Wednesday June 20, 2012




Top Five Baseless and Subversive Arguments Against the Second Amendment

by Michael Chapdelaine


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“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.”

Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America ratified effective December 15, 1791

1. The Second Amendment is not an individual right; it’s a collective one only for militias.

Interpreting the Second Amendment in its proper context clearly designates it as an individual right. Amendments in the Bill of Rights besides the Second use the same language – phrase “the right of the people” or “the people” – to recognize the natural, individual rights of the citizenry.

The Constitution and its first ten Amendments were not written and agreed upon in a hurried or ill-considered fashion. Every article, section, paragraph, line, and word was debated ad nauseum. If the Second Amendment was meant as collective recognition, the language would have been along the lines of “each State shall have…” The Tenth Amendment, for instance, deliberately uses the distinguishing language “…reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” If the Second Amendment only applies to a state’s right to regulate its own militia then this would be the only instance in the Bill of Rights where that language or phrase peculiarly and ambiguously deals with a state right.

The logical extension of an implication that the right to keep and bear arms is a collective one must be that similarly freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition are not individual rights. The perverse collective interpretation then complicates all the Amendments:

  • What about the Third Amendment; is the “Owner” then the respective states?
  • What about the Fourth Amendment; is “the people” not referring to individual protection from unreasonable search and seizure?
  • What about the Sixth Amendment; is the lack the specificity due to the obvious grounds for interpreting the right to a speedy and public trial a state right?

The argument that the Second Amendment is collective while the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments apply to the individual makes no sense in a reasonable and sincere review. There can be no question the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right.

2. Owning a gun is a privilege that should be regulated.

The Bill of Rights does not bestow any privileges; it recognizes “natural” rights. Natural Law theory, a philosophical driver of the Declaration of Independence and Constitutional framework, posits that humans desire freedom as it stems from our very nature. Government cannot take away these natural rights from an individual – given to us by God, our creator – without procedural due process. Moreover, they cannot be legislated out of existence, i.e., government may not decide that basic freedoms – like freedom of expression – no longer exist.

Along this line of thinking, the Second Amendment simply recognizes the individual’s right to self-defense; a free person is entitled to defend their self from harm or mortal peril. This is the reason that intrusive legislation that effectively negates the right to keep (decide upon, purchase, acquire, own, and maintain) and bear (readily carry or retain on one’s person in public or accessible in their abode) arms are unacceptable “regulation”.

3. The Constitution was written for flintlock muskets; they couldn’t foresee modern weapons.

First of all the Second Amendment uses the word “arms”, not the much more narrow word “firearms”. The Second Amendment is intentionally broad to recognize the right of the citizen to keep and bear all manner of weaponry – from sharp sticks to rocket launchers – useful against tyrannical government and other enemies of free men.

It is nothing less than absurd to argue that the Second Amendment is any way implicitly limited to the firearms of the day. To say the Second Amendment should be limited to only 18th Century weapons would be no different than saying the First Amendment only protects the spoken word, writing with quill and ink on parchment, and publication via manually operated, Gutenberg-style printing presses. Would any Second Amendment iconoclast sincerely argue that the Founders would object to ideas and thoughts expressed using the telephone, typewriter, radio, billboard, television, computer, and Internet? Is the First Amendment inapplicable to or incompatible with these new technologies?

The Founding Fathers were very clear (in their numerous writings and speeches) about the arms meaning all manner of military weapons for the primary purpose of self-defense against unjust attacks initiated by the government. Tench Coxe, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress wrote in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette on February 20th 1788:

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.

To suggest that men epitomizing the culmination of the Age of Enlightenment lacked the foresight to expect technological progress and innovation in the tools of war is obnoxiously pessimistic, at best. There were several signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution expressly involved in scientific endeavors and its practical application. Benjamin Franklin, for instance, was a leading scientist and active inventor; a significant figure in not only political history but scientific. He pioneered work in electricity, oceanic currents, meteorology, and heat transfer. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, iron furnace stove, carriage odometer, flexible urinary catheter, and a musical instrument known as the glass [h]armonica. This was a man with certain philosophical and technological vision. Hugh Williamson was a fellow scientist and physician of international renown. The polymath Thomas Jefferson was among other things, a horticulturalist, architect, archeologist, paleontologist, and inventor. Josiah Bartlett and Benjamin Rush were physicians. Stephen Hopkins was a foundryman and surveyor. Jacob Broom was a fellow surveyor. Moreover, the balance of the Founding Fathers had a general intellectual character and experience taken from soldiering, business activity, litigation, and philosophy further proving they had a clear idea of the broad implications and consequences of a populace keeping and bearing the latest, most advanced armaments.

American Revolutionaries, lest one forget, brought their own cannons to the fields of battle; they had private artillery pieces. As well, they used the latest in contemporary small arms, e.g., rifles. Smoothbore, shoulder-fired weapons were destined for obsolescence with the introduction of the rifled barrel. So we must ask detractors of the established right to keep and bear arms: Does the Second Amendment discontinue its applicability at the introduction of

  1. Ball and cap? Circa 1830
  2. A revolving cylindrical breech? Generally recognized in 1835 but examples date back as far as 1680
  3. Breech loading? More prevalent in the 19th Century but examples date back as far as the 14th
  4. Self-contained cartridges? Circa 1850
  5. Manually cycled repeating rifles? Circa 1860
  6. Smokeless powder? Circa 1884
  7. Semi-automatic and automatic operation? Circa 1885
  8. Spitzer shaped bullets? Circa 1898

If the Second Amendment is an anachronism of 1791, then there should be no objection to citizens keeping and bearing muzzle-loaded mortars.

A Soldier Loading a 60 Millimeter Mortar via the Muzzle

If the technological cutoff is the percussion cap of 1830, then there should be no objection to citizens keeping and bearing rocket propelled grenades.

Notorious RPG-7 Fired via Percussion Cap

If the technological cutoff is breech loading circa the Late Middle Ages, then there should be no objection to citizens keeping and bearing single shot, recoilless rifles.

Single Shot, Breech-Loading Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle

4. The Second Amendment was written in a time when people needed to hunt.

The Second Amendment’s basis lies in the natural right of self-defense. For the Founding Fathers, the Second Amendment was not a dispensable exercise in “what if?” They had confronted an oppressive government with personal armaments and succeeded in securing liberty. The Second Amendment is a provision ensuring that citizens would always have the necessary tools for physical resistance to future tyranny.

Thomas Jefferson, chief drafter of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, wrote in a November 13th 1787 letter to William Stephens Smith:

And what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their 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. It is its natural manure.

Patrick Henry, “radical” advocate of the American Revolution, militia leader, and Virginia Governor, delivered the following words in a 1788 speech to the Virginia convention to ratify the Constitution:

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force: Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.

The Bill of Rights recognizes the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for the essential purpose of

  1. Ensuring the citizenry of the United States of America is always more powerful than the government.
  2. Delivering the common person from and keeping out of a condition of bondage.
  3. Protecting Constitutionally recognized civil rights; any government attempt to steal liberty may be met with resistant and punishing force.
  4. Removing or forcibly disbanding undesirable, oppressive, or irrevocably corrupt government.
  5. Defense against those criminally inclined.
  6. Repelling foreign invasion via overwhelming numbers of armed resistors.

Citizens of McMinn County, Tennessee Celebrate the Armed Overthrow of Local Government in 1946

Free men may keep and bear arms for the added purpose of

  1. Hunting.
  2. Recreational and sporting activity.

Historical review shows that genocides and successful repression of people striving for liberty were possible because a government or ruling body sent armed soldiers and servants to act against an unarmed populace. The Founding Fathers wisely provided a counter to such an end for the American citizen. The framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear that government should not have a monopoly on force of arms; the people must have the means for physical resistance to tyranny and check government gone wild.

5. The Second Amendment says “well regulated.”

First, well regulated applies to the militia. Second, one must examine the etymology of the word “regulated”. It should not be taken as implying formation of militias ought to be prevented or harassed by copious legislation.

Regulate originates with the Latin regula, meaning “rule”. Late Latin meaning comes from regulare, i.e., “to control by rule”. English usage by the 17th Century was taken as meaning, “rule for management”. In Constitutional context during the Revolutionary period, the meaning was “disciplined”. The Second Amendment is therefore saying that militias – collections of able-bodied men – should not be a wild rabble if they are to have social value and act effectively against veteran, professional soldiers. Militias should be principled, organized, orderly, train regularly, have a degree of standardization in equipment, and have competent and inspiring leadership.

Regulation is not applicable to the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” which is why it “shall not be infringed.”


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