the founding fathers, and others from the time period about this matter. Here is what I have found that should negate those arguments.

First a quote from Thomas Jefferson about reading the Constitution when the intent comes into question:
"On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us
carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was
adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and
instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text,
or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it
was passed." THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to William Johnson, June
12, 1823, found in The Complete Jefferson, p. 322

It looks to me that Thomas Jefferson is saying that when trying to decide what the Constitution means or does not mean, we should "conform to the probable one in which it was passed".

So what exactly did the early people and founders of America intend by the Second Amendment? Luckily we have some quotes about that as well.

A good and clear quote right away as to the intention of the Second Amendment
"Arms in the hands of citizens [may] be used at individual
discretion... in private self defense..." JOHN ADAMS, A Defense
of the Constitutions of the Government of the USA, 471 (1788)

And this one is even more clear
"The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is
able might have a gun." PATRICK HENRY, 3 Elliot, Debates at 386.

And indeed ensuring everyone is armed and teaching them at a young age is also essential
"To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the
people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when
young, how to use them..." RICHARD HENRY (LIGHT HORSE HARRY)
LEE, writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic

"The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right
of the people at large or considered as individuals... It
establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and
which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of."
ALBERT GALLATIN of the NY Historical Society, October 7, 1789.

"...the people have a right to keep and bear arms." PATRICK
HENRY AND GEORGE MASON, Elliot, Debates at 185

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." THOMAS
JEFFERSON, Proposal for a Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson
Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed. 1950)

And here is one of my personal favorites
"As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before
them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which
must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert
their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people
are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear
their private arms." TENCH COXE in "Remarks on the First Part of
the Amendments to the Federal Constitution," under the pseudonym
"A Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18,

Well it would seem the intent of the Second Amendment is clear, for the citizens to be able to keep and bear arms, despite what the government may think, and indeed because the government and military may "attempt to tyrannize" and because the government may "not [have] their duty to the people duly before them".

Some interesting quotes there, but what about that pesky argument regarding the militia and the military. Ah, indeed our founders thought of that, and smartly so.

It seems the militia is indeed the people and not a standing army or military
"A militia, when properly formed are in fact the people
themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms."
the Federal Farmer (1788) at 169.

But for the critics who need more proof that the militia is not the current standing army
"What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the
establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty." Rep.
ELBRIDGE GERRY of Massachusetts, I annals of Congress at 750
(August 17, 1789).

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except
for a few public officials." George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates
at 425-426.
"The right of the people to keep and bear...arms shall not be
infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the people,
trained to arms is the best and most natural defense of a free
country..." JAMES MADISON, 1 Annals of Congress 434 (June 8,

But does Congress have the power to disarm the people? Of course not
"Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and
every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the
birth-right of an American... [T]he unlimited power of the sword
is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments,
but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of
the people." TENCH COXE, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

Well these all seem fairly evident to me as to whether or not the Second Amendment should be re-worked because of evolving times. It is also fairly evident that the Second Amendment was written so that free people may be able to protect themselves from people who wish to them harm, and in order to resist tyranny from the government and the free standing army. Indeed, the militia is the people, and Congress has no right to disarm the people. Like Thomas Jefferson said "no free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms" I will never freely disarm, and in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, let me remind everyone what happens when governments try to disarm the people, at least the American people
"And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are
not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the
spirit of resistance? Let them take arms... The tree of liberty
must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots
and tyrants." THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to William S. Smith,
1787, in S. Padover (Ed.), Jefferson, On Democracy (1939), p. 20.

The people do not, and should not respond kindly to a government infringing upon their rights. Anyone who will give up essential liberty for a little security deserves neither (paraphrased form Benjamin Franklin).

This should help to clear up quite a bit about the Second Amendment. In defense of you and I, in defense of our rights, I will not disarm, and nor will millions like me.

(bold emphasis is mine)


  1. Excellent post. Simply excellent

  2. aepilot,

    Thank you very much. I was tired of some anti-gun folks belly aching.


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