Posted tagged ‘Second Amendment’

The Founders’ Second Amendment

October 14, 2008

Visit the Independent Institute’s site to read more on this compelling and comprehensive book detailing  The Founders’ Second Amendment

Highlights of the book:

  • Today, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is hotly debated. Opponents of gun laws point to the mandate that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Focusing on its Militia Clause, proponents claim that the Amendment protects only State militia powers. The Founders’ Second Amendment provides a comprehensive historical look at what America’s founders thought and wrote about the issue.
  • With Redcoats sailing to occupy Boston in 1768, a pundit spread the alarm that “the Inhabitants of this Province are to be disarmed,” they would be “governed by Martial Law,” and patriots “are to be seized and sent to Great-Britain.” is set the tone for a series of ever-escalating conflicts over the next seven years that would explode when General Thomas Gage sent British troops to seize the colonists’ arms at Lexington and Concord. Defeated there, Gage then confiscated the firearms of the people of Boston, a grievance highlighted by the Continental Congress in justifying what became the Revolutionary War.
  • Independence being declared in 1776, the states began adopting bills of rights, several of which recognized “the right of the people” to have arms for various purposes, such as self defense and the common defense. While some states saw no need for declarations of rights, the liberty of bearing arms was universally recognized. At the same time, militias composed of all male citizens were seen as necessary counter-weights to the threat of a standing army.
  • A firestorm was sparked when the Constitution was proposed in 1787 without a bill of rights. Federalists and Antifederalists fiercely battled over the issue as the States began ratifying the Constitution. In the first conventions, the Federalists defeated demands for recognition of the rights to free speech, assembly, and bearing arms. But the tide turned in Virginia, where Patrick Henry and George Mason prevailed in persuading the convention to demand a bill of rights.
  • A great compromise was reached when the Federalists and Antifederalists concurred that the Constitution would be ratified subject to the agreement that the first Congress would consider amendments. James Madison did just that by proposing what became the Bill of Rights in 1787. Federalists explained that what became the Second Amendment would protect the right of the people to keep and bear their private arms, which would guard against tyranny and the evils of a standing army. However, proposals to increase state militia powers were rejected.
  • Thomas Jefferson, a life-long hunter and gun collector, wrote just before his death in 1824 that “all power is inherent in the people; . . . it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” The understanding by his generation of the Second Amendment was clear and unmistakable—as its text states, it recognizes “the right of the people” to possess and carry arms. The Constitution defines the respective powers of the federal and State governments, but the Bill of Rights speaks largely of individual rights. If the Second Amendment is no exception, what it protects—and what restrictions government may impose—will continue to be hotly debated.