By Dr. Harold Pease
No one needs a military styled assault weapon for personal protection or hunting. Some wonder why we can’t let this part of the 2nd Amendment go?
Many may not remember their basic U.S. History courses and a little review might help us understand why the Second Amendment exists in the first place. Certainly, when enacted, their was no thought of restricting type of firearm, or where, or who could carry. So its placement as the second most valued freedom in the Bill of Rights had nothing to do with personal safety, or even hunting, these were already assumed. It was specifically placed right after freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly to make certain that these freedoms were never taken from us. It was aimed (if I may use this word in this context) squarely at the government. But certainly we need have no fear of the government today?
To understand it more fully one must remember that the early patriots did not ask the existing British government if they could revolt against them. They argued in The Declaration of Independence, that they were “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” coming from a much higher source than mere man and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” God is referenced five times in this document and thus, they believed, He sanctioned their rebellion. They were expected to suffer evils while sufferable, “but when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
The right of revolution requires the means of revolution and this is why the Second Amendment exists. Normally the ballot box is the only self-correction that is needed but they had no intention of giving up the same right that they exercised to give us freedom in the first place. Nor were they pious enough to assume that their correction would stay in place and that future generations would never need the more serious self-correction as they had.
The wordage of the 2nd Amendment was stronger than any other sentence in the Constitution. “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.” They saw this right as being connected with a free country and specifically forbade the federal government any authority with respect to it because historically it was always a government that took away liberty.
An armed populace had twice proved their value to liberty in the Revolutionary War. Many do not remember why Lexington and Concord were so important. The Americans learned that the British planned to go door to door to confiscate their firearms so they gathered and hid them in these two villages. Now the British night gun raid, and Paul Revere’s desperate midnight ride warning the Americans en-route, make sense. The Battle of Saratoga preventing the conquest of the northeast by General Johnny Burgoyne was stopped, not by the military, but by angry farmers with their own military styled assault rifles. This American victory encouraged other countries, notably France, to come into the war on our side. It is doubtful that we would have won the war without an armed citizenry.
The Founders’ attitude regarding guns—even military issue— was clear. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” And George Washington said: “A free people ought not only to be armed,” but also, “they should promote such manufacturies [sic] as tend to remind them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies” (Gun Control, Freemen Report, May 31,1975, p. 1).
Five monumental things frightened many Americans in 2012 alone, beginning with the Presidents signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which enabled him to kidnap and send to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention anyone he identified as a terrorist. This was followed by the “Media Monitoring Initiative” where the federal government gave itself permission to “gather, store, analyze, and disseminate” data on millions of users of social media, primarily Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In March we saw and heard Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, each, in testimony given to the Senate Armed Services Committee, inferred that the authority that they depended upon for military purposes came not from Congress, as required in the U.S. Constitution, but from unelected UN or NATO authorities. Also, on March 16, President Barack Obama issued his National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order authorizing the Executive department to take-over, in case of a national emergency, all civil transportation, including the “movement of persons and property by all modes of transportation … within the United States.” In June, frustrated by his inability to get through Congress a law on immigration he favored, and tired of making law the constitutional way, President Barack Obama, openly defied Congress and the Constitution on June 16, 2012, by ordering a like measure to that previously defeated, implemented anyway.
There has been a slogan for many years that runs like this. “I love my country but I fear my government.” Many Americans have come to believe that the real reason that the federal government wants assault weapons banned has less to do with the 16-year-old gunman in Sandy Hook Elementary, and more to do with disarming America so that it cannot resist tyranny. Given the unconstitutional antics noted above perhaps we should hang on to the 2nd Amendment in tact for the time being?
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.