The Only Legitimate Reason To Own And Carry Firearms

I seldom share my personal opinions on the issue of gun control due to its emotional nature and the typical over reaction I have experienced from a public with little exposure to firearms.

But with the Parkland shooting, the Vegas shooting, and others of the last year, I feel compelled to add to this volatile narrative by expressing a position that I almost never hear, nevertheless one that I believe to be the foundation for all accurate responses to the anti-gun lobby and the only compelling reason that I would feel comfortable giving to grieving families.

So here it is, the sentence that has fueled this very American debate for more than 200 years:

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.

I don’t want to spend any time on the concept of militia and what it meant then versus now,  I want to focus on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

When people try to defend the 2nd Amendment with rhetoric about the right to hunt or engage in shooting for sport or even home defense, they are actually doing the pro-gun adherents a disservice. While these are positive secondary benefits, it’s not about hunting or hobbies or home defense. It is very much about all Americans being armed and trained.

I think I can sum up the varied concerns on this issue in one statement; namely, anti-gun advocates desire to diminish the ability of private individuals to commit mass violence on the general public. Whether this is initiated by mentally unstable individuals, those of criminal intent, or even the commission of terrorism against the state—it is suggested that the restriction of privately owned firearms will solve this concern.

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I have to be honest, the way anti-gun advocates verbalize this concern seems manipulative to me.

Seriously, who doesn’t want to eradicate murder?

Who’s ok with mentally ill people shooting others or violent crime at any level?

The problem is that the gun control side of the narrative has tried to posture themselves as the only people who are concerned about decreasing crime and the well being of citizens. Can we just state for the record that people who own and carry firearms are as equally concerned about law and order as those who want to prevent private ownership of guns?

A corollary to this concern is the question by sincere anti-gun advocates—why does a private American citizen need an AR-15 rifle (an AR-15 is the 1959 civilian version of the M-16 military service rifle which is no longer in service, it was replaced by the M4 carbine)?

To answer these not-so-modern questions (the 2nd Amendment was first challenged for these very same reasons in Bliss v. Commonwealth 1822), let’s look at the broader picture. Why was the right to keep and bear arms written into the U.S. Constitution in the first place? What was the original intent of the framers and US citizens at the time the Constitution was written?

billofrightsWhen the Bill of Rights was legislated, 189 proposed amendments were submitted. James Madison, removing duplications, boiled them down to 17, and 12 were approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Ten of the original 17 were ratified, and the right to bear arms was established as the second amendment.

By overwhelming demand, the right to bear arms was seen as a vital component of the plan of freedom vouchsafed in the Constitution. Not only did all fourteen state legislatures see this as an indisputable right in 1791, the vast majority of the citizens themselves approved this measure.

But the question remains—why? Why did early Americans vote to allow ordinary people to own and carry firearms in the open—in public? Were they unaware of the risks? Were they insensible to the violence and damage that firearms can inflict?

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Since firearms were part of the daily life of colonial America, even the most ardent gun control advocate today would have to agree that these people clearly understood the dangers and risks of weapons in public even if the technology of the time was limited.

In fact, most early Americans not only owned and carried firearms, but their weapons were often of the same caliber and size as those used by the military. So their stanch support for the second amendment couldn’t have been a result of  ignorance or a lack of experience. So why would they knowingly allow, encourage, and in fact, demand that anyone who wanted to—could own and carry a weapon in public?

The answer is as simple as it is compelling:

they feared a oppressive government more than mass public gun violence.

History is replete with human rights violations by kings and governments against the citizenry.

William Blackstone, arguable the greatest influence on early American jurisprudence, stated in his Commentaries on the Laws of England that, “the last auxiliary right of the [king’s] subject . . .is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. [But this] is also declared…a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.” [Commentaries 1:139 – Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765–1769. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.]

What he is saying here is that while a case can be made for reasonable restrictions on ownership of weapons, the whole point of private individuals “keeping and bearing arms” is to provide the means whereby free men can exercise the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. Oppression is the unjust or cruel exercise of power or authority. Since Blackstone is specifically numerating the rights of a subject, the threat of oppression he discusses here can only be that of the ruler or government.

BISHOP'S WARS - 1639-41 ENGLISH CIVIL WAR - 1642-51

BISHOP’S WARS – 1639-41
ENGLISH CIVIL WAR – 1642-51

The colonial and early American mentality regarding private ownership of firearms was to ensure the most fundamental of all human rights—the right to resist, the right to self-preservation.

For 150 years prior to the American Revolution, the early Americans watched this very conflict of self-preservation against tyranny in their own homeland of England. And the colonists themselves experienced oppressive government beginning with the Stamp Act of 1765. For the next 11 years, they watched with great anxiety the encroachment of government into every aspect of their lives including the forced quartering of British soldiers and the confiscation of weapons and ammunition. They knew firsthand how a government could justify infringement on the rights its citizens.

Okay, so in 1765 according to Blackstone and the experience of Colonial America, it seems you could make a case that gun ownership was understood to be a deterrent to political/military tyranny. But certainly mankind has evolved and matured so much since that time that those kinds of concerns are no long an issue…or are they?

slide_10It is easy to sit here in the year 2018 and not remember the horrors of the last century.

All over the globe egomaniacs murdered millions and ruined the lives of millions more, in large part, because the people themselves had no means to stop the aggressor.

Think of Tito from Yugoslavia, Pol Pot of Cambodia, the military cabal of Burma, and the unbelievable atrocities of Moa’s China. Then there were countries like Spain and Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan, where the central powers deliberately moved to confiscate all civilian weapons prior to revealing the more sinister part of their plans.

Entertaining the naïveté of not fearing the possibility that democracies can and often do evolve into usurpatious tyrannies is inconsistent with the actual facts of six thousand years of human experience, and this same naïveté and or ignorance of history, led to the near collapse of Europe just 70 years ago.

Because history has demonstrated that over time governments tend to concentrate power and ultimately if unchecked will violate rights, the American framers believed that unrestricted private ownership of firearms was required to keep that ever expanding and egocentric nature of government in check.

There is no counter to the evolving usurpatious-democracy argument. You can call someone out for conspiracy theories, but in the final analysis, the evolution from democracies, republics and democratic republics to tyrannical socialist and fascist states is not fantasy.

It has happened many times in the past and considering the cyclical nature of history, it will likely happen again in the future. How many people in ancient Greece or Rome felt their rights were protected when suddenly government changed its mind?

We could literally list hundreds of governments that have violated their citizenry. What makes our situation any different?

MilitarizedPolice1Many have said that perhaps private ownership was needed centuries ago, but now nearly all areas of the United States have police forces for such things and the US military is the strongest in the world…exactly.

The whole point is regardless how much protection-infrastructure a city or a county or even a state has to protect the people, unless the people retain the ability to “resist and self-preserve,” there is always the looming likelihood that as power centralizes, individual rights will diminish in value and those same government forces will be used against the very people they were designed to protect.

This is exactly why the Framers built the second amendment into the Constitution. They were readers of history and understood human frailties in the passage of time.

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So am I suggesting that the US government will become oppressive and tyrannical and will require armed citizens to fight for a restoration of their freedom?

No. I am not predicting that.

But it is precisely the fact that I can’t predict which way it will go that causes me to see the wisdom in the private “keeping and bearing of arms.” I am simply pointing out that anyone who has studied the Roman Republic/Empire or further back the Greek City States or to near present times with Nazism under Hitler, will come to the conclusion that humanity runs in cycles and that knowing the problems and solutions of the past can be very instructive today.


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( a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster and its possible effects) dictates that no one in America wants to even consider the possibility that their government could evolve into some kind of tyrannical authority violating the rights of its citizens, but with the documented evidence of historic governmental maleficence, it would be cowardly and irresponsible to not consider the possibilities and make provisions to counter them. I want to close with the words of Tucker, Madison, Webster.

St. George Tucker was an officer in the American Revolutionary Army, a Professor of Law and a Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. His studies in law included private mentoring from the most respected lawyer and professor in Virginia, George Wythe. Tucker states, “This may be considered as the true palladium (palee-dium) 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.

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, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” (Tucker, St. George. Blackstone’s Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 5 vols. Philadelphia, 1803. Reprint. South Hackensack, N.J.: Rothman Reprints, 1969.)

Though James Madison did not serve in the military on account of his poor health, he was nevertheless a champion of liberty, the youngest delegate in the Continental Congress, and was instrumental in writing and ratifying the US Constitution, he noted that, “It may be a reflection on human nature, that devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”  – Federalist Papers #51 – James Madison

Noah Webster served briefly in the Connecticut Militia during the American Revolution, but found his true calling in supporting the war effort writing articles in support of the break with Great Britain. He supported the intellectual development of the fledgling country by writing pamphlets, primers and dictionaries to unify language and national identity. In support of the new national charter he said, “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.”
– Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, October 10, 1787

 

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