On Tuesday, I penned an article demonstrating that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individual citizens to own a firearm.
Now I will deal with another argument that is popular with gun control activists: The Second Amendment only protects the right to own a gun for militia-related uses.
In the recent District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) case, Justice Stephens spent a significant amount of time making that argument in his dissent. Justice Breyer wrote his own separate dissent in the Heller case and he summarized the claim this way:
“[T]he Second Amendment protects militia-related, not self-defense-related, interests.”
As we consider this argument, it doesn’t matter what gun control activists can twist the words of the amendment to mean. All that’s important is getting to the truth of what the Founders intended the Second Amendment to mean. What we need to do is figure out if it’s at all possible that people who believed what our Founders believed would ratify an amendment that only protected the right to use a firearm for militia-related purposes.
Advocates of stricter gun control laws march through downtown on January 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)
The people of Pennsylvania undoubtedly believed that the right to own a gun included a right to use it for self-defense. In 1790 that state adopted a Constitution that declared:
“That the right of citizens to bear arms, in defence of themselves and the State, shall not be questioned.”
In the same year that Pennsylvania adopted that statement, they also ratified the Second Amendment.
The beliefs of the people of Vermont were very similar. In 1777 that state approved a Declaration of Rights which stated:
“…that the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state.”
Vermont later reaffirmed it’s commitment to this principle by adopting a Constitution in 1787 that contained this exact same statement. Just a few years later, Vermont ratified the Second Amendment.
These two states were clearly dedicated to the principle that citizens had an unalienable right to own a gun for personal defense.
That poses a very big problem for the “militia-related purposes only” interpretation of the Second Amendment.
Photo source: Americans for Prosperity
In order for that interpretation to be correct, you would have to believe that Pennsylvania and Vermont made these bold statements affirming the right to self-defense. Then, when the Second Amendment was proposed, the same people who approved those statements turned right around and ratified an amendment that said they only had a right to use a firearm in relation to the militia. That doesn’t make any sense.
To put it into perspective, think about the signers of the Declaration of Independence who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to each other in defense of liberty. Can you imagine them turning around just a few years later and saying, “Liberty? Meh. I could take it or leave it.” Of course not. The right to liberty was at the core of their belief system.
It would be every bit as unlikely that the people of Pennsylvania and Vermont would have flip-flopped on the right to own a gun. There is no realistic way that these two states would have ratified the Second Amendment had they believed that it said that citizens only had a right to own firearms for militia-related purposes.
There can be no doubt that the Second Amendment protects the right of individual citizens to own a firearm for personal protection. That’s why gun control activists are counting on you not understanding the Constitution. They know they don’t have anywhere near the support they need to repeal the Second Amendment. But if you aren’t paying attention, they can destroy it by reinterpreting the text until it’s meaningless.
We desperately need to do everything we can to educate ourselves, our families, and our friends about the Constitution. This strategy to destroy the Second Amendment cannot succeed if the American people just take a little time to learn about our Constitution and then spread the word. That’s an awfully small price to pay to earn the extraordinary experience of living a life of freedom.
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
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