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Firearms & The Founding Fathers

Updated on April 24, 2017
Lloyd Busch profile image

Lloyd Busch is the author of "Passive Resistance", a book on non-violent action, and has been published in the "Journal of Theoretics".

Firearms & Private Ownership

The private ownership of firearms is an issue that has been an integral part of American society since colonial times. With the advent of firearms capable of high cyclic rates, sophisticated and technologically advanced weaponry, many people are questioning the role of firearms, their purpose, and the founding fathers intentions on private ownership of firearms.

"The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms"-Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788.


The Founding Fathers Intentions

The main foundation of America is the founding fathers wisdom which created the greatest nation on Earth. Countless times we have looked back on their words to find answers to today's problems while attempting to maintain the same spirit which founded America.

Although the Constitution stated that the government had no power except that directly authorized by the Constitution, even with this safeguard against wayward government some founding fathers felt it necessary to include amendments, these were God-given rights that were untouchable. The Preamble reads “The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added...”.

The first being freedom of the press, religion, to assemble, and to petition for redress. The next being “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”. Too often today people construe the term militia with are national guard or the military, the word militia was merely the context of the purpose. The standing military of today is what the founding fathers feared, while the term militia refers to the individual citizens organizing in the event they are needed. The right to bear arms is unquestionable, its purpose was to guard against government, this is the peoples last line of defense.

“The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpation of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them”-Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1811. Here the writer makes clear distinction between the military and the individual right to bear arms for defense from both foreign and domestic enemies of freedom.

“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty... The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”- St. George Tucker, Revolutionary war militia officer and later a Judge for the U.S. District Court.

Justice Joseph Story


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The Undeniable Facts

From this we can determine several undeniable facts;

  • The 2nd amendment protects the rights of individuals to bear arms.
  • This right is not limited to the State or members of active military force, but is a guaranteed right of all citizens.
  • The term militia was added for context only and cannot be construed to limit the individuals rights.
  • The government has no authority or power granted by the people to regulate, tax, or limit the individuals right or block their access to firearms.
  • And finally the 2nd amendment was added not for the purpose hunting or sport shooting but for the purpose of defense against government and tyranny.

"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.

The Shot Heard Around The World

To fully understand the purpose, history, and the effects of tyranny we must discuss the history of Americas revolution. On April 19th, 1775 British orders were sent to the troops of King George, "Having received Intelligence, that a Quantity of Ammunition, Provision, Artillery, Tents and small Arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will March with the Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your Command, with utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores whatever.”-Per Order of General Gage to Lt. Colonel F. Smith, of the Kings Troops.

King George, recognizing that the peoples last defense against his imposing tyranny was their supply of firearms, and sent orders to “as secretly as possible" destroy these privately owned arms. When the British soldiers arrived at Lexington news of their coming had already arrived, the militia was waiting for their arrival to prevent the destruction of their arms and supplies. After the British regulars opened fire the outnumbered militia retreated, the militia then gathered at the North Bridge in Concord with reinforcements from nearby towns. The militia inflicted heavy casualties upon the British soldiers, forcing them to retreat. This altercation marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the sovereign nation of America may not exist today had it not been for a group rebellious citizens banding together to protect their freedoms with the use of arms.

"I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers."-George Mason, Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 4, 1788.

Firearm Ownership Per Party Affiliation

Gun Ownership
Source: PEW Research Center

Just The Facts

  • Armed citizens prevent 3.6 million crimes every year.
  • About 34% of all incarcerated felons were caught because of armed citizens.
  • In the United States where up to 50% of households are armed 13% of burglaries occur while the residents are home. While in England, where citizens have been effectively disarmed, 50% of burglaries occur while the residents are still at home.
  • Before the District of Columbia allowed concealed carry, as well as 17 of the States, violent crime was 81% higher than other states that allowed concealed carry.
  • A car is 57 times more dangerous to children than firearms.
  • Water is 18 times more dangerous to children than firearms.
  • A child is twice as likely to die in a bathtub or by accidentally getting into household cleaners.

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves"-William Pitt (the Younger), Speech in the House of Commons, November 18, 1783.

Thomas Jefferson


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"The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."-Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776.

Firearm Ownership Per Ideology

Firearm Ownership
Source: PEW Research Center

© 2016 Lloyd Busch

Comments & Thoughts: Keep it civil please.

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    • Lloyd Busch profile imageAUTHOR

      Lloyd Busch 

      2 years ago from Williamsburg, VA 23188

      Excellent comment, you make a very valid point. My personal opinion is that some gun control is necessary, but the basic right of a free person who is law-abiding and of sound mind should remain.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      This is a difficult topic to discuss.

      It is clear that the right to bear arms was there to begin with because the Federal government was not trusted. As You well quoted Justice Joseph Story:

      "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."

      So, there are no questions in my mind about the right to bear arms as being part of the American foundation. The idea was that if the Federal government became tyrannical, people could revolt and overthrow it.

      That was then though, now the situation is much different. The Federal government is incredibly equipped with all sorts of armament. The common people will never be able to revolt as they would have in the 1800s and over-throw the state. The difference in armament between the common men and the Federal government is significant. If any revolt started it would not look good at all for the general population. So, the idea that the right to bear arms is safeguarding anyone from a tyrannical government is honestly a little naive, to put it nicely.

      Keep your guns though.

      All the best!


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