Gun Control Issue Resolved in 1791
By Douglas V. Gibbs
Our rights are natural, given to us by the Creator. So, with that in mind, understand that The Second Amendment does not give you the right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment does not protect you against the government from taking away your guns. Your rights are given to you by God, and protecting your rights are your responsibility.
In today’s America, there is a concerted effort to remove your gun rights. But the right to keep and bear arms is so entrenched in the fabric of our society, the statists that desire to disarm you are also using a method that goes after the ammunition. Bullets are hard to come by, of late. Certain kinds of ammo, like hollow points, are under fire. In California, starting in January of 2014, background checks will be required for the purchase of projectiles, if Jerry Brown signs the bill sitting on his desk.
It almost makes me want to take up the bow and arrow. . . almost.
There is no enumeration in the Constitution that grants to the federal government the authority to regulate firearms. In the first seven articles the authority to regulate firearms at the federal level is not granted. In the 2nd Amendment, the federal government is told it “shall” not infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms. But that was only added to the Constitution because the Anti-federalists feared that if it was not in writing, the federal government would ultimately infringe on our God-given gun rights.
The Second Amendment begins with a call for “A well regulated militia.” A well regulated militia is not one regulated by the government, as assumed by many folks because of their flawed notion regarding the definition of the word “regulated.” The part of the amendment that calls for a well-regulated militia is stating that the militia must be a fighting force that is in good order.
We must remember that the word “regulated” in 1791 did not necessarily mean “to control and restrict,” as the statists claim in today’s political atmosphere. The word “regulated,” according to the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary, was defined as meaning: “to put in good order.” The need to have a militia in good order makes sense when one considers that during the Revolutionary War the militia was not in good order. The muskets were all different sizes, often the clothing of some members of the militia was tattered, and many didn’t even have shoes. So, a well regulated militia, from the point of the view of the founders, was a militia that was in good order.
The need for the citizens to be armed was made evident during the Revolutionary War, and the importance of gun ownership by the people of that generation was clearly portrayed by the context of the Battle of Lexington Green, where the first shot of The Revolution was fired.
The British Troops were marching toward Concord, Massachusetts, and a rag tag company of the Massachusetts Militia met the Redcoats at Lexington, to confront them, and stop them. A shot rang out, which triggered a gun battle, and the War for Independence was in full gear.
But why was stopping the British at Lexington so imperative? What made the revolutionaries so intent on doing whatever it took to prevent the King’s Army from gaining access to Concord?
In Concord was our largest munitions depot. Guns and ammunition were stored in Concord. So, it can be said that the final straw – what made us fighting mad enough that we began a bloody revolution against England – was when they came for our guns.
The current push for gun control is not the first effort by the federal government to go after our ability to defend ourselves. The federal gun-running operation called Fast and Furious placed guns in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels so that, if the democrats played their cards right, the guns would be used to kill many Mexicans, and then the party of the jackass could scream, “See what American guns have done?” hoping that American voters would demand a stop be put to the manufacturing of such dangerous weapons.
The operation backfired, two border patrol agents were killed, and the scandal grew to reveal what the Obama administration was trying to do. The administration, with no surprise to anyone, has been lying about the operation from day one. The media hopped aboard those lies, and have protected the president as best they could. The democrats have circled the wagons regarding the Fast and Furious scandal, and the scandal that would have brought down any GOP President, thanks to quick damage control by Obama’s minions, remained harmless, and has been all but forgotten.
Prior to the Fast and Furious operation being exposed, the federal government, through the courts, attempted to gain the power of dictating to the States what they can, and cannot, do, regarding firearms by ruling against State Sovereignty in the McDonald v. City of Chicago case.
Before the ruling regarding Chicago’s handgun ban, in the Washington DC v. Heller case in 2008 the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the right to bear arms is an individual right, as opposed to a collective right which would only allow the bearing of arms for the purpose of participating in government approved groups, such as law enforcement agencies.
Anti-Federalists feared the creation of a central government because they feared the federal government would become tyrannical, and take away people’s rights. Therefore, even though the Constitution in the first seven articles did not grant to the federal government any authority over gun rights, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, those skeptical over the creation of a central government wanted an amendment that clarified clearly that the federal government had no authority to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment is the article that spells out the terms regarding gun rights in America, as the Anti-federalists desired.
We have to remember that State Sovereignty is an important factor, here. All powers belonged to the States prior to the writing of the Constitution. The first seven articles did not give to the federal government the authority to regulate firearms, therefore, any legislative power over gun rights is a State power. The 10th Amendment supports the States’ rights regarding this issue, and the 2nd Amendment confirms the limits placed on the federal government regarding guns.
This does not mean the States have the right to infringe on your gun rights, however. Remember, your right to keep and bear arms is a personal, fundamental, natural right given to you by God. The founders did not worry about the States infringing on gun rights, because the local governments were closer to the people. They expected you to protect your right to keep and bear arms, and to not let your State become tyrannical regarding that issue. But in today’s political environment, the argument has become all about the tyranny of the States. If the 2nd Amendment does not apply to the States, what keeps the States from infringing on gun rights? They seem to be stomping on our right to our guns quite readily.
My response to that query is always the same: “So don’t let them.” Gun rights, be they protected in the Second Amendment, or listed in your State Constitution, is nothing more than ink on paper if you are not willing to defend those gun rights.
The only thing that can put our rights in jeopardy concerning State governments would be if we became so complacent that we stopped taking action to protect our rights. With freedom comes the responsibility to fight for your freedoms.
Noah Webster in his “An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution,” in 1787 said it clearly: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of 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 that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”
The federal government knows this, which is why they are trying to use the courts to overrule your sovereignty, and to limit the kinds of firearms, and ammunition, you can own.
In the 2010 case of McDonald v. City of Chicago, which challenged the City of Chicago’s ban on hand guns, the debate over whether or not the 2nd Amendment only applies to the Federal Government was brought to the surface.
The 5-4 Decision of the McDonald v. City of Chicago case by the U.S. Supreme Court holds that the 2nd Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms in all cities and States. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded that originally the 2nd Amendment applied only to the Federal Government, but it is in the opinion of the court that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Bill of Rights, therefore applying those amendments, and more specifically the 2nd Amendment, to the States.
The decision by the Supreme Court, in this case, makes all State laws on fire arms null and void (if one believes that the courts have that kind of overpowering rule over the legislative power in the States, and can dictate to the States what they can and can’t do). The courts applying the 2nd Amendment to the States would mean the Second Amendment is supreme over any and all State laws on firearms. However, studying the language of the Second Amendment carefully, it says that all persons are allowed to possess a firearm. The final words, “shall not be infringed” carries no exceptions. If that is the case, and if the 2nd Amendment also applies to the States, then technically it would also make all State gun laws unconstitutional.
The reason that the Second Amendment is absolute in its language is because it was intended to only apply to the federal government. The federal government shall not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms in any way, but the States retain the authority to regulate guns as necessary based on the needs and allowances of the local electorate.
The U.S. Constitution applies only to the federal government, except where specifically noted otherwise. Besides, even if on the surface it seems to be for a good cause, do you really want the federal government forcing the States to do something? Do we really want the federal government controlling the States in such a manner? When it comes to the McDonald v. Chicago case, I am uneasy anytime the federal government tells a city or State what they have to do.
If we give the federal government the right to tell cities they have to allow gun ownership, what stops them from doing the opposite later? The case regarding Chicago’s handgun ban created a precedent of allowing the federal government to dictate to the States and cities what they have to do, and in that I recognize a great danger to state sovereignty, and ultimately, to our Gun Rights.
The final argument against gun control is a need for an armed militia. Leftists do not accept the need of an unorganized civilian militia. In fact, the most common argument I hear regarding gun rights is that the 2nd Amendment does not apply to our current society because the militia is a thing of the past. According to these people, the citizen militia is no longer necessary, and all functions a militia would facilitate are now covered by the military, and more specifically, when it comes to local protection, the National Guard.
The National Guard is indeed much like the organized militia envisioned by the Founding Fathers, but that does not mean an unorganized militia does not exist, nor is necessary.
Title 10 of the United States Code provides for both “organized” and “unorganized” civilian militias. While the organized militia is made up of members of the National Guard and Naval Militia, the unorganized militia is composed entirely of private individuals.
United States Code: Title 10 – Armed Forces, Subtitle A – General Military LawChapter 13 – The Militia:
Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
Other than age, health, gender, or citizenship, there are no additional provisions for exemption from membership in the unorganized militia. While it is doubtful that it will ever be called to duty, the United States civilian militia does legally exist. I also think the requirements will go out the window if the unorganized militia ever needs to be called into action. The requirement at that time will be, “If you can aim and fire, you are a part of our militia.”
So, according to the U.S. Code, the unorganized militia exists.
But why, I am often asked, is it so important to have a right to keep and bear arms in this civilized society?
You have a right to keep and bear arms, as the 2nd Amendment says, because it is “necessary to the security of a free State.” Here, the word “State” does not mean “civil government” as assumed, but instead refers to the individual States. So, the right to keep and bear arms is necessary to the security of your State, be it Virginia, Maryland, New York, California, or wherever. And the word “necessary” is a pretty definitive term. So our gun rights are “necessary” to the security of a free State. From whom? Invaders? Don’t we have the organized military forces for protecting our States from foreign invaders?
If we don’t need to be armed to protect our states from foreign invasion, then why was it so important to the Founding Fathers to ensure that Americans remained armed?
Who does that leave as a potential enemy that the founders felt it “necessary” to arm the citizens to protect their States?
I believe the language is as such to remind us that the right to keep and bear arms is necessary to protect the States against a tyrannical central government, should one rise at the federal level.
I was once asked, “Does that mean you would fire upon government employees?”
I replied, “If necessary.”
Doug V. Gibbs is a longtime Internet radio host, conservative political activist, writer and commentator; he is the host of Constitution Radio and teaches weekly classes on the Constitution in Southern California. Follow him @douglasvgibbs.