U.S.A. — One of the silliest arguments about the purposes of the Second Amendment is put forward this way. The newly formed Constitutional government would never have created an amendment with the purpose of destroying the government just created. Here is an example from the far-left eugeneweekly.com:
That newly created narrative included the supposed purpose of arming citizens in order to enable them to rebel against the very constitutional government which the Founders were establishing with its checks and balances. This despite the Founders having defined treason as taking up arms against that very government.
But this glaring contradiction persisted and found a home within the halls of the Supreme Court, whose collective wisdom may have suffered from the influx of unreported gifts by billionaires to a number of justices weighing in on the question.
The writer does not appear to have read the history of the Revolutionary War, the Federalist Papers, the arguments surrounding the Bill of Rights, the rudiments of the political theories the Constitution is based on, or the Constitution itself. Knowledge of any one of these fields provides ample refutation of the argument above.
One of the principle causes of the Revolutionary War was the attempt by the Government of England, specifically the King, to disarm the American colonists. The proximate start of the war resulted from an attempt by the Crown to confiscate privately and publicly owned weapons, resulting in the battles of Lexington and Concord. During the war, a British minister proposed disarming all the colonists in perpetuity. Having just defeated a government bent on their disarmament, the successful revolutionaries were not about to grant such power to the newly formed government of the Constitution.
During the argument about ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, those who were concerned about the centralization of power in the federal government demanded more checks and balances on the newly formed government. From gun quotations of the founding fathers:
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.”
– Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, October 10, 1787
“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”
– James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788
The Bill of Rights was ratified in December of 1791. It was demanded by the anti-federalists as a check on the powers of the new federal government. It enhanced the existing checks and balances of the Constitution. The people who demanded the Bill of Rights were not those who created the Constitution. They were those who warned of the centralization of power in the Federal government. The Bill of Rights was proposed by the anti-federalists and enthusiastically passed by the states with the overwhelming support of the people. It was not those who proposed and wrote the Constitution who demanded, passed, and ratified the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment. It was those who were leery of centralized power who demanded more restraints on the power of the new government. There is no contradiction in this action.
The political theories the Constitution is based on are those of Natural law and Natural rights, theories the founders avidly agreed with and supported.
The Second Amendment is a direct product of the theory of Natural Law, which holds no one, including the government, has the right to take a person’s life or property without due process. Because evil exists in the world, and many are willing to illegitimately take life or property, or to destroy communities, the means to defend your life, property, or community is protected. The right to life fundamentally includes the right to effective means to defend your life. The American revolutionaries understood the flaw in the English Bill of Rights, as put forward by Sir William Blackstone. When they created their distinctly American version of the right to arms, they made it far more powerful and restrictive than the English law which had failed them. St. George Tucker was a prominent revolutionary. As a legal scholar, he rose to the highest level of importance in the early United States. Tucker explained the difference of the treatment of the natural right to arms in England v. the new United States:
“The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute 1 W. & M. st. 2 c. 2, and its indeed, a public allowance under due restrictions, of the natural rights of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”
Blackstone was explaining the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which provided: “That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law.”
Tucker added his own analysis in two footnotes:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Amendments to the C.U.S. Art. 4 and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government.”
The Constitution itself belies the idea the founders would not have included a means to defend against a government that might become tyrannical. The checks and balances in the Constitution are a basic defense against such tyranny. There is no contradiction in including the protection of another basic defense. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is not created by the Constitution, it is protected by it as an additional defense against a government which may become tyrannical. The founders were well aware of the history of governments accumulating power to themselves and turning against the people.
The idea the people who formed the new Constitution would reject their recent experience in the Revolutionary War, reject the commitments to create a Bill of Rights, and reject the historical importance of the individual right to keep and bear arms, because they feared arms in the hands of the people, is ridiculous. The idea the new government chose to limit itself is false. It was the people who opposed the centralization of power who forced the Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution, as additional protections against a potential future tyranny.
Those who claim there should be no limitations on governmental power push such silliness to centralize more and more power in the hands of the government.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.