Originally Published — August 19, 2013
Note: Conservatives and libertarians do more than harm their cause when parroting the language and nomenclature of the left. The ignorance on the right about such issues as the First and Second Amendments is troubling. Not only should we not be using such terms as “assault” rifle we should know what the words mean that are actually used in the Bill of Rights.
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This year has been fraught with gun control debates and they will continue until which time liberals get their way and find enough arrogance on the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the tyranny of power over the liberty of freedom.
Gun rights advocates as well as the opponents of guns and NRA haters would be well served to learn a bit more about what the Founders said and meant when they penned the Bill of Rights and specifically the Second Amendment.
Many on the left believe the Second Amendment was simply a way of securing the right of the people to put food on the table. I can assure you, the Second Amendment has nothing what-so-ever to do with duck hunting or protecting the farm from lettuce munching bunnies and corn eating crows.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights are more than simply debate topics where majority opinion wins. There is actual truth to be discovered and our job is to find it, then share it. Simply asking what people think about it and what aught to be done in public policy based on those feelings or fears is a dangerous road in which to travel.
…”shall not be infringed” in the Second Amendment is stronger and more restrictive language than even the First Amendment’s “Congress Shall Make No Law.” If, as George Washington said, the Second Amendment is the “People’s” liberty teeth then what exactly are anti-gun liberals doing when they undermine it?
A great place to start in any discussion of the Constitution or Bill of Rights is the Federalist Papers and the vast amount of writings of our Founding Fathers. There is great insight to their views and thinking from their own hand.
Our Constitution is indeed a dead document, it lives only by its original intent. It is only truly alive when reignited through the amendment process. There are some who would disagree — the utopian dreamers who never respected it in the first place and ever want to change it by evolution through fiat and the opinions of man. In order to fully understand and interpret the Constitution we must view it, its language, its meanings and the definitions of words through the eyes of 1789.
James Wilson, one of only six founders who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, was nominated by President George Washington as an original Justice on the Supreme Court, he exhorted: “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.” Equal to that line of thinking Justice Joseph Story (appointed to the Supreme Court by President James Madison) also declared: “The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all [documents] is to construe them according to the sense of the terms and the intention of the parties.”
How could it be any other way?
The Second Amendment is clear and concise, it reads; “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.”
Because of where it is place, between the First and Third Amendments, the Second Amendment is given even greater clout. The First with its clear prohibition barring Congress from making any laws encroaching or infringing upon religion and the Third which without firearms to defend against governmental trespass onto private property is but mere ink and paper. If you understand the First and the Third it is almost impossible to get the Second wrong.
Think of the Second Amendment as reading this way; Congress shall make no law regarding the inalienable right of the people to own and take up arms in the defense of self, property and justice.
Yet even conservatives and libertarian bloggers, columnists, talking heads, elected officials and radio hosts brutalize the Bill of Rights with misinformation, faulty thinking and parroting the language and nomenclature of the left in an echo of sheer ignorance.
So let’s break it down into simple terms that even a progressive liberal can understand.
“A well regulated” – Regulated is the key word here and as written by the Founders meant uniformity, precision, or skill. Not some government harness choking off its original intent and meaning with regulation and limitation. The term regulated has nothing what-so-ever to do with government regulation and everything to do with being prepared and skilled — able to defend themselves from their creation.
The term “regulate” in the Second Amendment simply means accurate or precise. How an anesthesiologist might regulate the dose of medicine given to a patient. Being precise or imprecise in how accurate you regulate that dosage can mean the difference between life or death. In government it can mean the difference between liberty and tyranny.
The Founding Fathers knew all too well that a well armed and well trained citizenry was necessary to repel a powerful central government should the flames of power become destructive of liberty by leaping the hedge (Constitution) erected to contain it.
George Washington described government most succinctly when he said; “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” To this day there remains no better reason for a second amendment than that statement.
“Militia” – Militia was the term used to identify any able bodied citizen who could defend his person or state with use of arms. In other words the “whole” of the people. It was never used or implied to mean a federal or state army as Richard Henry Lee tells us in 1788. “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.”
“necessary” – Necessary, yes, I do need a high power rifle and a 30 round magazine, if I want to remain free and to secure the blessings of liberty to myself and my posterity. Liberty is sometimes messy, but tyranny is always worse. Try a Google search of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito, Pol Pot, Mao, Idi Amin, just to name a few and see what niceties you find. 200 million dead by government in the 20th Century alone is a pretty darn good reason to keep your powder dry.
“security of a free state” – Security of a free state is protecting ‘the people’ against federal tyranny. The various states created the federal government by way of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was a further enunciation of the rights held by the people. Richard Henry Lee reminded us of this when he said “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught how to use them.”
“the right of the people” – The right of the people is abundantly clear, as only “people” have rights, never governments or groups. Matter of fact the Bill of Rights was about one thing, securing the rights of the people in a way that the Founders hoped could not be misunderstood. It’s a shame that it is so badly misunderstood today. Some go so far as to think that the Bill of Rights is somehow protecting the government from the people or granting the people liberties that can be reduced or taken away when necessary.
This misunderstanding is exactly as John Jay warned in regards to finding within the Constitution things that simply are not there: “Silence and blank paper neither grant nor take away anything.” Unfortunately today the people allow the SCOTUS, academia, the media, and Congress to simply fill in the blanks where the Constitution is silent. Like a blank canvas they paint any picture they want in the areas of the Constitution where no authority is given and claim authority over the lives of man and state – no different than those that extinguished others liberty throughout history.
“to keep and bear arms” – To keep and bear arms simply means that the people have the absolute right to manufacture, purchase, own, keep, store and use firearms.
The personal firepower in 1776 was pretty much on par with that of any “official” state armies at the time. So where do we draw this line on what is an acceptable firearm versus military war armaments. I prefer Pat Buchanan’s response to this very question back in 1996 when it was posed to him at a campaign stop in Southern California. Pat in his classic tone began with a smile and a chuckle then said that perhaps we should consider regulating it once it’s too big to tow behind an SUV… I couldn’t agree more.
“shall not be infringed” – could not be more clear, it means exactly what it says. The second Amendment shall not be encroach upon by any federal legislation. Congress shall make no law restricting the personal ownership of firearms no matter the size, caliber or capacity. That would be a state by state issue.
The Founders expressed the prohibition of federal meddling on this matter brilliantly with the use of the term “infringed,” which means to even nibbled at its edges. The federal government has no Constitutional authority to even approach the outer edges, (like the fringes of a garment or rug) regarding the Second Amendment, let alone take a bit out of its substance. Background checks and safety locks while useful and perhaps even smart are just as unconstitutional as gun confiscation or any infringement upon “we the people” the creators of the Constitution and the Federal Government from protecting ourselves from it.
David is a perpetual student of religion, politics and American history. He lives in Southern California with his wife and their three children. Writer, thinker, speaker, blogger, he is the author of many articles as well as the book, The Conservative Directory – The Little Black Book of the Cultural Counter Revolution (1994). The book was honored with praise from Charlton Heston, Bay Buchanan, Joseph Farah among many others. You can follow him on Twitter @cogitarus. He’s available for speaking engagements upon request.