Today there are members of Congress who believe the Second Amendment is outdated and unnecessary. For those who have forgotten their high school government class, here is the complete text of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
“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.”
Those last four words are especially powerful, because by trying to restrict the types of arms people are allowed to own, infringing on our rights is exactly what lawmakers are currently attempting. Samuel Adams said, “The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
Given the circumstances of the American Revolution, one can assume that the Founding Fathers intended to allow people to protect themselves from government tyranny — after all, that is the battle they fought and won. It is difficult to wage such a war if the government restricts people from having the best possible weaponry.
Today the government controls military and police forces equipped with weapons that are often far superior to those owned by the public. In a situation where the people needed to defend themselves against the government — as the authors of the Constitution were forced to do — they would be at a distinct disadvantage.
My guess is that our Founding Fathers would eagerly support the public’s right to own so-called assault weapons. In fact, based on their experiences, they might entrust the public with fully automatic weapons, cannons, grenades, night vision optics, armored vehicles, body armor, and anything else that could make the playing field more even.
Alexander Hamilton once said: “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
It is ironic that some leaders say this amendment is outdated during a time when people in many countries are fighting for their lives and freedoms against corrupt and evil governments. Like our founders, they are often outgunned and outmanned. In some cases our government tries to aid their causes by supplying them with weapons. It is worth noting that the donated arms are not restricted to non-military style guns with magazines that hold fewer than 10 rounds.
The peoples’ right to defend themselves is not limited to fighting back against criminals who wish to harm their property and families. As the Declaration of Independence states: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.”
If it became necessary to abolish a government by force, it seems obvious that the men who established our government intended for the people to have the means to accomplish that task. Thomas Jefferson said, “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.”
Some argue that because the amendment refers to a militia, it does not give individuals the right of gun ownership. Courts have repeatedly rejected that argument, most recently in 2008 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld individuals’ rights to possess firearms in the case of the District of Columbia vs. Heller.
Robert Levy, chairman of the Cato Institute and a former Georgetown University law professor, said: “Suppose the Second Amendment said ‘A well-educated electorate being necessary for self-governance in a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books shall not be infringed.’ Is there anyone who would suggest that means only registered voters have a right to read?”
The Utah Sheriffs Association recently sent a letter to President Obama stating their collective intent to defend the Second Amendment against federal officials. The strongly worded document said:
“Make no mistake, as the duly-elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights — in particular Amendment II — has given them. We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”
These elected officials obviously understand the intent of the men who drafted the Bill of Rights to protect our freedoms. It is a little surprising that many elected officials in Washington, D.C., seem so clueless about something so clearly stated by our Founding Fathers.