Keep the Second Amendment Secure in North Carolina

SECOND AMENDMENT - Firearm on Constitution

by Diane Rufino, March 27, 2018

My appreciation of the Second Amendment and gratitude for the wisdom and insistence of our Founders and for the States who insisted that it was necessary to be included in our Constitution (or else they would refuse to join the Union) was solidified in an incident that happened to me many years ago.

When I was 26 years old, I was living on my own in my first apartment – a tiny, one-bedroom place in Plainsboro, New Jersey. My first job out of grad school didn’t pay very much so I had to work a second job to support myself.  One night, after getting home from my waitressing job and taking a shower, I had trouble sleeping. So I put on the TV and found a good Clint Eastwood movie to watch – Any Which Way But Loose. It was a very small apartment and it turns out that the TV stand I had was very close to the apartment door, which was locked. It was about 1:00 – 1:30 in the morning – maybe later. As I was watching the movie, I happened to notice that the door knob was moving. Someone was outside my door, trying to get in. The knob was moving harder and harder, and I was scared like I had never been scared before in my life. (I had learned soon after I moved into the apartment complex that a young woman tenant had been murdered just before I moved in).  As I was shaking uncontrollably and trying to find the number for the Plainsboro Police (the days before cell phones and 911), I heard a man speak through the crack in the door “Open the door; you’re the girl with the silver Fiero, right?”  In fact, I had a silver 1983 Pontiac Fiero. The man trying to break in specifically targeted MY apartment. He was looking for ME. I didn’t know who he was and I couldn’t imagine who he was. I was new to the area and had very few friends and acquaintances. I called the police, using the only phone I had, which was next to the kitchen. It was not in a direct line of view to the door. The police dispatcher told me to stay on the line and that a police car would be there shortly.  I picked up the only knife I had in my apartment – a cheap steak knife. All I kept saying was “Please hurry. Please hurry. I’m so scared.”

I was absolutely helpless. I am 4 foot 9 inches tall and weighed less than 100 pounds at the time. I had a cheap knife in my hand, not even sure if I was capable of overcoming my state of fear to defend myself.

The police arrived before the door was pried open and I collapsed in tears, grateful that someone was there to protect me. The potential intruder told the police that he had been drinking and in his drunken state, he must have gotten confused because he thought he was trying to get into his own apartment.  I told the police that it wasn’t the truth because he had called out “You’re the girl with the silver Fiero.”  Nevertheless, the police believed his story and they let him go. They admonished him for scaring me and told him “don’t do it again.” Turns out that he lived in the building next to my building; a grassy courtyard separated our buildings. He lived on the second floor.  My apartment was a ground-floor apartment. So, it was hard to imagine the police would have believed his story about being confused and thinking it was his apartment.

I never stayed in the apartment again after that. I stayed with a friend for about two weeks and then moved into a new place, in another town.

I often thought what I would have needed to defend myself that night, especially if he rushed in and rushed towards me. Again, I’m short and barely able to keep my composure when nervous. I am prone to anxiety attacks. Would a simple handgun holding 5 bullets been sufficient for me to stop him?  I can’t say for sure. Maybe, but maybe not. I imagine I would not have been composed enough to aim well so maybe not. I would have needed something that didn’t require accuracy. What if there were two men?  Well then, a simple handgun would not have been enough.

What if Plainsboro law required individuals to have guns dissembled in the home?

Self-protection is not a one-size-fits-all model. The Right to Self-Defense doesn’t require a one-size-fits all scheme. The Right to Self-Defense has no limits or conditions; it is merely the RIGHT to defend oneself (against others who intend harm), allowing each individual to decide for himself or herself what is needed to ensure that. The government once re-interpreted its “Necessary and Proper” Clause to mean “anything convenient” to help the government carry out its functions. It reasoned, in direct conflict with the very words of Article I, Section 8, that the government needs to determine, and to do, whatever helps it (“whatever is convenient”) to carry out its functions. We the People interpret the Second Amendment in the same broad sense –  “anything convenient” to carry into the effect the right to defend and protect oneself.

The Right to Life is recognized ever so profoundly in perhaps the most important, most significant document in the world – our American Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The Right to Life is not the government’s to give, or define, to limit, or to take credit for, and the natural Rights to protect it, secure it, and preserve it (known as the Right of Self-Defense and the Right of Self-Preservation) are inherently equal to that Right to Life.

The day the government denies we the people that right to protect, secure, and preserve our lives is the day that we are no longer free but merely subjects, inferior in our status to the government’s right and power to preserve itself. The day that we lose our Right to Have and Bear Arms is the day that we surrender all other rights. The Right embodied in the Second Amendment is the one right that secures all others.

The Declaration goes on to tell us what we the people have the inherent and natural right to expect from government: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,….”  And then it instructs what we also have the inherent and natural right to do when government fails to secure our rights and instead, threatens them: “That 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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…”

Powerful and progressive actors (individuals and organizations) in this country, including Michael Bloomberg, are forcing an evil agenda on the people of this country and on the government which has, as its ultimate goal, the destruction of the rights we are entitled to and the ones we need to continue being a free people. These actors are forcing us to re-evaluate whether our government is becoming destructive of the ends for which it was created and the result is not going to be pretty.  A government (King George III of England) tried that over 200 years ago at Lexington and Concord, MA, and then at Williamsburg, VA, and the result was a revolution for the right to govern as the colonies saw fit, with the goal to never surrender their rights and liberties again. Today’s youth don’t understand this. Today’s youth don’t even know about this.  Today’s progressives don’t care about this.

There are a lot of people out there, including those who marched on DC, who are advocating for the weakening and even the repeal of the Second Amendment. But that cannot happen. Let’s be absolutely clear on that. The Constitution – and thus the legal status – of the Second Amendment is crystal clear on the matter:  The Second Amendment confers the RIGHT to an individual to have and bear arms for SELF-DEFENSE (McDonald v. Chicago, 2010, and Heller v. District of Columbia, 2008).  That right SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.  Furthermore, the ONLY way the Second Amendment can be limited or abolished is through the Article V amendment process.  And there are some legal experts who believe that the amendments comprising the Bill of Rights can never be amended. Amendments, they explain, can be added (for example to include other rights), but the original ten amendments are to remain in force as they are because they recognize what, at the very least, our inherent liberty rights include. Because they are rights that are inalienable to us (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness), we are always entitled to them.

What does it mean to have the natural right of self-defense?  It means we can be expected to protect ourselves, in any way that the situation requires. It means that if we are in fear for our lives or serious harm, we have the right to eliminate that threat. Individuals have the right to exercise their rights but only when they don’t seriously impact those of other individuals. I have the right to free speech. But my right doesn’t include the right to shut yours down. I have the right to own a gun, but I don’t have the right to take the life of an innocent person with it. The inherent, or natural, right of self-defense and self-preservation is recognized, and has been recognized historically, in criminal law. A person who shoots and kills an intruder carrying a gun commits homicide which is a serious crime. But under the law, it is considered “justifiable” and therefore not punishable. A woman who stabs and kills a man who is attacking her and intending to rape her commits homicide. But under the law, it is considered “justifiable” and therefore not punishable. “Justifiable” is a term which means that the killing was “justified,” and one of the most common reasons is self-defense.

We don’t need the Second Amendment to have the right to defend ourselves, including with firearms. The Second Amendment confers no such right. Rather, it recognizes the right. If bad guys can threaten lives with guns (which they will ALWAYS be able to do; which they have ALWAYS been able to do), innocent victims have the right to have access to guns to counter that threat. If we continue down the road to governments like the Third Reich, Stalinist Russia, Mao Zedong’s communist China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, and even British King James II, to use the full force of government to ignore individual rights and eliminate political opposition, we know that that its operatives and its armies will threaten American citizens with guns and all kinds of advanced weapons. We have the right to have access to guns, and also advanced weapons, to counter that threat.  Like kind for like kind. That is what is meant by being free and that is what is meant by having a meaningful right to self-defense.

We see a dramatic rise in violence by bad people and we see a dramatic rise in retaliatory violence by persons who are emotionally and mentally unstable. We are seeing something play out that people throughout history have also seen – bad people and evil-intentioned people will ALWAYS find ways to get weapons (or they will make them, such as Timothy McVeigh and the UnaBomber Ted Kaczynski, or they will weaponize other instrumentalities, such as cars, trucks, planes).  The rise in abnormal behavior, in criminal tendencies, in retaliatory mass shootings, in mental instability is something we should be focusing on. It’s the behavior – the diseased mind and the black heart – that seeks out the guns for violence. The guns don’t force themselves on those individuals. We should be focusing on what in our society is giving rise to this behavior – this troubling trend. Specifically, we should be looking at policies that government has forced on our communities through its seeming desire to change our social fabric and our social norms, to force new values on us and to force us to repress old conventional ones. Government – our public schools and our colleges and universities, our public offices, our public hospitals, the main-stream media (undoubtedly, an arm of the government’s establishment) – has been pushing a new agenda now for many years and that is “Diversity.”  We are indoctrinated to believe that diversity is the most important factor in college admissions, in the make-up of a student body and in the classroom, in the workforce, in our police forces, and in government; we are indoctrinated to belief that what we look like – what the color of our skin is, what country we came from, what gender we are, and what gender we want to be – is far more important than the competency and skills we bring to that school or that office. The government disregards the entire sad history of this country from the era when slavery was abolished until Civil Rights legislation was passed when we DID focus only on what a person looked like. Government doesn’t learn from history but rather repeats it. Government, through its willing and reckless refusal to enforce the most important of laws, our immigration laws and its willful blind eye to all the crime and lawlessness that has resulted, indoctrinates us, tacitly, that laws are not really to be taken too seriously. Government, contradicting what our parents used to teach us, undermines the importance of the rule of law and undermines the notion of equality under the law.

Morality is a thing of the past and so is religious observance in our daily lives. The family is no longer the bedrock and the pillar of society, and we see that in the laws of progressive states and in the court decisions in all other areas. We are intolerant to focus on the “nuclear family.” We are intolerant to refer to parents in gender terms. We are discriminatory if we dare accept the psychologists’ and the social scientists’ data that the proper emotional and psychological development of children depend on there being both a female and a male parent in the home and in their raising. We are discriminatory if we dare accept the well-established and reproducible data that children end up living in poverty, with a lack of education, and with psychological or domestic problems when they are raised in a single parent home. We are discriminatory if we dare accept the well-established and reproducible data that those who commit violence, those who commit mass murder, and those who embrace a criminal lifestyle are those raised without a father or without an effective father figure in their lives  We who lived in societies that respected and recognized traditional family values (and legislated to that effect) enjoyed its benefits. Societies were safer and children progressed through their childhood and teen years without incident and went on to become healthy and contributing members, having families of their own and raising their children successfully. We who recognize that reality and who recognize the robust data on the social benefits of a traditional family and the social problems created by the lack of such a family are antiquated and a threat to the progress of society in this country. Most families are no longer intact or have been re-established through second marriages, etc.  Children are psychological playthings – mere social experiments whose well-being comes at the expense of the desires or the recklessness of their parents or is merely considered as less important. Those were not the values of my parent’s day.

So, we don’t need the Second Amendment to exercise our rights of self-defense and self-protection. What we would like is our government to say “Government is prohibited from defining limits to the Second Amendment; the Constitution is clear on that.” We need our government to be of the kind that the Declaration of Independence promises us –  one that has as its primary purpose the security of our individual rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And one way to demonstrate that it is such a government is to respect the Second Amendment and not push to have it limited or as former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens urged, to have it abolished. Should that, in fact happen, and especially if it happens through legislation by the US Congress or by pronouncements from the bench by activist judges, then we have an illegitimate government and the provision in the Declaration which states “that 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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” is triggered and the people have the natural right to separate from it.

I have proposed a State Sovereignty Resolution to my legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly. I feel very strongly that the General Assembly, our legislative body (“The People’s Body”), should make it clear that the people’s right to have and bear arms is safe and secure in our state.

The text of my proposed State Sovereignty Resolution is provided below:

NORTH CAROLINA STATE SOVEREIGNTY RESOLUTION

A Bill Announcing the Intention to Nullify any and all Unconstitutional federal Gun Control Bills that the State of North Carolina and its People believe to be an Infringement of their Natural Rights of Self-Defense and Self-Protection as Recognized by the Second Amendment

The State of North Carolina asserts the following

A warm attachment to the Union of the States, to which it had pledged its loyalty in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, the compact that created it, and to that end, it has a duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles which constitute the basis of that Union, because only a faithful observance of them can secure its existence and the public happiness;

Its recognition and respect for the lawful and constitutional process for altering the terms and meaning of the Constitution, including the amendments contained in the Bill of Rights, which are the two procedures listed in Article V (the Amendment Process);

The Second Amendment recognizes that a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, shall not be infringed;

The Second Amendment also recognizes that the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed;

The Second Amendment recognizes the natural right of Self-Defense and Self-Protection, both on behalf of the State (“a free State,” by the way) and of the individual;

The Second Amendment doesn’t grant these rights but rather, it protects them, without condition or limitation, from the reaches of the federal government, especially the US Congress and its law-making power;

The phrase “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” is clear and instructional on its face;

To affirm the point above further and to support it greater, the States specifically included a Preamble to explain the reason for the ten amendments to the new Constitution (amendments that were demanded by them and without them would have jeopardized and prevented the ratification of that document. 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: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution”;

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights makes abundantly clear that the Constitution established a federal government of limited powers, and that in those limited objects of government, the federal government is limited even further by the ten amendments added (ratified by 3/4 of the States) on Dec. 15, 1791;

Just as the Supremacy Clause asserts the supremacy of the federal government with respect to the powers delegated to it, which are “few and defined” (Federalist No. 45, written by the same man, James Madison, who authored the Constitution), the Tenth Amendment and the Preamble to the Bill of Rights assert the supremacy of the States with respect to the powers reserved to them;

That one of the reserved powers of the State is the responsibility, the duty, to prevent unconstitutional federal laws, policies, executive actions, and court opinions from infringing on the rights of its people;

The Second Amendment has a very purposeful history; the rights recognized were not rights pulled out of thin air but rather stem from Natural Law and the concept that certain rights are endowed by a Creator (inherent in our very humanity);

Our Founders were not talking about hunting when they demanded that the Second Amendment be added to the Constitution; they were concerned about the freedom of the individual, and also the populace in general, to be armed in the face of a powerful and aggressive government – one that may send out a standing army in times of peace, one that may try to enact laws for gun and ammunition confiscation, and one that may eventually try to outright or effectively disarm its people;

The history of England, and indeed the history of many other nations, teaches us that when individuals are unable to defend themselves and their rights, they essentially have no rights. Rather, they have temporary permission from government to exercise rights until they somehow pose a serious threat to those in power.

James Madison once said: “If Men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  But what if it was the federal government that was not the angel?  The Second Amendment is the contingency plan in such a case;

James Madison also wrote (in Federalist No. 28): “If the representatives of the People betray their constituents, there is no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government”;

In addition to the natural right to defend one’s life and property, as well as those of family members and perhaps fellow citizens who are vulnerable,  there are other components of self-defense and self-protection other than the actual confrontation and neutralization of a violent intruder or attacker, that the people recognize – one being DETERRENCE;

Gun-Free Zones, homes without effective firearms, and individuals of sound mind disenfranchised in their right to have and bear arms serve as attractive targets for criminals and evil-intentioned, mentally-disturbed individuals;

The State of North Carolina, under the Tenth Amendment and according to compact principles, reserves the right to determine when the federal government has over-stepped its constitutional bounds with respect to legislation on gun control;

The State of North Carolina will NOT comply with any federal gun control law or policy that hinders or burdens its citizens in their free exercise of the natural right of self-defense and self-protection recognized by the Second Amendment;

In furtherance of its DUTY to prevent unconstitutional or abusive acts of the federal government on its citizens, and in furtherance of its DUTY to prevent the God-given and Natural rights of its People, the State of North Carolina will interpose using whatever means necessary to ensure that such gun control laws or policies (including judicial opinions), or any laws, policies, or court opinions for that matter in violation of the Constitution generally or the Bill of Rights specifically are not enforced in the State.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

 

Notice that the Resolution only recognizes a rightful limitation of the right and ability to purchase and possess guns when it comes to persons who have a history of violence or mental instability. It is only in these two instances that individuals are unable to appreciate or respect the rights of others and therefore have been deemed to have forfeited their rights under the Second Amendment.

The Resolution that I have written (above) can easily be modified for a Sovereignty Bill or a Nullification Bill. If it is modified for such a bill, it should include the various types of interposition (action) that North Carolina would be willing to pursue (and will pursue) in order to shield its citizens from the effect of unconstitutional federal gun control laws. In other words, the bill should list the various types of action that the state and its officials will carry out in order to prevent such gun laws from being enforced on the citizens – including such things as arresting and jailing federal officers who attempt to come into the state to enforce the laws, not recognizing federal court opinions that erode or limit the Second Amendment, removing and disbarring judges from the bench who attempt to punish NC citizens under the federal law, empowering Sheriffs to not enforce the law or to share information with the federal government, refusal to allow its state officials to cooperate in the enforcement of the law, and challenging the law in court.

If you agree with the sentiment expressed in this article and if you agree with the points articulated in the Resolution, please share with others. If you agree that North Carolina should adopt this, or a similar, resolution affirming the Second Amendment, please contact your representative and send them a copy of what I have written. If you are not from North Carolina but would like your state legislature to adopt such a resolution, please contact your representative(s) and share this article – or at least the resolution.

All tyranny needs is for good people to do nothing.  The powerful progressive movement in our country will continue to misuse and manipulate elements of our government – the liberal, progressive, activist courts and the politically-deranged members of Congress – to strip our rights away. Our rights are what allow us to stand up for the truth and stand up against our aggressive government.  We cannot remain silent and we must not allow their agenda to continue to move forward. The Second Amendment – the right to have and bear guns for self-defense is where we must draw the line, as our founding generation did. That is what Patrick Henry was talking about when he exclaimed: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”  Without the right of self-defense and the right to use firearms for self-defense, we effectively have no secure rights. Without the Second Amendment, we have no effective way to protect the others.

Saul Alinsky, building on Lenin’s original plan for world conquest by communism, wrote a book entitled “Rules for Radicals” in which he outlined a plan to turn useless idiots into useful idiots for political purposes. The ultimate purpose, of course, is the creation of a large, concentrated, socialist government with the power to control the lives of its citizens. I never understood the attraction of a socialist state, especially in this country, and to so many people.  In a socialist state, individuals lose their rights, their freedoms, and their choices to the dictates of government. Alinsky, like Lenin, examined the various levels of control that a government would need in order to establish an effective socialist state and those levels are, in order:

(1)  Healthcare – A government that controls the people’s healthcare controls the people themselves

(2)  Poverty – people in poverty are easiest to control; hence, it is most beneficial for government to pursue policies that increase the level of poverty or keep individuals and their offspring in poverty

(3)  Debt – government will increase the national debt to unsustainable levels because then it can continue to tax heavily (and to increase taxation; to burden property). Taxation produces more poverty or at least, prevents many from improving their financial situation

(4)  Gun Control – disarming the people allows the government to establish a police state, if need be

(5)  Welfare – welfare allows government to take control of every aspect of a recipient’s life – food, housing, choices, even decisions to marry or to pursue education. Government will never get rid of welfare programs if its goal is socialism

(6)  Education – government needs to take control of what its youth learns…  what they read, what they listen to, and what things mean; it needs to use the education system as a means to indoctrinate its citizens.

(7)  Religion – a belief in God needs to be removed from schools, government, the marketplace, and the public square. A socialist government substitutes itself for the role of God.  A moral, religious people will always question the legitimate role of government, and so, it must minimize this faction.

(8)  Class Warfare – government needs to divide its people into poor and wealthy — the “have’s” and the “have-not’s.”  It also needs to divide people along racial lines – characterizing one group as “victims” and the other as “oppressors” (or as “beneficiaries”). This way it is easier to demonize the wealthy, the empowered, the benefitted classes and therefore, to take from them — their money (through taxation – to benefit the poor), and their positions (through “diversity”-enrichment programs). It is easier to re-engineer society by creating division, hatred, and distrust.

Looking at this list, government has achieved every one of these levels of control – EXCEPT gun control. Is it any wonder that the left is pursuing it at such a rabid level lately?  Is it any wonder that it uses every tragedy to attack the Second Amendment?

So again, if you agree with the sentiment expressed in this article and if you agree with the points articulated in the Resolution, please share with others. And if you live in North Carolina, please contact your state rep and send him a copy.

There was a time when North Carolina was the most liberty-minded of all the colonies and all the states. She has a profound and impressive history. My hope is that her legacy will live on with her respect for its citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

[NOTE:  I wanted to include this disclaimer, after the fact. Doing research for my April 5 article, I learned that the 8 Levels of Government Control to Establish a Social State is not included in Saul Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals,” and in fact, is not attributable to him at all. Some, however, have attributed some of the levels to Richard Cloward and Francis Fox Piven (“The Cloward-Piven Strategy”).  In my article: “Government Control of the People – The Progressive Scheme:  Making Useful Idiots Out of Useless Idiots,” I discuss Saul Alinsky and his book, and its potential for transforming the character of our country, but I also address this misinformation about the 8 levels.  The article is posted here:   https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2018/04/05/government-control-of-the-people-the-progressive-model-making-useful-idiots-out-of-useless-idiots/ ]

- 2018 (gray shirt, March 24, 2018) - BEST

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Making Sense of the Meaning and Intent of the Second Amendment: It Isn’t Hard, Folks!

2nd amendment - there are no rights if you can't defend them

by Diane Rufino, May 24, 2017

“No free man shall be debarred (denied) the use of arms.” –  as proposed by Thomas Jefferson for Virginia’s Bill of Rights, 1776

The Federal Farmer (anti-Federalist author) in 1788: “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught how to use them.”

Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention to Ratify the US Constitution, in June 1788: “The great object is that every man be armed.”

At the same time it ratified the US Constitution in 1788, the New Hampshire Ratifying Convention proposed this amendment for the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.”

The Federal Gazette, dated June 18, 1789, described James Madison’s proposal for a Bill of Rights: “The people are confirmed in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”

“We have found no historical evidence that the Second Amendment applies only to members of a select militia while on active duty. All the evidence indicates that the amendment, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, applies to and protects individual Americans.”   —  The Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (2001)

INTRODUCTION –

The Second Amendment: “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.”

For most of our nation’s history, the Supreme Court has essentially managed to avoid ruling on the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment and that worked out just fine. And that’s probably because for about 150 years, it apparently was universally understood that the amendment protected an individual right to arms rather than a right only when organized in a militia. It wasn’t until the 20th century that a legal debate began in earnest over the characterization of the right recognized in the Second Amendment.

Is the right to arms an individual right or a collective right?  Indeed, in the 20th century, federal courts have seemed confused on this question. Some embrace the historical model, which holds that the amendment recognizes the right of people, as individuals, to bear arms.  And others embrace the more radical model, the “collective rights” model, which holds that individuals have the right to arms but only when they are members of a militia.

The “collective rights” model was embraced in 1939 in a case called United States v. Miller.  The case arose after two men, Jack Miller and Frank Layton, were arrested for transporting a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun across state lines and in interstate commerce. They were charged with violating the National Firearms Act (“NFA”).  Miller and Layton argued that the NFA violated their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and therefore it was unconstitutional as it applied to them. The federal district court agreed and dismissed the case. The government appealed and it went to the Supreme Court. The issue at the heart of the case was whether the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court concluded that it does not. It reasoned that because the possession of a sawed-off double barrel shotgun does not have a reasonable relationship to the functioning or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, the Second Amendment does not protect the possession of such an instrument.

Although the right to arms became an increasingly heated topic as the 20th century went on, the Supreme Court refused to hear cases to re-address the amendment.  And so, the Miller decision defined the position of the federal judiciary from 1939 for almost 70 years.  The Second Amendment did not recognize an individual’s right to have and bear arms for self-defense – only the defense of a State. But then in 2008 and then in 2010, the Supreme Court, with the late great Antonin Scalia on the bench, agreed to hear two cases, each addressing the same issue and each directly asking the Court to re-address the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment.  The 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, addressed a federal gun control law, and the 2009 case, McDonald v. Chicago, addressed a state gun control law. [The first was a direct challenge to the Second Amendment and the second was a challenge under the incorporation clause of the Fourteenth Amendment].

In Heller, at issue was a gun ban in the District of Columbia (hence, it was a federal gun law) which regulated firearms in several ways: (1)  It made it illegal to carry an unregistered firearm; (2) It prohibited the registration of handguns; (3)  It required owners of lawfully-registered firearms to keep them unloaded and disassembled, even in the home, or bound by a trigger lock or other similar device unless the firearms were located in a place of business or being used for legal recreational activities.  Dick Anthony Heller was a D.C. special police officer who was authorized to carry a handgun while on duty. He applied for a one-year license for a handgun he wished to keep at home, but his application was denied, and so he brought suit to challenge the gun ban as violative of the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed with Officer Heller (5-4 majority, of course). It held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.  Therefore, the ban on registering handguns and the requirement to keep guns in the home disassembled or nonfunctional with a trigger lock mechanism was inconsistent with the intent of the Second Amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion.  The Court held that the first clause of the Second Amendment that references a “militia” is a prefatory clause that does not limit the operative clause of the Amendment. Additionally, the term “militia” should not be confined to those serving in the military, because at the time the term referred to all able-bodied men who were capable of being called to such service. To read the Amendment as limiting the right to bear arms only to those in a governed military force would be to create exactly the type of state-sponsored force against which the Amendment was meant to protect people. Because the text of the Amendment should be read in the manner that gives greatest effect to the plain meaning it would have had at the time it was written, the operative clause should be read to “guarantee an individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” This reading is also in line with legal writing of the time and subsequent scholarship. Therefore, banning handguns, an entire class of arms that is commonly used for protection purposes, and prohibiting firearms from being kept functional in the home, the area traditionally in need of protection, violates the Second Amendment.

The piece of legislation addressed in the McDonald case was Chicago’s gun registration law, which: (1) Prohibited the registration of handguns, thus effecting a broad handgun ban; (2) Requires that guns be registered prior to their acquisition by Chicago residents; (3) Mandated that guns be re-registered annually, with another payment of the fee; and (4) Rendered any gun permanently non-registrable if its registration lapses. 76-year-old Chicago resident Otis McDonald, a retired maintenance engineer, had lived in the Morgan Park neighborhood since buying a house there in 1971. He complained about the decline of his neighborhood, describing it as being taken over by gangs and drug dealers. His home and garage had been broken into five times. An experienced hunter, McDonald legally owned shotguns, but believed them too uncontrollable in the event of a robbery, and so he wanted to purchase a handgun for personal home defense. Due to Chicago’s requirement that all firearms in the city be registered, yet refusing all handgun registrations after 1982 when a city-wide handgun ban was passed, he was unable to legally own a handgun. So, he and some of his neighbors challenged the Chicago gun registration law as violative of the Second Amendment, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. He didn’t believe that the Second Amendment was meant to leave him as a sitting duck – a potential victim – in his crime-ridden neighborhood.

The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment’ right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense applicable to the states. With Justice Samuel A. Alito writing for the majority, the Court reasoned that rights that are “fundamental to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty” or that are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” are appropriately applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court recognized in Heller that the right to self-defense was one such “fundamental” and “deeply rooted” right, and so, the Second Amendment’s protections and prohibitions apply to the States.

As you read the body of this article, consider what liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor argued in their dissent. They wrote that there is nothing in the Second Amendment’s “text, history, or underlying rationale” that characterizes it as a “fundamental right” warranting incorporation through the Fourteenth Amendment.  Keep that in mind.

Heller and McDonald were decided after a deep look into the historical roots of the Second Amendment, something that the Court should have done in the Miller case. The current understanding is that the Second Amendment recognizes and protects an individual’s right to arms for self-defense and equally recognizes the right to have and bear arms for the purpose of a state militia.

The opinion makes sense.  According to the Declaration of Independence, and natural law, we have the right to life and liberty. These rights are inherent with our humanity. They are inalienable. We never surrender them. Therefore, by extension (by corollary), we must have the right to defend them. In other words, the right to life, and liberty (and Property too) also implies the right to defend them. Otherwise, the rights are meaningless; there are merely parchment pronunciations.

The desire to live and survive is innate; we reflexively act to protect our lives and to thrive. And when we can’t, we feel violated. Just ask anyone who has been the victim of a violent crime, of a robbery, an assault, a break-in.  Ask someone who has the experience of a stranger breaking into their house in the middle of the night. I had that experience. And I have a gun today because I never want to feel helpless and vulnerable and the victim of predation again.

From a simple reading of the Bill of Rights, one notices that the First Amendment and the other amendments as well, address individual rights. If the Bill of Rights identifies individual rights – as did the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights – shouldn’t one sense pressure to view the Second Amendment similarly?

Historically, the “individual right” view is the best proven one, and so the Supreme Court rightly decided the Heller and McDonald cases.  But what is that history that so grounds our Second Amendment and so secures its meaning as an individual right?

The DVD “In Search of the Second Amendment” explains this history very clearly.

THE HISTORY of the SECOND AMENDMENT

[This section is lifted, in part, from the DVD “In Search of the Second Amendment (A Documentary),” produced and directed by David T. Hardy (2006)]

The 1930’s through the 1970’s was a time period when Americans were embracing their gun rights, but lawyers weren’t paying much attention to the Second Amendment – one way or another (that is, on either side of its interpretation).  There wasn’t much thought given to it. But as the years went on, there was growing evidence for the “individual right” view. Law reviews were publishing articles on the topic and books on the Constitution were taking notice of this meaning. Momentum was slowly building for a show-down in the Supreme Court to address this building consensus.

One of the leading Constitutional Law treatises of the later 20th century, American Constitutional Law, was written by Laurence Tribe, professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. His first edition was written in 1978. Attorney Leonard Levy wrote a subsequent book, Essays on the Making of the Constitution, in which he attacked Tribe’s textbook for failing to acknowledge the growing the evidence of the “individual right” view of the right to have a bear arms. Tribe immediately published a second edition accepting this evidence.

Why this growing trend?  And what does it mean for the Miller decision?  Did the Court at the time not have the evidence?  Before coming to the conclusion that the Second Amendment conferred only a collective right (although it appears they only alluded to this viewpoint without coming right out with a bright line rule of construction), didn’t they bother to go back and research the amendment’s history?

What got the ball rolling towards the “individual right” point of view?  One article appears to be responsible. The recent boom in Second Amendment legal scholarship that has led to most constitutional scholars to accept the view that the amendment protects an individual’s right to have and bear arms began with an article by Don Kates, published in the Michigan Law Review. That article was titled “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment.’ [http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/57mich.pdf].

Top legal scholars, many of which are liberal, such as Sandy Levinson (of the University of Texas, writing in the Yale Law Journal), Randy Barnett (Boston University School of Law), Bill Van Alstyne (Duke University), and Eugene (Professor at the UCLA School of Law) have made it clear that their research has led them to conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have arms.

The history behind the Second Amendment goes back well before the colonies were even settled. It goes back to the very history of the fore-fathers and founders of our country. It goes back to the history of England, the country that gave us so much of our common law, gave us our Bill of Rights, and gave us much of the foundation upon which we built our Declaration, our Constitution, and our system of government.

In medieval England, there was no royal army. There wasn’t enough money or control to have such a formal army. Instead, the King would have to count on his subjects to fight for him – to fight for the kingdom. And so, by law, the King established a citizen militia.  By law – the Militia laws – every male subject, beginning at a certain age, was required to own guns, have ammunition, be trained in their use, and show up for regular training sessions. Citizens could be called up at any time by the King to form the militia and so they had to always be in a state of readiness.  Henry VIII lowered the age of the males required to be trained to use guns. Under his rule, fathers were required to train their sons from age 7 and older in the use of firearms. “Bring them up in shooting!”

In 1688, a medieval “duty” to have and bear arms became an “indubitable right.”  How did this happen?   Dr. Joyce Malcolm, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University School of Law and fellow of the Royal Historical Society, is an expert on this topic. She has been called “the leading historian on the history of English gun rights and English gun control.” Malcolm explains that gun ownership transformed into a “right” during the tumultuous 17th century in England, and for understandable reasons. The transformation arose out of a conflict between King Charles I and Parliament. Eventually, in 1642, civil war broke out and members of Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, brought charges against Charles. He was captured, tried for treason, and beheaded. His sons, the future King Charles II and King James II had fled to France at the time.

After Cromwell died and his son took over, rather than stability in England, there was mass chaos. The people, out of sheer desperation, asked Charles II to come back to England, assert his right to the throne, and rule, which he did.  But what did Charles come home to?  He returned to a country that turned on his father; a country that beheaded him. He also returned to a country that was very well-armed. Almost immediately, he sought to disarm the subjects and control the bearing of arms. He instituted serious gun control measures, both on individuals and on manufacturers. Gun manufacturers had to report to the King how many guns they manufactured each week and who purchased them. There were controls on the importing of guns, licenses were required for subjects who needed to move weapons around the countryside, and subjects had to report if they were traveling with a firearm. In the year 1660, King Charles II issued a series of orders to disarm those citizens that he deemed were – or would be – political opponents. One particular act that Parliament passed, in 1662, was especially repugnant. It was the Militia Act of 1662 and it gave militia officers the power to disarm anyone they believed was likely to be an opponent of the Crown.  And at first, the Act was actively enforced.  In 1671, Parliament passed the Game Act, which proved to be the greatest control over ownership of firearms that England ever had. The Game Act listed a whole host of weapons that were prohibited for hunting, and at the head of that list was guns !!

Charles II died and having produced no heirs, he was succeeded by his brother James. King James II would use the Game Act to try to disarm all those subjects who he deemed were not well-enough off. In other words, he tried to limit gun ownership to only those of a certain class of subjects. He sent out mass orders to disarm the citizenry.  According to the record, Dr. Malcolm explains, the orders were apparently not carried out.  But the actions of the King to disarm his subjects certainly arose concern and fear among the people of England.

And so, finally in 1688, the English people had had enough. They, together with a union of Parliamentarians, invited William and Mary, of Orange to take over the throne and depose King James II. Mary was the daughter of the king. The people promised they would oust James and offer no resistance to William and Mary if they agreed to sign a Bill of Rights acknowledging the rights of the people and promised to be held to that document. William and Mary agreed. They sailed from Orange and were met with the support of the citizenry, in what would be known as the “Bloodless Revolution” (or Glorious Revolution). James was forced to flee.  A new Parliament was formed (one not loyal to James, who was still alive) and this Parliament decided that a Bill of Rights was necessary to re-affirm all the rights that had been imperiled by James.  In order to tie the new King and Queen to an obligation to abide by these rights, the same statue that elevated William and Mary to the throne also contained those rights – The Charter of Rights – The Charter of Ancient and Indubitable Rights.”  In fact, this Bill of Rights of 1689 was referred to as “The new Magna Carta.”  The statue created a contractual obligation, one that tied the right of the King and Queen to rule to an obligation to respect the rights contained in the Charter.

One of those rights was the right of British subjects (“who are Protestants”) to have arms for their defense (self-defense) “suitable to their position and allowed by law.”

Arms seizure weighed heavily during the deliberations in Parliament as it drafted the Bill of Rights of 1689. So incensed that the people, in mass, had been targeted for arms confiscation under the Militia Act (and even some members of Parliament had been targeted), that the people and Parliament felt that the “duty” to have and bear arms was actually a “right.” The ability to arm oneself for self-defense was considered a right.

Indeed, by 1688, and enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689, the duty to be armed became a right. One of the rights of Englishmen became the right to have arms for self-defense.

Between 1603 and 1776, the rights of Englishmen became the rights of Americans.

When the first three ships arrived in the New World, in what would become the commonwealth of Virginia, the English settlers encountered hostile French and Dutch settlers as well as hostile Indians. Because of this hostile environment, the arms laws were even stricter than the English ones. English colonists were required to have arms on them at all times and they were required to be trained in their use. “Every male inhabitant shall carry a firearm wherever he goes.”  As the colonies were settled, one by one, they established their state militias. They drew from their knowledge of the militia system in England to develop their own military forces. The resulting colonial militia laws required every able-bodied male citizen to participate and to provide his own arms. For example, in the colony of Virginia, in 1623, the Virginia General Assembly commanded, “that men go not to work in the ground without their arms; That no man go or send abroad without a sufficient partie well-armed.” In 1661, its Governor, William Berkeley stated, “All our freemen are bound to be trained every month in their particular counties.”  Virginia followed the British county lieutenant system; each county had a lieutenant, appointed as the county’s chief militia officer.

Yes, it was a “duty” to have and bear arms, in order to serve in the militia and help defend the colony, but apart from this duty, the colonists knew, as loyal British subjects (which they were and which they considered themselves), they also had the right to own them and to bear them.  For confirmation, they only needed to consult the second most popular book of the day (the first being the Bible), Blackstone’s treatise on the English common law, “Commentaries on the Laws of England” (1765).

In Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” he addressed the right to arms:

“The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject that I shall at the moment mention, is that of having arms for their defense – suitable to their condition and degree, and as such as are allowed by law. It is indeed a public allowance, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain violence of oppression.”

Blackstone says clearly that the right is not only for defense and for protection, but it is also to resist tyranny. The main purpose of the right to bear arms is to resist tyranny – in order that the people in the community, together and with their firearms, could overthrow a dictatorship in the last resort, should none of the other checks and balances work.

By the mid 1760’s, tensions were growing increasingly high particularly in the colonies, and in Boston in particular. It wasn’t long before the redcoats arrived, to live among the people of Boston and to make sure that they stayed “in line.” With the Redcoats came acts of criminality – rapes, robberies, murder.  The Boston Gazette published articles warning the colonists that they would soon be disarmed and should they “act out,” they would be taken to England and tried for treason. The colonists began to arm themselves – first to defend themselves against the criminal tendencies of the soldiers and also because it seemed likely that the tensions would escalate into conflict.  They cited the English Bill of Rights, the Militia Acts of the colonies, and even Blackstone’s “Commentaries” for their right to arm themselves.  “It is beyond sophistry to prove (meaning, it is clearly fallacious) that British subjects, to whom the privilege of necessary arms is expressly recognized by the [English] Bill of Rights, and who live in a province were the law requires them to be equipped with arms, are guilty of illegal acts in calling upon one another to be provided with them – as the law directs!”

Citing Blackstone, the colonists understood the reason they were vested with the right to bear arms: “It is a natural right, which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the [English] Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defense; and as a Blackstone observer, it is to be made use of when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

Tensions soon escalated and a series of events followed.  Under the Intolerable Acts, the colonial legislature in Boston was abolished and King George III sent General Thomas Gage, a proven military commander at the time, there to serve as the Royal Governor. British spies tipped off General Gage that the colonists were stockpiling ammunition and artillery at nearby Concord. On the night of April 18, 1775, Gage sent a column of soldiers to Concord to destroy the supplies. Their trip led them through Lexington, where they encountered a small group of colonial militiamen. A shot went off (no one knows how it happened), but the response was immediate. Shots rang out and armed conflict between England and Massachusetts had begun. The revolution had begun. British forces drew first blood.

Despite the skirmish, the troops continued to Concord where they found the ammunition and where they also found several thousand angry townsfolk. The troops proceeded to burn the stockpile but from the vantage point of the townsfolk, it looked like they were attempting to burn down the town. And so, the townsfolk opened fire on the troops, forcing them to retreat. As they were retreating the 15 miles or so back to Boston, more and more members of the militia turned out to fire upon them. The British soldiers suffered over 300 casualties. Not only did they draw first blood, but they were defeated.

The fighting, however, was not to be contained in Massachusetts. In Williamsburg, Virginia, the colonists built an armory to store their gunpowder. Late during the night of April 20, 1775, royal governor Dunmore ordered British sailors to raid the armory and to take the gunpowder back aboard their ships. Dunmore allowed this even as statesmen such as Patrick Henry and William Henry Lee and other Virginians were already pushing to revive the state militia – to put into execution the militia law that was passed in the year 1738 – and to put them in the posture of defense (that is, to prepare them to defend the State against the British).

Just a month prior to that event, there was a general alarm that was spreading among the colonies – fueled, no doubt, by men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine – that the British were removing gunpowder from the public stock in order to render the colonists unable to resist the Crown. Clearly, as was done in Boston, England was intent on disarming them – just as King Charles II had done to his subjects approximately 100 years ago in the mother country. The King (George III) was not depriving them of their right of representation in Parliament this time (no taxation without representation); now he was stripping them of their right to bear arms for defense.

Only a handful of statesmen recognized what was happening and what its significance was. Patrick Henry was one. It was this general alarm, this general fear that England was coming to disarm the colonists, that prompted him, on the night of March 23 at St. John’s Church to propose three resolutions to raise, equip and prepare the militia for conflict.

His resolutions read simply:

Resolved, that a well-regulated militia composed of gentlemen and yeomen is the natural strength and only security of a free government; that such a militia in this colony would forever render it unnecessary for the mother country to keep among us, for the purpose of our defense, any standing army of mercenary forces, always subversive of the quiet, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, and would obviate the pretext of taxing us for their support.

That the establishment of such a militia is at this time peculiarly necessary, by the state of our laws for the protection and defence of the country some of which have already expired, and others will shortly do so; and that the known remissness of government in calling us together in a legislative capacity renders it too insecure in this time of danger and distress, to rely that opportunity will be given of renewing them in General Assembly or making any provision to secure our inestimable rights and liberties from those farther violations with which they are threatened.

Resolved therefore, that this colony be immediately put into a posture of defence: and that Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Robert Carter Nicholas, Benjamin Harrison, Lemuel Riddick, George Washington, Adam Stephen, Andrew Lewis, William Christian, Edmund Pendleton, Thomas Jefferson and Isaac Zane, Esquires, be a committee to prepare a plan for the embodying arming and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.

Perhaps the most rousing speech delivered in colonial America was by Patrick Henry and it was in support of these resolutions:  [As you read the speech, consider the circumstances to which he is speaking, and keeping in mind that men like Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Lee, Washington were keenly aware of the history of the people England, the continued struggle to assert their rights, to seek assurances, to have them violated, and only to have to try to re-assert them again, and again…..]

“The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

With the raid on the armory at Williamsburg, thus confirming Patrick Henry’s worst fears, the most powerful colony in the South (Virginia) was driven into an alliance with the most powerful colony in the North (Massachusetts).  The Boston Revolution soon became an American Revolution.

Thus, the American revolution started over our RIGHT to keep and bear arms. Tensions between the colonies and Great Britain may have started over the right not to be taxed without representation in Parliament (the body from which such taxing measures arose), but the actual revolution itself erupted over the actions of the Crown to disarm the people.

In 1775, the colonies called up the First Continental Congress to seek a peaceful resolution of the growing tensions. That Congress sent a series of petitions to the King to implore him to intercede on their behalf and recognize that their rights were being violated. He laughed at the petitions and likened the colonist to petulant little children who liked to throw fits. [Patrick Henry referenced this effort in his fiery speech at St. John’s: “We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne.”]  In 1776, the colonies called up the Second Continental Congress to manage the war effort against the British. General George Washington was put over the Continental Army and on July 4, 1776, the Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring the colonies to be independent from Great Britain and articulating to a “candid world” the list of grievances against Great Britain which would support and justify its decision to separate.

Once the colonies proclaimed their independence, the strongest sign they could send to demonstrate that independence was to assume statehood and adopt state constitutions (the signs of sovereignty).  And so, each colony organized itself as a state and drafted and adopted a constitution. Most also adopted a Bill of Rights, in one form or another.

Different states provided different models for the right to bear arms. In 1776, George Mason went to work on the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He introduced the enumerated rights with a statement of nature’s law and a statement of the relationship of individuals and government, in general.  He wrote:

THAT all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

Then he addressed the right to arms:

That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty….

The Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted June 12, 1776.

Thomas Jefferson submitted a draft of a Bill of Rights to be taken up at the upcoming convention (to draft a constitution for the first government of the “united” states, which as we know, was the Articles of Confederation). He wrote: “No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.”

The Pennsylvania Bill of Rights, adopted in September 1776, recognized a right to bear arms for both self-defense and in defense of the State.

1.  That all men are born equally free, and independent; and have certain, natural, inherent, and inalienable rights; amongst which are; the enjoying and defending of life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state.

In March 1780, Massachusetts adopted its Constitution and Bill of Rights, written by John Adams. It acknowledged a right to keep and bear arms, but added that it was for “the common good.”  The MA Bill of Rights read, in part:

The end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic; to protect it; and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquility, their natural rights, and the blessings of life: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.

The body-politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: It is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.

Part the First. A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Art. I.  All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

XVII.  The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defense.

Looking at these three Constitutions and Bills of Right, we can see that there were at least three (3) colonial models to address the right to arms.

Again, to compare and contrast them concisely, addressing them in the order they were adopted:

(1)  The Virginia model emphasizes the militia.  “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state…”

(2)  The Pennsylvania model doesn’t mention militia; it emphases self-defense and defense of the State.  “The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State.”

(3)  The Massachusetts model took the Pennsylvania approach, but added a limitation in the form of the clause “for the common defense, and added the people also have a right to “keep” arms.  “The people have a right to keep and bear arms for the common defense.”

These models would become important when our new nation would look to draft a national Bill of Rights.

And that time came in 1787, when after certain leading state leaders – namely, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton – found the Articles of Confederation unworkable for the growing union and took the initiative to call up a new constitutional convention. The Convention was held in Philadelphia from May to September 1787 and rather than heed the constitutional call of the Convention to “amend” the Articles of Confederation, a brand new plan of government was pursued and a brand new Constitution was drafted. Although the delegates from 12 states labored through the hot summer months of that year, engaged in countless debates, and pursued and negotiated through many contentious issues, in the end the final draft, the US Constitution, was not acceptable to many of the delegates. Seven delegates to the Convention walked out and refused to sign it on the last day – September 20, including Virginia’s George Mason. These delegates either complained that it conferred too much power to the federal government (mainly, an unlimited power to tax and spent, and to raise an army) or that it lacked a Bill of Rights, or both. Many of those who did not sign it were anti-Federalists, those who feared a weakening of the States at the hands of the federal government.

Nevertheless, once the Constitution was signed, it went to the States, which, acting in their own conventions, would take up the issue of ratification. If they ratified the Constitution, they would become part of the Union of States and if they didn’t, they would not.  Delaware ratified first, by a unanimous vote. Then came Pennsylvania, New Jersey (unanimous vote), Georgia (unanimous vote), and Connecticut (overwhelmingly). In January 1788, Massachusetts called its convention. Samuel Adams, who, although he did not attend the Philadelphia Convention, attended the ratifying convention. Assessing the Constitution, he addressed the Convention:

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience, or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceful citizens, from keeping their own arms, or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States or of one or more of them, or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances, or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers, or possessions.”

Samuel Adams is the strongest unsung hero of the Second Amendment. His writings on the right to have and bear arms goes back many years, even before his days in the Sons of Liberty.

Next, Maryland ratified the Constitution (overwhelmingly), then South Carolina, and finally New Hampshire (narrowly).  When New Hampshire ratified in June 1788, it became the ninth state to do so.  According to Article VII of the Constitution, the Constitution would go into effect when 9 states ratified. And so, the new Union was born.

But this new Union was still terribly fractured.  Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island still hadn’t decided. Actually, North Carolina met in Convention on August 2, 1788 but quickly rejected the Constitution (193-75). It agreed to meet again; it was waiting to see what the other States did regarding a Bill of Rights.

When New Hampshire ratified the Constitution on June 21, 1788, the Virginia Convention was actually still going on. It was contentious. Virginia, New York, and North Carolina were not expected to ratify, and the issue was over a Bill of Rights, which James Madison had argued in Philadelphia was not necessary. George Mason and Edmund Pendleton, two of the delegates from Virginia at the Philadelphia Convention who would not sign the Constitution, were now delegates at the Virginia Ratifying Convention and were committed to preventing the document from being ratified. These men, and many others, were already calling for another Constitutional Convention – particularly George Mason, and he had the potential power to move the plan forward. Mason and Pendleton were joined in sentiment at the Convention by Patrick Henry, who was highly skeptical of the Constitution and was confident it would lead to the consolidation of the states under the federal government.

At issue at the Virginia Ratifying Convention was essentially the concerns of the anti-Federalists, which was that the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights (and that the government tended to be overly-ambitious and powerful).  The Virginia view, in general, was that a Bill of Rights is the very least that a government owes to its people. Mason argued for a Bill of Rights, and of course, any Bill of Rights worth its salt would have to include a right to bear arms. Patrick Henry told the Convention: “The great object is that every man be armed!”

In the end, a compromise was reached.  James Madison promised that if the Virginia delegation would ratify the Constitution in the Convention he would recommend to the first US Congress that a Bill of Rights be added, as a series of amendments. Madison was known to be a trustworthy man and so, the Constitution was narrowly ratified on June 25 (89-79). However, the Virginia delegation did not merely ratify; in anticipation of a national Bill of Rights, it also proposed and drafted a series of amendments for consideration.

“Resolved, that, previous to the ratification of the new Constitution of government recommended by the late federal Convention, a declaration of rights, asserting, and securing from encroachment, the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the unalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most exceptionable parts of the said Constitution of government, ought to be referred by this Convention to the other states in the American confederacy for their consideration”

When the Virginia delegation went back to write the amendments they would recommend, they looked to the Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania models, in addition to their own model.  The language that they came up with is as follows: “That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state.”

The right to bear arms for defense of oneself and the State comes from the Pennsylvania model. The right to keep and bear arms comes from the Massachusetts model.  By removing express limitations (such as “for the common good” or other qualifiers that might be later construed to limit the right (“for defense of themselves and the State”), the first part of the proposed amendment construes the right to arms in its broadest terms. The second part of the proposed amendment comes from the Virginia model and addresses the militia. The Virginia delegation already believed it was expressed in its broadest terms.

So, the Second Amendment is actually two separate thoughts. The intentional, conscious effort was to express the right to arms in the broadest terms possible, to be understood in its broadest sense.

The New York Convention followed. It wrapped up on July 26, one month after the Virginia Convention. It was another contentious convention. As in Virginia, it was a battle between anti-Federalists and Federalists.  On the anti-Federalist side, the words of the Federal Farmer (possibly Richard Henry Lee) were invoked: “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught how to use them.”  Daniel Webster, for the Federalists, answered: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom 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 that can be raised in the United States.”  [to paraphrase: Because of the fact that the people are armed and therefore superior to any troops raised by the United States, they can prevent the execution of any law they perceive not to be just and constitutional].

The debates in New York led to the most famous work on the meaning and intent of the Constitution – the Federalist Papers.  In fact, Madison addresses the militia (and a standing army) in Federalist No. 46.  He wrote: “The people will never have to worry about a standing army because of the state militias.”

The New York Convention very narrowly ratified the Constitution (30-27). But as Virginia did, it called for a Bill of Rights and provided several for consideration.  North Carolina went on to ratify, but only because a Bill of Rights has actually been adopted!  And then Rhode Island ratified after that.

The Constitution was adopted on June 12, 1788 when the ninth state, New Hampshire ratified it. Fall 1788 saw the first national elections and as expected, James Madison was elected to the House of Representatives. In the months after the election and before taking his seat in Congress, which was in New York City at the time), Madison sat at his home in Montpelier and drafted a Bill of Rights. He drew from the proposed amendments that were submitted by the states.  He planned to bring them with him to the first session of Congress and present them, thus making good on his promise. He drafted twelve amendments.

On June 8, 1789, Madison stood up in the House of Representatives and proposed what would become the federal Bill of Rights. His proposed Second Amendment read: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

The first Congress amended Madison’s proposal; it removed the language concerning the conscientious-objector.  Then a committee was formed – a drafting committee – consisting of Madison himself and Roger Sherman, an anti-Federalist, to provide the final draft. The final draft of the Second Amendment was a pared-down version which read: “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.”

In the debates in the Senate on the proposed Bill of Rights, a motion was made to insert into the Second Amendment the words “for the common defense” next to the words “bear arms.”  It was rejected !!

On September 25, 1789, Congress approved the amendments (all 12 of them) and then they were sent to the states.

James Madison’s friend, Tench Coxe, of Philadelphia, provided the most comprehensive analysis of the Second Amendment in a publication under the pen name “The Pennsylvanian.” It was printed in all the states.  He wrote: “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which might be occasionally called to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article [the Second Amendment] in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

All the leading commentators of the day saw the right to bear arms as an individual right, including  US Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1811-1845), who was the leading constitutional expert and commentator during the early-mid 20th century, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cooley (1864-1885), the leading constitutional commentator at the end of the 19th century, and Sir William Blackstone, the leading English commentator who was very influential on our founders and framers.

St. George Tucker, who first gained fame as a Revolutionary War hero from Virginia, became famous again for writing a very famous treatise. In 1803, he wrote a 5-volume set, being characterized as the American version of Blackstone’s “Commentaries.”  It was titled: Blackstone’s Commentaries, with Notes of Reference to the Constitution & Laws of the Federal Government of the United States & of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Tucker was seen as the best source and authority on the original intent and early interpretation of the US Constitution until about 1825, and his work has been cited by the US Supreme Court over forty times. For those looking to understand the meaning and intent of the Constitution at the time it was adopted and as it served our first sessions of government, it would be interesting to read Tucker’s volumes.

Tucker wrote about Blackstone’s exposition on the right to arms as it existed in the English law and explained how it applied to the United States. Tucker wrote: “’The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ This amendment is without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as in the case of the British government.”

He went on to elaborate even further:  Explaining the scope of the amendment, he wrote: “This [the Second Amendment] may be considered the true palladium of liberty…  The right of the 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. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, then liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

In 1825, Tucker’s treatise was replaced by the text written by William Rawle – A View of the Constitution of the United States of America. Regarding the Second Amendment, Rawle wrote in his book: “No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to Congress a power to disarm the people..”  [Rawle was part of the convention in Pennsylvania that ratified the US Bill of Rights; he was offered the position of first US Attorney General but turned it down].

The most influential constitutional commentator of the late 19th century and early 20th century was Thomas Cooley. He was considered the greatest legal mind of the time. He wrote the text: The General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States of America.  In his text, he explains exactly what the right is that is protected in the Second Amendment: “It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision that the right to keep and bear arms was only guaranteed to the militia, but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent. The militia, as has been elsewhere explained, consists of those persons who, under the law, are liable to the performance of military duty, and are officered and enrolled for service when called upon. But the law may make provision for the enrollment of all who are fit to perform military duty, or of a small number only, or it may wholly omit to make any provision at all; and if the right were limited to those enrolled, the purpose of this guaranty might be defeated altogether by the actions or neglect to act of the government it was meant to hold in check. The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and that they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose…”

Professor Randy Burnett of Boston University’s School of Law sums up the history of the Second Amendment this way: “What is shown by the historical record is that we have statements made before the second amendment was proposed, while the second amendment was being considered, and immediately after the second amendment was ratified, each of which reflects the understanding of the speaker that the amendment protects an individual right to have and bear arms.  What we don’t have – what we don’t find in the historical record is a single example of any contemporary at the time of the second amendment referring to it as anything other than an individual right.”

Professor Eugene Volokh, of the UCLA School of Law, comments: “Throughout the 1700’s, throughout the 1800’s, and up until the early 1900’s, the right to bear arms was universally seen as an individual right. There was virtually no authority for the collective rights/ states’ right point of view.” (States right to call a militia, that is).

But yet, in the late 20th century and now in the 21st century, somehow this history means nothing?

“The Second Amendment is a right held by States and does not protect the possession of a weapon by a private citizen.”  — The Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (2000)

“The right to keep and bear arms is meant solely to protect the right of the States to keep and maintain an armed militia.”   — The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (1996)

The conservatives on the bench in the Heller case and then in the McDonald case got it right. They chose to be intellectually honest.

References:

DVD:  “In Search of the Second Amendment (A Documentary),” produced and directed by David T. Hardy (2006).  Second Amendment Films LLC

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 US 742 (2010)

Don B. Kates, Jr.  “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” 82 Michigan Law Review (MICH. L. REV.) 204-273 (1983).    Referenced:  http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/57mich.pdf

Resolutions of the Provincial Congress of Virginia (Patrick Henry) regarding the militia, March 23, 1775 – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/res_cong_va_1775.asp

George Mason, the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  Referenced at:  http://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/varights.cfm

Virginia’s Ratification of the Constitution, Elliott’s Debates (June 25, 1788) –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol3/june25/

The proposed amendments to the Bill of Rights submitted by the State of Virginia (June 27, 1788) –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol3/june27/

Teaching American History (an Intereactive Resource) –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/overview/