Why The Second Amendment Has Become So Controversial

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:

“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Advocates of gun control and gun bans argue that the Second Amendment only applies to the “militia,” which they interpret as the military and police.

In other words, according to such an argument, the Second Amendment does not protect the right of an individual to own a weapon; only the right of the government to possess weapons. This is like saying, “You have a right to defend yourself if it’s the police or the army defending you; but not on your own.”

It’s true that in exchange for living in a free society, individuals give up certain things. For example, they give up the “right” to determine (on their own) that someone is guilty of a violent crime or fraud; instead, they submit to the rule of law.

But claiming that you must submit to government authorities even when it comes to defending yourself physically defeats the whole purpose for having a legitimate, limited and rights-respecting government in the first place.

The rational basis for supporting a limited, rights-respecting government is to protect your own life. But if that very same government outlaws your ability to own a weapon for defending yourself in case the police became unjust or were simply unavailable in time, makes no sense at all — not even on its own terms.

Keep in mind that such a policy is entirely consistent with that of any totalitarian state – Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, in the past; or Islamofascist Iran, Communist North Korea or Communist Cuba of today. In such countries, the government also claims that only the government may own guns. That should tell you something about the true intentions of those who twist the Second Amendment to argue in favor of its repeal.

According to such a mentality, rights are collective in nature. There’s no such thing as an individual right in a Nazi, Communist, religiously totalitarian or any other kind of statist society. In such societies, claiming a right to anything individual is to part with the rule of the collective will.

That’s the same premise behind the leftist progressives who demand an end to gun ownership (whether masked as “regulation” or not). There are no individual rights; or, if there are, the right of the collective comes first. If someone is trying to attack you, then you had better hope and pray the police or the army will take care of you. Because nobody else can or will.

As for interpretation of the word “militia,” let’s take a look at what America’s founders actually had to say on the subject.

Alexander Hamilton, a principal founder of the American republic, aide to George Washington and first Secretary of the Treasury stated, “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed…” and adding later, “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 which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”

When Hamilton refers to the “people at large,” he’s making a distinction between the citizens of the nation and their government. The people at large – that is, individual citizens – have an inalienable right to keep and bear arms, an inalienable right that may not be infringed.

That inalienable, individual right supersedes the “right” claimed by some for the government to have sole possession of all weapons, including weapons of self-defense. If such inalienable rights did not exist, there would be no basis for a democratically elected, individual rights-respecting government in the first place.

If such an individual right to self-defense were not intended and claimed by America’s founders, they never would have included a Second Amendment in the Constitution. If only the government may possess arms, there would have been no reason to emphasize, via a Bill of Rights amendment, that the people at large (i.e., individual citizens) may also keep and bear arms.

More than that, Hamilton gets to the heart of the reason for ensuring that individual citizens may bear arms: as a check against the government itself.

While the Constitution obviously created a government, and therefore did not stand for anarchy, it also recognizes that a government ultimately exists to preserve and protect the rights of individual citizens.

Without inalienable and individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, there was no point to a government – indeed, no valid basis for a government at all.

This was the truly radical nature of the American system of government, unequaled by any political movement or institution before or since.

It was the sincere hope of America’s Founders that they create a strong enough system of checks and balances that citizens would never wish or want to rebel against their government. But because it’s possible for a government to collapse into dictatorship, even a government such as the United States, it was important for there to be a check and a balance against the government itself, i.e., an armed citizenry. As a last resort against a government that goes outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, armed citizens were the last bastion (and last hope) for any defense of individual rights, including a restoration of the previous rights-respecting government.

Given the political positions of almost everyone who supports gun control or gun bans, it’s little wonder they do not want an armed citizenry.

The same people who support gun bans usually support socialized medicine, government control of education, government control of the financial, lending and banking industries, and even government control over the currency itself. It logically follows that those interested in government powers in no way specified or implied by the U.S. Constitution (i.e., most of what the federal government does today) would wish to keep the citizenry as disarmed as possible.

Rational people already understand that an armed citizenry offers a good check against criminals. Criminals are less likely to attack, or to feel secure about doing so, if they know that all peaceful, noncriminal citizens are legally permitted to own guns. This is a perfectly legitimate and valid argument against gun control and gun bans. But these arguments do not get to the core of the matter.

The core of the matter is control.

Does the government exist by the will of the people; or do the people exist by the will of the government? Your position on this question (conscious or not) will absolutely determine your attitude and stance about gun control.

If you take all this a step further, you’ll realize that government itself can become a criminal. In fact, governments, when irrational and unjust, represent the most monstrous and evil criminals of all time. Nazi Germany? Soviet Russia? Totalitarian Iran, presently pursuing nuclear weapons to destroy (or hold hostage) whomever they view as infidel nations? These evildoers are all governments.

Most governments throughout history have been criminal, evil dictatorships (at worst) or at least rights-violating authoritarian regimes (at best). Even the United States government, which has been more protective of individual rights than not throughout its history, is capable of actions that violate either the spirit or the letter of its Constitution. Over the past century, America has morphed from a republic to a powerful welfare/redistributive state, and in recent decades has been moving towards a “soft” dictatorship of the fascist variety, in which private property and personal individual rights exist, but only at government discretion, not as inalienable individual rights.

In short, government can and usually does become criminal itself. Citizens need guns as a physical means of protecting themselves when and if a government goes too far. To America’s founders, this was self-evident, and not dependent on the era in which people live or governments exist. This issue of control lies at the heart of the gun control debate today.

That’s why the issue becomes so fierce. Advocates of inalienable individual rights and collectivist-statists grasp, or at least sense, the issue at stake.

Who’s ultimately in charge: the individual, or the government?

Note that advocates of gun control claim to be against guns or violence, which serves as their justification for restricting and ultimately banning all gun ownership. Whenever there’s a highly publicized, horrifying crime involving gun violence, they rush to proclaim that anyone who does not favor gun control is sympathetic to that form of violence. Most are too weak or wobbly to risk being labeled as favorable to such murders, so they bow down and allow more gun restrictions to pass until, in the end, there will be no inalienable right to defense at all.

Advocates of further gun control claim to be against violence. However, they’re not against the use of force. They’re perfectly fine with government officials, police, federal agents and armies possessing weapons. Their only concern is that these weapons be utilized to enforce the policies they consider morally and legally valid – socialized medicine, wealth redistribution, public schooling, high taxation, etc.

The leftist and progressive advocates of gun control are all about force; their only requirement is that force be utilized for enforcement of their own personal ideological beliefs.

The best proof of this assertion can be found in the demonstrated ineffectiveness of gun control laws in major cities like Chicago and Baltimore, and the subsequent lack of concern from gun control advocates about this fact. Advocates of gun control are impervious to facts when violence increases, if anything, after the passage of gun restrictions.

This tells you something. It’s not criminal violence they’re against; it’s government control over individuals they’re after. It’s about power of the government over individuals, not personal safety from criminals.

Thomas Jefferson: “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”

Jefferson’s comment could not be more explicit. Governments cannot be trusted any more than criminals.

Hopefully, the government of the United States, grounded in support of individual rights and containing a Bill of Rights along with checks and balances, would end up more trustworthy than most. And for a time, it did.

But even a justified government must, in some sense, live in rational, healthy fear of its citizenry. Why?

Because, in the end, government exists for the sake of the people. Not “the people” as some sort of ruling mob demanding whatever they want from the minority; rather, “the people” defined as individual citizens whose rights – as individuals – are the overriding and ultimate purpose of having that government, in the first place. Let them be armed, if they choose. No question about it.

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” said, “[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, which served as inspiration for the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, said, “To disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them,” later saying, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”

Richard Henry Lee said, “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”

[Note: These quotes were assembled by Dr. Walter Williams, author and free-market economist at George Mason University.]

Advocates of gun control repeatedly insist that America’s founders never intended the citizenry to own guns. These quotes plainly illustrate that no such thing is true.

While the mere fact that America’s founders supported something does not automatically make it right, advocates of gun control should at least be forced to admit the truth: That they’re trying to ignore and repeal the Second Amendment. They should not be permitted to get away with further eroding the Second Amendment and ultimately wiping it out with executive order, as President Obama has repeatedly threatened to do.

Letting advocates of gun control get away with this deceit is the equivalent of giving up one of the most central rights of the individual – literally and metaphorically, without ever firing a shot.

Follow Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael  Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1