The Founding Fathers
The right to bear arms
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution has been one of much controversy in the modern era with firearm violence. The Second Amendment gives United Sates citizens the rights to bear arms. Contemporary liberals want the interpretation of this amendment to be re-evaluated by the Supreme Court, because they do not feel that in today's time we can use the direct translation of this amendment. The liberal thinkers in our nation want to view the amendment in a contemporary context and not view it as it was placed by the founding fathers. The founding father's original intent was that we needed the right to protect ourselves from our own government, therefore we must be allowed to raise arms and combat any government which was more powerful than its people. Today the conservative side of the political spectrum still uphold these ideologies. The Second Amendment should be in place in just the manner it was attended, to protect the citizens from their own government and to protect their sovereign liberties as described by the rest of the Constitution. In order to fully understand this argument I will evaluate the translation of the Second Amendment, Supreme Court cases, the right for government to restrict firearm ownership, the intent in the Constitution to protecting the rights of the militia and the intent for which they are to be trained by the founding fathers, the liberal argument against gun ownership, latest developments in the Supreme Court, and further intentions of the militia by the founding fathers.
The second Amendment reads as follows, “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 ”(www.gpoaccess.gov, 2009). As the anonymous author of this website eludes it has some transparencies within its verbiage. Does it mean that “States have the right to bear arms for their militia, hence protecting a States' right? Or does this Amendment uphold an individuals rights to bear arms so that they be a part of the state militias? It is not real clear in whose rights it is protecting or is it protecting both? Translation id the key and this what the Supreme Court Justices struggle with, my interpretation is that the right is to the people. The Amendment reads “the right of the people,” a very direct clause. The State is mentioned but the forefathers viewed things much differently than we do today. The right of the State to have a militia derived from the individual liberties of the people. Therefore the citizens still had the ability to over-throw even State governments.
Historically the Supreme Court has upheld the right for its citizens to bear arms. But since it was in the interest of a “militia” the types of weapons that citizens had the right to own soon came into question. In United States vs. Miller the Supreme Court banned the right of citizens to own a sawed-off shotgun. The reason behind this judgment was that the court had decided that since the arms that were to be presented in a the time of conflict were of a military nature that the sawed-off shotgun had no use for this type of engagement, therefore it was not an instrument that citizens maintained the right to bear. (www.gpoaccess.gov, 2009). Interestingly enough this would seem to open a loop hole for those citizens wishing to secure military weapons and or assault rifles. Is an assault rifle not a weapon that would be useful in the event of a conflict in which a militia were to be formed?
According to an article the Tribune Business News prior to President Obama taking office many gun stores were selling record amounts of assault rifles for fear of a ban (2008). But what is the authority to ban an assault rifle, if the Supreme Court ruled against Miller concerning sawed-off shotguns because it wasn't suitable for a militia then what is the reasoning behind banning rifles that are very militant in nature? Who uses these assault rifles anyway? And why do you need them to hunt? The Amendment does not give us the right to bear arms for the sole purpose of hunting. The firearm is the catalyst for securing individual rights from either government or to help protect the State in a militia. The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) was a program created by the government to ensure that proper military marksmanship is being taught to its citizens for times of war. These programs have roots all the way down to the Boy Scouts of America so that our citizens when called upon not only bear arms but know how to use them. The CMP annually holds a the National Shooting Match in Camp Perry, Ohio where some of the best marksman in the World come to compete using military style weapons and shooting a military style qualification course to uphold the traditions of marksmanship throughout the potential militias. This is a government sponsored program has such a high prestige that to most Olympic shooters in the United States becoming one of the top hundred shooters, or the “President's Hundred,” is second only too an Olympic Medal. What kind of rifles do they use? The majority of them use the active service rifle of the United States Army, or it's civilian equivalent the AR-15, the same rifle that is flying off of the shelves in stores because there is a fear of a ban. How do they ban the very rifle that is the foundation of the CMP competitions and is at the very elite of all citizens marksmanship programs that are there for the sole reason to have a formidable trained militia?
According to author Stephen Hallbrook in his new book “Founders on Firearms,” not only is it an individual right to bear arms it is a right that can not even be restricted constitutionally. In Kurt Williamsen's book review he wrote, “His research is so thoroughly done that one can say with certainty that anyone who can say the the federal government may restrict this right, may justifiably be called either ignorant or a liar”(2008). The concept behind Hallbrooks book was to research all of the drafting documents and the debates of the time in order to find the exact intent of the Second Amendment –and he has spoken. Gun ownership is an individual right and the intent is for it not to be even restricted. So the fact that our Government may want to ban a firearm, granted the backbone weapon to our militia, is preposterous and unconstitutional. As a matter of fact for a 150 year period it was a law that every able-bodied male have a rifle in his home at all times for the protection of the State (Williamsen, 2008).
So what is the argument? The Second Amendment is so clearly defined and laid out that it seems untouchable and unrestrained. How do the Liberals even try to chip away at a right that is so concrete in nature. The only way they can come close to banning firearms is by finding loopholes in the organization of government. The Federalist Party tried to have the Constitution stand alone, and all other rights would be granted by the states. Had that happened the states would have the ability to restrict gun control, but the Bill of Rights was nullified, thus making the the right to bear arms a right that is reserved for the people by the federal government. It is unconstitutional for the State to restrict gun ownership because they have no authority to override a constitutional right. But this is the loophole the Liberals try to expose. There is still some distention about whether or not the Bill of Rights has precedent of the State government since the original document, the Constitution, is drawn up consistent with the idea that there would not be a Bill of Rights thus empowering the State governments (Williamsen, 2008). The liberal mind set is not founded on constitutional law, it is founded on the idea that if we get rid of guns the gun deaths and violent crimes will go away. I have read through these debates and I have to say that stating irrelevant facts about the alarming number of gun deaths does not prove that if we get rid of guns those numbers would change (www.debate.org). These ideologies seem to be based on a fallacy that if there are no guns than no one could be killed by guns. Just as an anonymous debater pointed out that prohibition did not get rid of alcohol, it empowered a criminal group with no regard for the law ( www.debate.org, 2009) So do we really want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens and empower gangs with no regard for the law. If all of the energy from the liberal debate on gun control went into gang intervention and education programs in the inner cities maybe then we could see a decrease in violent gang related deaths. At what point can we start telling ourselves that parts of the Constitution are no longer applicable to our modern society. The liberal debate is that guns kill people and if we get rid of guns than people will stop dying by them, however the law is so constitutionally grounded that there is no way or approach to making laws that prohibit guns. We would literally have to re-write the Constitution of the United States of America to ban firearms. The liberal argument is not an argument, it's a failed ideology that has no capacity in law. Author Thomas Sowell points out the hypocrisy of their argument using a bit of sarcasm; “ordinary people cannot be trusted to look out for themselves, but must be put under the thumb of a wiser and nobler people –such as a liberal – through strict government regulation” (1999). Mr. Sowell later reports on the findings of Professor John Lott of the Chicago Law School, “rising rates of [registered] gun ownership in particular counties across the country have almost invariably been followed by falling rates of violent crimes in those counties” (1999). Not only is the liberal stand unconstitutional, there theory of reducing gun ownership is almost a complete fallacy without logic or scientific evidence. Evidence states that more guns means less crime which is precisely what the founding fathers intended. We as citizens have the right to bear arms so that we can uphold our individual liberty and the liberty and we being of our state and nation from outside intrusion of our rights.
After all the evidence is presented gun restriction laws still exist, but how? In a very informal article author Amitai Etzioni takes the stance that based on supreme court rulings of the past gun restrictions laws, and the fact that the court maintains that States have the right to restrict usage and transportation, among other things, that gun restriction is constitutional because the Supreme Court has allowed it to be constitutional (2001). In order to do this the Supreme Court would have to continually change its rulings without going back to other rulings to make these loopholes possible. For example, in the heavily cited Miller vs. United States in which it was found that a sawed-off shot gun was not a weapon that was upheld for the use by the constitution because it was not a weapon that could be used effectively by a militia, but AR-15's are a weapon that can be used by a militia yet those weapons just came off of a ten year restriction.
So what is the latest in the Supreme Court regarding gun control? The L.A. Times reported in February that the Supreme Court upheld its early decision that domestic violence defenders, even misdemeanor accounts, which is to include mother, live-in partner, and siblings. The court based its decision on the fact that many violent crimes as well as those involving police officers are from domestic violence cases. I don't think gun advocates feel like they lost any ground on their fight for the Second Amendment on this particular case. I think gun ownership is for law-abiding citizens, obviously citizens that have no regard for the law are bound to lose constitutional rights, but is this a life sentence? In ways yes it is, is a life sentence too much for a misdemeanor crime? That is a pretty harsh sentence, but in today's age there is no tolerance for domestic issues.
Other court cases, one of the latest, seem to protest the ideas by Mr. Etzioni. It seemed for a while as if the courts were leaning towards the rights of a militia to own firearms and not the individual rights of individuals to own firearms. In a huge victory for gun enthusiast in the District of Columbia Et al v. Heller the court re-evaluated the interpretation of the Amendment and its intent. The high court concluded that the “Second Amendment protects an individuals right to possess a firearm unconnected with a service militia, and to use that arm for the traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense withing the home (www.guncite.com/gc2ndsup.html, 2008). This was a very publicized case in which there was a lot to lose for both sides of the argument. Had the court ruled that the intent of the Second Amendment was only for the use of an organized militia almost all individual gun rights would have dissolved. This could have had catastrophic circumstances because the only people left with a gun would have been criminals and militias. The court would have ran into even greater difficulty trying to describe a militia. Would this create militias just for the intent of gun ownership? I really don't know how the Supreme Court could have ruled any other way, gun laws go back even before the Constitution, and had the case been ruled in favor of gun control advocates I am certain that it would have been over turned in a small amount of time as the crime statistics and other data came to light. We have to be very careful interpreting the Constitution on the basis of societal issues, such as gun violence. The intent of the founding fathers must always be the answer in which the Justices are looking for when reviewing such cases. If we begin re-interpreting the understanding of Amendments we would have to do so for the entirety of the whole Bill of Rights. The court ruling also had other repercussions on local laws, this ruling stemmed from a handgun ban in Washington D.C. The District of Columbia took the position that the use of firearms is only for organized militias and that its government had the right to issue a ban on handguns. After the court ruling the ban had to be lifted and the free citizens of the D.C. Area had their constitutional rights upheld.
But what are the rights of the militia then? Why would we have an Amendment that reserves the rights for the citizens to hold individual rights for weapons in order to form an organized militia's? What was the purpose of these militias?
“Who are we the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom, Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords , and ever other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American...The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state government but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people. (Coxe, 1788).
The militias were designed to ensure that the people of the United States retained the power. The founding father foreseen a country in which they knew would not always remain in tranquility and therefore there had to be a certain, not just right, but a way to execute, a plan to take back control of the government, if the citizens ever lost power or control. The Second Amendment essentially secures two rights, the right to bear arms and the right to form militias in the name if the citizens against foes both foreign and domestic that impeded upon their rights. This is a very hard concept for us to comprehend because when are our rights impeded to the point that we can over throw and unlawful government. But the founding father were drafting this document in a time of war and despair and the concept of a monarchy was still present. So they may have thought what if a President retains too much power and transforms the government into a monarchy of single rule. These concepts would not have seemed bizarre to the thinkers of this times because essentially every government they had known had been bad. They understood that there is no rights that unalienable unless the people have the means and the power to secure them. The entire Constitution is thus ratified by the people to bear arms, so the Second Amendment essentially gives us the right as citizens to protect all of our other rights. The Second Amendment therefore could be held as one of the most important Amendments to the Constitution.
The Second Amendment does not just give the “right to bear arms,” it is known for that clause even though it says and means a lot more. The wording leaves some room for speculation as to whether it really grants individual rights to bear arms. But after the research is presented it is easy to discover that the intent of the Amendment was to give an individual the right to bear arms and not just the right to form a militia. Several court cases have impacted the restriction of gun usage and whether the states had the right to restrict gun laws. The court stands by the individuals right to own a firearm as long as it is lawful and that it is a weapon that would be useful within the confines of a militia or personal protection. The latest court rulings sealed the concept that the right to own a gun is indeed constitutional and the Supreme Court over turned gun bans across the United States. The liberal point of view is that guns kill people, so why not get rid of guns and gun violence will cease to exist. The logic and science do not support their argument, gun violence actually went down in areas with higher registered gun ownership. The CMP has an active part in training the modern militia and the intent of the founding fathers to keep a ready force that is capable to fight and use a rifle is still supported by the government and active even today. The idea of the militia and the right to bear arms is still alive and well in the United States and it was solidified in the latest 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court. Many gun restriction advocates and State restriction have chipped away at the Second Amendment but it stands strong as an intricate part of our Constitution and as a catalyst of preserving all other liberties and rights.
Coxe, Tenche, 1788, Pennsylvania Gazette. February.
Anonymous. (2007) Www.guncite.com extracted March 30, 2009.
Etzioni, Amiati, (2001) “ Are liberal scholars acting irressponsibly on gun control? The Chronicle of Higher Education April 6 p. 14-15
Anonymous. (2009)LA Times. “Supreme Court Upholds Gun-Control Law.” February 25.
Sowell, Thomas (1999). Enterprise/Salt Lake City. Vol. 28 I.37, p.22. March.
Anonymous. Www.Debate.org. Extracted March 30, 2009.
Williamsen, Kurt.(2008). New America. September, Vol 24, Is. 18 p. 28-29.
Price, Jay. (2008) Tribune Business News. “Specter of Gun Regulation Prompts Sales: Democratic Power Bring Fear of Assault Rifle Ban.” Washington. November.
Anonymous.(2008). Www.gpoaccess.gov. Extracted March 30, 2009.
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