• Exploring American History

2nd Amendment proclaims the Right to 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.

This fundamental right, beloved by the American people, did not have its start in colonial America. Instead, the English Bill of Rights protected an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. It was designed to protect the “right of the people” ( i.e., a right of the individuals, better known as “the people”).

When the phrase ‘bear arms’ is stated, the minds of most immediately fill with images of firearms. Guns and rifles, however, are not the only arms protected under the 2nd Amendment. The Supreme Court's standard in District of Columbia v. Heller states that knives are also considered “arms” because they are “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” (i.e. hunting) as well as self-defense.

Understandably, the onset of war does not always allow time to raise and train an army. In a situation involving a sudden invasion or some other emergency, a militia composed of ordinary citizens using their own weaponry would normally be capable of handling the state of affairs.

During the American Revolution, the value of the militia mindset was played out by the Minutemen, a hand-picked group of individuals, able to be highly mobile and assemble quickly when called upon. At the same time, the Revolutionary War revealed militia forces could not always be relied on for national defense. Therefore, the Constitutional Convention decided the federal government should have almost unfettered authority to establish peacetime standing armies and to regulate the militia. In doing so, it involved a massive shift of power from the states to the federal government; which created the chief objections towards the proposed Constitution.

Anti-Federalists felt the Constitution, as proposed originally, would deny states their chief means of defense regarding federal domination. The Federalists responded back stating these fears of oppression towards the federal government were senseless, due to the fact the American people already maintained a personal arsenal, thereby protecting them from being overtaken by the use of military force. In an effort to secure this right, Anti-Federalists wanted the Constitution to ensure the federal government would have no authority whatsoever to disarm the citizenry.

Though the Second Amendment in no way conceded to the Anti-Federalists’ desire to severely curtail the federal government’s use of military power (which would have imposed a substantial revision to the original text of the Constitution), it did prohibit the federal government from violating the rights of the citizenry to keep and bear arms – in like manner to being unable to reduce freedom of religion or speech.

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When any nation mistrusts its citizens with guns, it's sending a clear message -

it no longer trusts its citizens because such a government has evil plans.

George Washington

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