Founders, Firearms and Freedom
The Unalienable Right to Keep and Bear Arms
“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.” —Article the Second, Bill of Rights (1791)
In the first days of January this year, the statist regime now occupying the executive branch set out to make good on its primary goal for 2016 — the implementation of additional firearm eradication policies.
In October of last year, Barack Obama announced his primary objective for his last year in office: undermining the Second Amendment on the pretense of “solving” America’s “gun problem.”
He directly referenced confiscation of guns as the centerpiece of that agenda, asserting that “other countries have been able to craft” gun control laws, such as “Great Britain and Australia.” Of course, the UK and Australia have confiscated almost all guns — with dubious results.
Notably, Obama insisted, “We should politicize this,” and he set about to do just that with more vigor than at any time in his previous seven years.
His New Year’s resolution to target guns began with a highly promoted faux “town hall meeting” to launch his anti-2A agenda. Contrary to his previous prompt to “politicize” the issue, he lamented that gun control “has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates.”
“The gun lobby,” he caterwauled, “may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage. … We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.”
“We can find the courage”? To disarm ourselves? Fellow Patriots, there’s a term that describes those who cede their right to keep and bear arms: sheep.
And for the record, a “sensible country” and a disarmed citizenry are mutually exclusive terms. Throughout history, disarming citizens has resulted in everything but civilized or sensible countries.
In fact, only one nation has ensured by its law of incorporation, that an armed citizenry is the only way to both ensure and sustain a civilized and sensible government.
Of all the historic days on our American Patriot’s calendar, one above all others is devoted to the battle for Liberty — April 19th, 1775, which saw the opening salvos of the American Revolution.
We celebrated Patriots’ Day this week, the anniversary of the first armed confrontation between our American Patriot forefathers and armed enforcers of an oppressive government. It is no small irony that the first shots of the Revolution were fired in response to an order to confiscate weapons.
General Thomas Gage, Royal military governor of Massachusetts, dispatched a force of 700 British Army regulars, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, with secret orders to arrest Tea Party leader Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Provincial Congress president John Hancock and merchant fleet owner Jeremiah Lee, and to capture and destroy arms and supplies stored by the Massachusetts militia in the town of Concord.
But a silversmith named Paul Revere and his Patriot allies Samuel Prescott and William Dawes spoiled the raid, riding into the night ahead of the British to warn the Sons of Liberty. Consequently, in the early morning of April 19th, those British regulars were met first by a small band of 77 militiamen — farmers and tradesmen — on Lexington Green. Being greatly outnumbered, their militia captain, John Parker, told his men to disperse. However, Smith ordered his men to fire on Parker’s men because they refused to lay down arms, killing eight of the militiamen.
It was later in the day as the British moved up the road and were completing their search of Concord that they were met again by militia — this time a much larger contingent of 400 who had formed at Concord’s Old North Bridge under the command of John Buttrick. The British fired first, killing two and wounding four. But it was there that American Patriots returned the first shots in defense of Liberty, and in fact overwhelmed their oppressors. The militiamen, joined by John Parker’s men, chased the Redcoats 20 miles back to Boston.
The historical details of that day are of great interest to those of us who study such momentous events. But what is most notable about that day, and about the battles which followed over the next eight years, is that American Liberty would never have been won were it not for our Forefathers’ understanding of the most fundamental right of self-defense. That right would be codified in Article Two of our Bill of Rights, appended to our Republic’s Constitution, specifying that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
To that end, I offer the following thoughts from our Founders on the relationship between Liberty and the most essential of all civil rights, that of self-defense from tyranny.
“The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any… Kingdoms of Europe … are afraid to trust the people with arms.” —James Madison
“The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams
“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense…” —Alexander Hamilton
“To disarm the people … was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” —George Mason
“[T]he people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them.” —Zacharia Johnson
“Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. … Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.” —Thomas Paine
“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” —Joseph Story
“Let him candidly tell me, where and when did freedom exist when the sword and the purse were given up from the people? Unless a miracle in human affairs interposed, no nation ever retained its liberty after the loss of the sword and the purse … The great object is, that every man be armed. … Everyone who is able may have a gun.” —Patrick Henry
“The foundation of everything is … that the people will form an equal representative government … that the people will be universally armed. … A people that legislate for themselves ought to be in the habit of protecting themselves.” —Joel Barlow
“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.” —Noah Webster
In his Commonplace Book (1776), Thomas Jefferson cited the words of Cesare Beccaria from his seminal work, On Crimes and Punishment (1764): “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. … Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
And the other wisest of sages among our Founders, Benjamin Franklin, warned, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Of course, the relationship between arms and Liberty long precedes the American Revolution.
Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote, “There exists a law … inborn in our hearts … that if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.” And Aristotle wrote, “Those who possess and can wield arms are in a position to decide whether the constitution is to continue or not.”
The recorded history of the last century runs blood red with every encounter between a violent statist regime and its citizens who had no ability to defend themselves.
In 1911, Turkey confiscated guns. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In 1929, the Soviet Union confiscated guns. From 1929 to 1953, an estimated 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In his Edict of March 18, 1938, Adolf Hitler wrote: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjected people to carry arms; history shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjected people to carry arms have prepared their own fall.” Germany confiscated guns in 1938, and from 1939 to 1945, more than 13 million Jews and others, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In Communist China from 1949 to 1955, some 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Cambodia implemented gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million wealthy and educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In the Western Hemisphere, Guatemala implemented gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Oh, and did I mention Obama’s friends in Cuba…?
Uganda implemented gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Total number of defenseless people rounded up for extermination in the 20th century: 56 million.
Consider this insight from an individual who is the personification of peace, Mahatma Gandhi. In his “Autobiography of the Story of My Experiments with the Truth,” he wrote, “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.”
John F. Kennedy declared, “By calling attention to…the right of each citizen ‘to keep and bear arms,’ our Founding Fathers recognized…every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.”
Thomas Jefferson observed: “History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.”
But … only if citizens have some knowledge of that history.
The bottom line: When debating the Second Amendment, there are three points that are often neglected.
First, possession of firearms is a deterrent against countless millions of crimes, as made clear in studies of convicted felons, who tell researchers that they choose victims who are least likely to be able to defend themselves. Second, there are more than a million crimes thwarted every year by those who defend themselves with a firearm.
And finally, the Second Amendment is, first and foremost, about protection of our Constitution and the Liberty it enshrines. As I have oft noted, handguns are for personal and home defense. But semi-automatic rifles, mislabeled by Socialist Democrats and their Leftmedia propagandists as “assault rifles,” are for protection of those who would infringe on the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” If you find that notion unsettling, then you need to learn more about the history the constant assault of statist tyranny on Liberty.
Again, “The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. [T]he advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any…” –James Madison (1788)
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
- Second Amendment