Many people may ask; How far do we have to go back in history to find the answers? If you know or remember anything from our elementary/secondary education (provided you’re are 35+ years old or more and had a teacher that cared) we know that our Founders went back as far as the “Magna Carte Libertatum” to help define some of their philosophies. As some of us may know, the basic laws or common laws of England played a very large part in the formation of our legal and judicial system and many of those laws are still on the books in most states. For those who have forgotten what the Magna Carte Libertatum (commonly referred to simply as the “Magna Carte”) was, I’ll give you some of the basics. It was a charter signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215. First penned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it was transformed over many years by the throne’s successors until Edward I confirmed it as part of English statute law in 1297. This version is where our Founders gleened from it some of England’s “common laws” to help define our legal system as well as taking with them some of its basic underlying tenets of “individual” freedoms and liberties. *For a more indepth look at its history you can read more here.
Our Founders also followed the tenets of John Locke and Sir William Blackstone. These two men were very influential in shaping the minds of our Founders. We don’t have to look very hard or research too deeply to find many references that support that claim. Who were these men and what philosophies were so influential in shaping the most prolific document ever penned by man? Again I will give a brief history and synopsis, simply because their contributions to our country are extremely important in regards to the interpretation of the 2nd.
John Locke; an English philosopher who died in 1704, is regarded as one of the most influential “Enlightment” thinkers as well as the Father of Classical Liberalism. (Classical Liberalism is a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government). Liberalism is now regarded by the Patriot as a “cuss” word, but in all reality the word was hijacked and its context changed by the Socio-Fascists in an attempt at enticing “free thinkers” into believing they are Socialists. Being Liberal is NOT a bad thing as long as you can respect individual rights, remain responsible and not expect others to provide for you. Now back to Locke. John Locke’s philosophies culminated into a book “Two Treatises of Government” written largely by himself, which became very influential with the majority of our Framers. They viewed his work as an argument against absolute monarchy and for individual consent as it relates to the basis of political legitimacy. Simplified it means, each person is born with the absolute and undeniable right to life, liberty, health, property and the right to defend them as well. They also believed that any infringement upon those rights to be tyrannical in nature. Locke’s ideology on the natural rights of man were revoluntionary for the times, but were embraced by our Founders. Those philosophies can be seen throughout many works written by our Framers including the Declaration of Independence, with the phrase; “…long train of abuses” as well as Jefferson words: “Bacon, Locke, and Newton… I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral Sciences.” Enough can not be said in regards to John Locke’s influences on our Founders, and I could write another complete essay in regards, but we must press on.
Let’s look at Sir William Blackstone, an English jurist, judge and Tory politician (of note, although colonists referred to as Tories during our Revolution were considered Crown sympathizers, the political ideology had previously grown out of a more conservative view on the English monarchial society which opposed the crown). He lived during the 18th century and was most noted for the works “Commentaries on the Laws of England“. Blackstone’s work was key in defining modern English common law and played a key role in establishing the American judicial system. Although many of us will agree that there are flaws within our legal system, the majority of those flaws have taken place in more recent times through “interpretation” by the modern judicial system.
So now you know three of the most influential people that inadvertently helped shape our Nation, although I would be remiss not to mention the Bible as it related to shaping the minds of our Founders. Now I know there are many who may disagree with the following statements (most are anti-theists), but regardless of how or why you might practice some form of religion there is an extreme amount of historical documentation at our disposal to prove that the majority (if not all) of our Founders were indeed Christians to varying degrees. I will not go into, nor will I list those documents, simply because the anti-theist (a person who is in direct opposition to organized religion or to the belief in any deity) makes it their sworn duty to oppose anyone who believes in something, based upon faith. I could also spend countless words on “Seperation of Church and State”, so I will only say this once and I will not give supporting documentations regarding my statements. Our Founders were raised as Christians, period. They may have been so to varying degrees, but Christian none the less. Their intent as far as the Seperaton of the Church from our State, was to ensure that everyone has the freedom to worship whomever they choose. It was not to remove religion from our government, but to remove the ability of our government to regulate a “state” mandated religion. So feel free to worship whomever you wish, but make NO mistake about it, you have NO right whatsoever to infringe upon the faith of another human or force them to worship the same way you do (except when that religion bases all of its regulatory laws upon their religious tenets). So yes… the Bible played a major role in the development of our country, simply because our Founders were of the Christian faith. As so many others on this earth, the way you are raised effects every aspect of your life and our Founders religious upbringing is no different.
I will only add this in regards to the defense of my position. They were indeed Christain (in the broad sense of the word) as you can tell by this quote by Thomas Jefferson; “The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.” “That faith is everything, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.” (These words and many others were written by one of our Founders who’s been tagged a Diest, and can be found on pages 383-385 in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson.) To refute whether his religion had a profound effect upon the documents that shaped our country, without looking at his private writings is foolish. “Religion, as well as reason, confirms the soundness of those principles on which our government has been founded and its rights asserted.” ~ Thomas Jefferson to P. H. Wendover, 1815 ME 14.283
Now we have looked at the major influences that effected the thought processes of our Founders, but what were the root issues that expressly influenced their decision to declare our independence. Knowing what was happening during their lifetime, will make it much easier to understand and interpret the wording of our Constitution. I could turn this into a paper discussing the events leading up to us winning our independence in great detail, but it would take much more space and time. So I will only highlight some of the major underlying issues and events that transpired and gave birth to the greatest Nation in the world.
We all should know that the Amerian Revolution and our soon to be won independence from England grew out of the increasing restrictions placed upon the colonists, by the crown. I will create a small timeline to show how long this process took and the events that led up to the declaration of our independence.
- The French and Indian War (1754-1783) a war fought between Britain and France, leaving the victorious British deeper in debt and demanding more from the colonies. Even though the war brought about further independence for the colonists, through gained experience in the defense of our colonies, KIng George continued to treat them as second class citizens. The mindset of the “average” colonist shouldn’t be hard to determine, considering they’d just fought and died for their King, only to be overtaxed to repay Britain’s war debts.
- The Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting the settlement of lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. Here King George asserted himself again by evicting all colonists from this location and forbidding future developement of these lands. It was his attempt at keeping the colonists in larger more easily manipulated and controlled groups.
- The Sugar Act of 1764, was Britain’s attempt at raising revenues for themselves by increasing the duties on sugar imported from the West Indies. This was not a commodity that was sold exclusively to the colonies by England, but rather a product Colonial businessmen had been importing themselves for years without any English involvement.
- The Currency Act of 1764 stated that due to the devaluationary effect that colonial currency had on British trade, American assemblies were prohibited from creating their own currencies or issuing credit.
- The Quartering Act of 1765 mandated that colonists house and feed British soldiers when and if necessary. It was forced room and board for the very soldiers who were policing and enforcing the crown’s unjust laws.
- The Stamp Act of 1765 instituted a tax or levy on things such as newspapers, marriage licenses, playing cards and other items deemed a “luxury” by the crown. It was stated to be a direct tax to cover the defense costs of the colonies, although we had already been defending ourselves for the last ten years.
- The Townshend Acts of 1767, were imposed to create a separation between government officials and the common colonists. It drove an even deeper wedge between classes as well as creating a “black market” trade network that brought more British troops into Boston.
- The Boston Massacre, 1770 was an event that fueled and fanned the Patriotic fires within the hearts of many colonists. Although the event ended with the death of five colonists, and two British soldiers being charged with manslaughter (the punishments were minor), the repercussions of this event further enraged the patriots hatred toward British rule.
- The Tea Act of 1773 gave the failing British East India Company a monopoly for tea trade in America, allowing them to charge outrageous prices without competition. This led to the infamous Boston Tea Party where the Sons of Liberty dumped tea into the Boston Harbor.
- The Intolerable Acts of 1774 were instituted in direct retaliation to the Boston Tea Party, placing restrictions on colonists such as forbidden town meetings as well as closing of the Boston Harbor (our most profitable port in America). This led to the forming of “The Association” or our First Continental Congress who called for a boycott of all British goods.
- Lexington and Concord, 1775 British troops converged on the city of Lexington to seize caches of gunpowder and apprehend Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Eight Americans were killed during this open conflict, the first instance of open warfare on American soil. At Concord the British troops were forced to retreat after the loss of seventy soldiers.
- Second Continental Congress, 1775 with all 13 colonies being represented at this meeting in Philadelphia, the colonists were still hopeful that our grievances would be met by King George III. Also of note, George Washington was named as head of the Continental Army.
These are not all of the events that were transpiring during this time period, but the culmination of them would lead up to what would be the final step in gaining our independence. Were these acts in direct retaliation for the defiance of those that antagonized the British ruling class? Yes, that is most definitely why British rule became more intolerable. Although we know that our biggest complaint and greivance was that the British ruling class was treating Americans as possessions. We felt entitled to all the rights of Englishmen and it was most effectively stated with the rallying cries of our patriots; “no taxation without representation” . I think many of us will agree that being taxed unfairly was as wrong then as it is now (although what we are experiencing today is due in large part to the failure and complacency of the citizens to ensure that our federal government remains small). This was something many of our Founders feared would happen to the future of our country, and will take years of eternal vigilance to regain control.
Alright, so these actions set into motion the forming of our Nation, yet the first document that would declare to that effect was not The Declaration of Independence, but rather the Declaration of Rights and Grievances written in 1765 in response to the Stamp Act. The DOI (1776) was ultimately the formal explanation as to why Congress had voted to declare independence from Great Britain, to all the citizens of the colonies and the rest of the world as well. The American Revoluton would last eight years, ultimately ending in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. Colonial independence was born.
This leads us to the writing of the Constitution of the United States of America and finally our Bill of Rights. As heirs to the Constitutional history of England our Framers intended for nothing less than to ensure that the American citizens would always enjoy the same liberties and freedoms afforded to all Englishmen, including the “right to keep and bear arms”. I have read many explanations regarding the intent of our Founders, but maybe none said quite as eloquently as Chief Justice Howard Taft;
“[t]he Framers of our Constitution were born and brought up in the atmosphere of the common law, and thought and spoke its vocabulary. They were familiar with other forms of government, recent and ancient, and indicated in their discussions earnest study and consideration of many of them; but, when they came to put their conclusions into the form of fundemental law in a compact draft, they expressed themselves in terms of the common law, confident that they could be shortly and easily understood.”
Throughout the years since they penned our Constitution and Bill of Rights, many have attempted to interpret what our Founders intentions were in regards to words such as militia, keep arms, well regulated, the people or bear arms as it relates to the 2nd Amendment. Taft’s response to these interpretative measures was simplistic, looking toward the English common laws of the 16th through the 18th centuries to understand the words of our statesmen. Taft further commented by saying;
“The language of the Constitution cannot be interpreted safely except by reference to the common law and to British institutions as they were when the instrument was framed and adopted.”
We can look at British common law during this time frame and rationally ascertain that the bearing of arms was not only a right but an obligation and duty of every able bodied man in defense of his country. To be available to be called up into a militia, at which time they would receive the extra military training they would require. Now I can cite countless documents to support this common law of England and it fact will admit that it has been changed over the centuries to reflect less rights to the people, but the bottom line is; the original intent of our Founders was to use British common law in conjunction with the philosphies of Locke and Blackstone to create a Nation of free men and women. Thomas Jefferson in his infinite wisdom realized these controversies would rise up in the future and had this to say in regards;
“On every question of construction 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 can be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one which was passed.”
If we go back to our history lessons, we can easily see that British common law was used to create the text that would form our new government, including the “right to keep and bear arms”. We can also look at life during that time period to understand just how important firearms were to the colonists, not just for providing food, but for self-protection. We can also look at life during the years before, during and after we gained our independence, and ascertain that our Founders intended for its citizens to always be prepared to defend the country. Now I know the term “well regulated militia” gets beat into the ground in regards to Founding Father intent. Why did they just not say; “Everyone can own them and run willy nilly through the streets with them for all they care?” What did the phrase “well regulated militia” refer to, if not the entire population of our country? A “standing army” is not the answer as it is specifically addressed within our Constitution;
“The Congress shall have Power To …raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years…” Article I, Section 8, Clause 12, Constitution of the United States of America
We can now see that the militia cannot be our military, and it cannot refer to the National Guard, simply because they do not actually own their firearms, but must return them before going home to be stored and inventoried by the federal government. This alone completely defeats the intent of ensuring We the People remain free from tyranny. So who then does “well regulated militia” refer? Again I think it’s time to look back on our history a bit more indepth to determine the frame of mind of our Founders.
We know the first meeting of our Continental Congress in 1774 in response to the “Intolerable Acts” instituted under British rule, bore the formation of the Declaration of Independence from out of the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, in which they hoped King George would respond favorably. He not only did not respond to our concerns, but in fact issued a proclamation for supressing rebellion and sedition in the Colonies by hiring 20,000 Hessian mercenaries to enforce his laws in America. It was these very soldiers that pushed many loyal British colonists over to the Patriotic “edge”. The exploits of these Hessian soldiers is no secret and can be found throughout many texts (although none of them taught within our secondary educational system). They raped, pillaged and plundered throughout the colonies as they pleased, forcing common citizens to endure the occupation of British troops in their homes. This is where I find it hard to believe that anyone could not understand the intent of the 2nd Amendment, simply because this puts everyone under forced rule by a tyrant King, but for those who still want to argue, let’s look at it from an even deeper perspective.
On November 15, 1777, Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation which were unamiously ratified by all thirteen colonies in 1781. During much of this period our newly formed country was enduring the ravages of war until the surrender at Yorktown (1781). By this time many of the state’s representatives realized that the Articles were flawed and in need of amending, so they sent delegates to a convention at the State House in Philadelphia in 1787. It was here with 55 delegates from twelve states that they realized the Articles could not be amended and a new governing document would be born. The Constitution took shape over four months with thousands of pages of supporting documentation created through the debate proceedings, records and suggested amendments (these are all public record and available for anyone to read). It’s not hard imagine the monumental task these men faced, since our newly formed country was but only a few short years away from the sounds, smells and sights of the war that secured our liberties and freedoms.
We should know what was most preimminent in their minds, or can surely ascertain from their debates; Fear of Standing Armies. They all understood that a Standing Army could in turn do the bidding of a tyrannical ruler as was proven through the use of the British Army. This was so prevalant in their minds that they incorporated regulations into our Constitution. So what exactly did they intend for us as citizens to do?
“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.”
This is the first time I have mentioned the actual adopted text of the 2nd Amendment, but I do so to see the exact wording, so I can try to break it down through the examination of our Framers thoughts. Here is Richard Henry Lee‘s (American statesmen, member of the Continental Congress, Signer of the DOI, President of the Continental Congress, and President pro tempore) written words regarding his interpretation of the 2nd Amendment:
“A militia when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves, and render regular troops in great measure unnecessary. The powers to form and arm the militia, to appoint their officers, and to command their services, are very important; nor ought they in a confederated republic to be lodged, solely, in any one member of the government. First, the constitution ought to secure a genuine [ ] and guard against a select militia, by providing that the militia shall always be kept well organized, armed and disciplined, and include, according to the past and general usage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms; and that all regulations tending to render this general militia – useless and defenceless, by establishing select corps of militia, or distinct bodies of military men, not having permenant interests and attachments in the community is to be avoided… 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…”
We can see from Lee’s words, that he was concerned with a “standing army” being born out of a “select” militia that was highly trained and regulated by our government. The Founders intent as we can obviously see from our history, was fear of a standing army doing the bidding of a tyrannical government. This begs the question; “If the words of the 2nd were meant to “regulate” as in a “select” government run militia (standing army), how could they have so easily forgotten their most recent history?” The answer is easily ascertained; they couldn’t nor wouldn’t have forgotten the tyrannical rule and the years that followed as we gained our independence from Britain.
So what does “a well regulated Militia” truly mean then?
As our history relates to this phrase, it is patently obvious (to any rational thinking person) that our Framers intended to create a list of “rights” for the “people” that our newly formed government could NOT infringe upon… NO MATTER WHAT. Since the regulations for “standing armies” is listed in the Constitution under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 12 “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;” We should then be able to reason that our Framers intent was to create a milita of the people, to protect the people from its government, in the event history were to ever repeat itself. We should also look toward the “personal” written words of the men of that time period, whose opinions had profound impact upon the shaping of our newly formed country. Noah Webster (considered by many to be the “father” of modern English language) for instance is quoted as saying; “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe.” Tenche Coxe (long time friend of James Madison, respected statesman and Federalist) is quoted as saying; “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 next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”
Now I could add quotes from so many of our Framers and Statesmen, made during this period and all of them would state similar intent (if you want more, simply look them up), but I think my point is made: Our Framers intended for the “people” (the same people referred to in all Ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights) to be able to retain the “absolute” rights of humans bestowed upon them by their Creator.
The term “Well Regulated” in reference to the militia and spoke of in the 2nd Amendment was basic and only intended to bridge the gap between the “Federalists” (big centralized federal government) and “Anti-Federalists” (small federal government) views on governing the people. They never intended for the words; “well regulated” to ever mean a formalized body of military based protectors, but rather a responsible citizenry versed in the “USE” of firearms. We know that our Framers used English common law to frame our government; Bill of Rights Act 1689 “have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law” and it restricted the right of the English Crown to have a standing army or to interfere with the Protestant’s right to bear arms. We also know they followed the tenets of Blackstone who during the 18th century wrote about the right to have arms being auxillary to the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation”. Does any one have a problem understanding what the “natural right of resistance” might refer?
We would ALL be ignorant to believe that any of our Framers intended to allow a government to gain too much control over the people or they would’ve been creating a means for another tyrant (they had just fought for and gained their freedoms from one tyrant) to gain control of our newly formed government. I think any rational person would have to admit, that was NOT their intent. It would also be foolish for anyone to suggest that our Framers created a Bill of Rights that guaranteed protection of certain rights to the people from their government, only to grant powers of regulation back to the government regarding any of those amendments.
The Bill of Rights was intended to “declare” individual rights and “state” the boundaries and scope of where our governments enumerated powers ended.
George Mason (one of a handful of Framers who refused to sign the Constitution unless they incorporated a Bill of Rights) stated openly after the Bill of Rights was ratified; “Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people” As I said early on, one only has to look at our history to find true Founding Father intent, but I must digress we still haven’t gotten to the root of the words; “well regulated”.
What exactly was the intent of the words; well regulated as it relates directly to the 2nd Amendment? One only has to look as far as our Constitution to ascertain its meaning. In every other instance where the word “regulate” or “regulation” was used, the Constitution also states “who” will do the regulating and “what” they can regulate (which was NOT done in the Second). They used an indefinite article “a” when referencing the militia they spoke of, instead of using the definite article “the”, suggesting they intended to refer to the “concept” that a well regulated militia was comprised of a “responsible, self-regulating” citizenry was necessary to secure and maintain a FREE STATE. This intent implies that ALL of US have the obligation to learn the basics of firearms use, be willing to defend our Nation from tyranny “domestic and abroad” as well as be willing and ready to receive further military training from a “formal” governing body if the need should ever arise.
The concept of “self-regulation” and “non-governmental regulation” of the peoples militia, keeps with the Constitution’s intent of “limited grant of power”, and that Congress is the only governming body that has the power to “call up” the peoples milita for “limited purposes” to provide for the common welfare of our Nation. As such it also maintains that the power of regulation by our “Commander in Chief”, the President of the United States, is ONLY granted in times of active service of said militia (he has NO right to regulate anything in regards to the 2nd Amendment through his executive powers when the militia is not active). This in its basic understanding proves that the words “well regulated” was intended to mean that armed citizens of the United States should always retain the right to the same level of equipment and have access to the same level of training necessary, to be an effective means of keeping any standing armies in check, including our own.
We also have to look no further than the works of another Framer to confirm this definition. Alexander Hamilton stated in The Federalist, No. 29 “…but if 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 use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights…” I know that many readers will say; “Yes, I can agree with that as long as they are WELL TRAINED which many citizens are NOT.” Well let me quote one more passage from The Federalist No. 29 that addresses that very issue: “It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that unifomity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense.” Note the words; “whenever they were called into service”. As our Framers intended, the “well regulated militia” referred to in the 2nd Amendment meant that “the people” should be well versed in the use of firearms, have access to firearms equal to that of any standing army, and only recieve further training when and if the need were to ever arise.
Although we know that the Federalists and Anti-Federalists may have disagreed on the size and strength of a centralized government, it is clear that they all agreed that certain inalienable rights of the people needed to be further protected. The insurance of that protection, gave birth to the Bill of Rights which fully enumerated the “reach and control” of any size centralized government. Furthermore, one only has to look at the events leading up to the formation of these documents to understand the “true” intent as well. If anyone could possibly believe that our Framers would go through the “hell of war” on our own soil and not intend for the Bill of Rights to “unconditionally” protect the right of the people to “keep and bear arms” in the same manner as they intended to protect “free speech or freedom of religion” then those people have a very skewed perception as to what “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” actually refers.
“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficient… The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
We the People have an obligation to future generations to continue carrying the torch of liberty and protecting it with an overzealous eternal vigilance. For anyone to ever think our liberty and freedoms are so simply described as “freebies” given to us by our government or that our government could never become tyrannical, needs to take some time and read about the effects tyrants such as; Caligula, Genghis Khan, Henry VIII, Ivan IV, Maximilen Robespierre, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Pol Pot or Kim Jong II, had on their people. They all had one thing in common though; They had NO concerns for the “natural” right of man.
Freedom and Liberty are not “entitlements” that can just be claimed, but rather gifts that must be embraced with “responsibility”, guarded with “unwavering resolve” and protected with “life” itself.
This is what our Framers intended when they created the documents that would form our government, so future generations could NEVER again be enslaved by a tyrant. This is why our 2nd Amendment can only be interpretted one way; that nobody should ever have the right to regulate or prevent a citizen of the United States of America from the bearing of arms for protecting their liberties and freedoms by ANY and ALL means necessary, including the very government who incorporated those protections.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t take some time and space to talk about the more modern interpretations we’ve seen over the last 200 plus years. It doesn’t take much knowledge to understand President Reagan’s thoughts on the 2nd Amendment as they had been public knowledge for quite some time. He stated publicly that violent crime would never be eliminated, with or without gun control. Instead he believed that efforts to stem crime by targeting those who misuse guns, similar to the way we have laws that target those who feloniously or recklessly use a vehicle. He also said that the Second Amendment “leaves little, if any leeway for the gun control advocate.” Also adding that “the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.” Now I know the vast majority of gun enthusiasts are typically Ronnie Reagan fans, so this is really just pandering to my kin, but what are the thoughts of some of our other Presidents?
How about John F. Kennedy (a Democrat by party affiliation, although what I would consider that last of the true American Patriots that can be tagged a Democrat) had this to say in regards: “By calling attention to a well-regulated militia for the security of the Nation, and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fear of governmental tyranny, which gave rise to the 2nd Amendment, will ever be a major danger to our Nation, the amendment still remains an important declaration fo our basic military-civilian relationship, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the 2nd Amendment will always be important.”
President Theodore Roosevelt had this to say in regards to the 2nd: “The great body of our citizens shoot less as times goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power. Thus, and not otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world… The first step – in the direction of preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come – is to teach men to shoot!”
Abraham Lincoln (a President many gun rights advocates do not agree with) had this to say; “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right – a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.” (1848)
Now there are more Presidential references for certain, and I may add more as I continue to research, but let’s take a moment to list some of our states views on the Second Amendment per their own state Constitutions;
- Connecticut: “Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state.” (1818)
- Kentucky: “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” (1792)
- Massachusetts: “The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence.” (1780)
- North Carolina: “The people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by, the civil power.” (1776)
- Pennsylvania: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty; they ought not be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination, to, and governed by, the civil power,” (1776)
- Rhode Island: ” The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” (1842)
- Tennessee: The freemen of this State have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defence.” (1842)
- Virginia: “That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.” (Virginia’s state Constitution best describes true Founding Father intent, in my opinion.)
We can also look toward the words of countless judges, including the words of our most powerful, Supreme Court Justices such as Justice Joseph Story in his Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States (1840); “One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants acccomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offence to keep arms, and by substituting a regular army in the stead of a resort to the militia. The friends of a free government cannot be too watchful, to overcome the dangerous tendency of the public mind to sacrifice, for the sake of mere private convenience, this powerful check upon the designs of ambitious men.”
Chief Justice Morrison Waite had this to say in his ruling during U.S. v Cruikshank 1876); “the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendment declares that it shall not be infringed, but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the Amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”
Chief Justice J. Field had this to say in his dissent of Brown v Walker (1896); “The Freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press; the right to bear arms; exemption from military dictation; security of the person and of the home; the right to speedy and public trial by jury; protection against oppressive bail and cruel punishment, — are, together with exemption from self-incrimination, the essential and inseperable features of English liberty. Each one of these features had been involved in the struggle above referred to in England within the century and a half immediately preceding the adoption of the Constitution, and the contests were fresh in the memories and traditions of the people at that time.”
There are countless dissents from Chief Justices from the early days of our country through Justice Scalia’s opinion in DC v Heller that all find our Founders intent was to ensure that the people would never be denied the right to keep and bear arms for defense of themselves or country, and that the militia referred to in the 2nd was none other than the people themselves.
I would like to mention the impact the 14th Amendment (one of our reformation amendments of 1868) in terms of the reaffirmation of our Bill of Rights. There are five sections to the 14th Amendment, but the most relevant to our own Bill of Rights in regards to citizens rights is; Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
I also feel I should dedicate a little space for some quotes from those within our country who do not agree with what our Founding Fathers intended, simply so we can see the mindset we are working against.
Our freedoms and liberties were and still are, bought and paid for by the “blood, sweat and tears” of its people. Its future rests squarely on the shoulders of those people, so please read the words of our Founding Fathers. Investigate them with a non-partisan approach and a fervor for understanding as you put yourself in “their” shoes whenever you ask the question; “What did they mean?”
”An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.” ~ Col. Jeff Cooper
Patrick James is the creator and founder of Cold Dead Hands and CDH, Inc. He is an author, gun enthusiast and avid outdoorsman who can be found chasing his passions 24/7. “I’d rather enjoy my life and skid sideways into the grave, worn out and beat up screaming that was a “helluva” ride than to never take chances and risk it all just to arrive in one pretty piece. Passion in all things is the key to a successful life.” ~ Patrick James
Having worked as a firefighter/EMT for several services throughout the years, he has also worked as a custom metal fabricator, certified personal trainer and chef. Growing up in the rural suburbs of Detroit, it was during his frequent trips to Northern Michigan where he learned of his love for hunting and fishing. Spending several of his adult years in upstate South Carolina, his love of extreme sports took root in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains as he learned to rock climb and kayak.
“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and vanish into air.” ~ John Quincy Adams
You can find his published work A Frail New World: Digital Conspiracy at: http://goo.gl/XNaDMe
You can also find more information regarding Mr. James at: