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The Purpose of the Second Amendment

January 18, 2013
Erick Erickson
Source …..

SecondAmendmentThe President is ready to announce his plans to restrict gun ownership. Most likely, nothing the President proposes will do anything to stop a future Sandy Hook. We know the President understands he is putting Democrats in a terrible spot. We know because he did nothing after the Aurora, CO shooting in the midst of a political campaign. He had to wait so he wouldn’t spook voters.

Now he will put the Democrats on the line. Senators Baucus, Begich, Hagan, Johnson, Landrieu, and Pryor — all Democrats from very pro-second amendment states who are up for re-election in 2014 — will be in jeopardy when, not if, the President overreaches.

In all the talk that has happened and will happen, the press and the general public seem willing to ignore the actual purpose of the second amendment.

The amendment is not about sports. It is not about recreation. It is not about hunting. It is only partly about defending yourself from a criminal.

The second amendment is about ensuring a “free state.”

On April 19, 1775, British regulars marched on Lexington and Concord to seize the guns of American colonists that had been stockpiled in case of revolution.

It may be an abstract concept for us. It may be distant. But when the 1st Congress of the United States met in 1789, the memory of 1775 was fresh. More so, what they saw as an abridgment of their freedoms in 1775, they viewed as an abridgment of their freedoms going back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Many historians have come to view the American Revolution as a conservative revolution. The revolutionaries believed they were protecting their English rights from the Glorious Revolution of 1688. They were, in effect, revolting to demand the rights they thought they already had as English citizens. It is why, for much of 1775, they petitioned the King, not Parliament, for help because they had, separated by distance and time, not kept up with the legal evolution of the British constitutional monarchy in relation to Parliament. The colonists believed themselves full English citizens and heirs of the Glorious Revolution.

One of the rights that came out of the Bill of Rights of 1689 in England following the Glorious Revolution was a right to bear arms for defense against the state. The English Bill of Rights accused King James II of disarming protestants in England. That Bill of Rights included the language “That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.

The Americans, however, saw the British government, via Parliament, begin curtailing the rights of the citizenry in the American colonies. When they formed the federal government with ratification of the Constitution, the colonists, now Americans, were deeply skeptical of a concentrated federal power, let alone standing armies to exercise power on behalf of a government. This is why, originally, the colonists chose to require unanimity for all federal action under the Articles of Confederation that the Constitution would replace. Likewise, it is why many early state constitutions gave both an explicit right to keep and bear arms, but also instructed that standing armies in times of peace should not be maintained.

Prior to the Civil War, the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal government and that first Congress dropped references to “as allowed by Law” that had been in the English Bill of Rights. The Founders intended that Congress was to make no law curtailing the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms.

The 2nd Amendment, contrary to much of today’s conversation, has just as much to do with the people protecting themselves from tyranny as it does burglars. That is why there is so little common ground about assault rifles — even charitably ignoring the fact that there really is no such thing. If the 2nd Amendment is to protect the citizenry from even their own government, then the citizenry should be able to be armed.

There are plenty of arguments and bodies to suggest that we might, as a nation, need to rethink this. The Founders gave us that option. We can amend the Constitution.

In doing so, we should keep in mind that in the past 100 years Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, China, and other governments have turned on their people at various times and, in doing so, restricted freedoms starting often with gun ownership. You may think a 30 round magazine is too big. Under the real purpose of the second amendment, a 30 round magazine might be too small.

Regardless, as the President announces how he will curtail the freedoms of the second amendment, we should remember Justice Robert Jackson’s opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2013 1:40 pm

    I fully support the 2nd Amendment. I do not support all the interpretations applied to it. This is the major problem in this Nation that need stopping. A law is passed then as it travels down it is constantly changed by the various Courts. Example: read the 2nd Amendment above, there is no ‘PERIOD” between the statement addressing a well regulated militia and the right to keep and bear arms” That right is connected with the well regulate militia to protect the State from the Federal. Citizens were required to have arms for security and protection Not to fight a war, because that right was given to the President and Congress. For war by the state against the Fed. the State can have the weapons, well regulate militia, So the issue is really a specific definition of what is needed by an individual for his own protection, the 2nd protect that, right of self defense. A Revolver or Raffle cannot and should not be subject to any government action, “why do you need it?” As I told the President, with the swarms of immigration we the citizens are no longer protected by local law enforcement because this nation, especially in areas flooded with illegal, or not properly checked influx, as well as bribery by Cartels and etc.the law abiding citizens cannot count on the local protection entities.
    Now: weapons of war are not protected by the 2nd as needed for personal security.

    But agree the president will get no where on that and no individual even if deranged will plan the attack intended for massacre of people with a pistol or raffle.

    The President had two option, declare weapons of war as been available only for military purposes and controlled by the Pentagon in proper arsenal; They may not be sold to the public.
    A faster way until the President declares weapons of war available only for national war, WE THE PEOPLE wan do what is being done now with Wal-Mart “NOT IN MY BACKYARD, THE GUNS GO OR YOU GO” and apply that Nationally by making sure local authorities will not grant permission. Can we keep them from selling such weapons in our areas” YES WE CAN. But I agree we need stop those left wing extreme from using a tragedy for their purpose.
    We cannot protect all killing. So lets change approach, forget the 2nd do not touch PERSONAL PROTECTION AND RIGHT TO Bear arms, only stay with weapons of war which are arms for mass killing and the Founder never approved such thing. Also, lets point out that people who want to be free can do so if they really want to fight for it as in the Middle East now, no need for us to be the policemen of the world and absolutely not push our ideology on other countries that is what the Soviet did remember? So what are we doing? ,

  2. January 18, 2013 10:00 am

    In his popular edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1803) , St. George Tucker (see also ), a lawyer, Revolutionary War militia officer, legal scholar, and later a U.S. District Court judge (appointed by James Madison in 1813), wrote of the Second Amendment: The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government. In the appendix to the Commentaries, Tucker elaborates further: This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty… The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty. Not only are Tucker’s remarks solid evidence that the militia clause was not intended to restrict the right to keep arms to active militia members, but he speaks of a broad right – Tucker specifically mentions self-defense.

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