In this inaugural presentation of “Perspectives”, I will state my opinions on the Second Amendment, as will John Devin Swearingen, a self-described fiscal conservative and social liberal who lives in Texas.
The 2nd Amendment vs. Political Efficacy and Their Effects on Liberty
By John Devin Swearingen
Many Americans, mostly conservative, have this notion that the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution is what protects the citizens from the government. Many would argue that armament of citizens is what keeps tyrants from taking over the country. Their logic is that the government becomes ran by a complete dictator, trying to run every aspect of their life, they will become part of a militia to start their own coup de tah. I hear time after time, “The founding fathers knew that the 2nd amendment is what keeps the government afraid of its citizens.” If they are arguing this point they will then insert a quote from a founding father, that they googled, to benefit their side of the debate. As they go on and on with this repetitive discussion they have no idea, their personal liberties are being stolen right from under their noses.
Before I continue, I want to say that I am not against people owning firearms. I personally have a home protection shotgun under my bed. I’m very proficient in the use of all firearms, ranging from assault rifles to handguns. So I ask my reader not mistake my opinion as being against the 2nd Amendment and the want for disarmament of American citizens.
What people fail to take in consideration, when they mindlessly ramble about the 2nd Amendment, is the Bill of Rights was written before we had electricity. It was written before the government developed jets, tanks, satellites and NUCLEAR WEAPONS. I always ask how one’s assault rifle is going to bring down a drone that is coming to rain down fire and brimstone on your head. The American public is not armed with rocket propelled grenades, and anti-aircraft missiles. I also find it a completely ridiculous notion that the armed forces, comprised completely of volunteers, would turn on its own family members and citizens to enforce a removal of firearms.
The true means of maintaining personal liberty, and freedom from dictator control, is the political participation of the citizens. Most incumbent legislators go completely unchallenged. How does a population of 300 million citizens have a shortage of people coming forth for public office? When a representative knows that no one will run against them in the election, they have no fear of a repercussion if they let their corruption run rampant. If citizens want protection from the government, they must involve themselves in the affairs of their representative and senator. If legislators fear an ousting from their constituents, they won’t be so quick to sell off the rights and liberties of their underlings. The top example I can give for political efficacy being the top means of protection of liberties, privacy, and freedom is the Stop Online Piracy Act(SOPA). Left-Right, Conservative-Liberal, and Republican-Democrat was completely irrelevant when this bill was promoted. Americans united to show the government their outrage of such a bill being proposed. SOPA was dead on arrival.
I’ll close on the notion that fighting over the 2nd Amendment is only distraction from real social issues that are dangers to our liberties. While American citizens fight, bicker, and argue over this arcane piece of legislation our freedoms are sliding from underneath our noses. This national debate is being used to divide Americans from actually keeping the government in check. I’ll ask my reader to do their own research on the Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act.
The Last Resort
By David Allen
With recent mass shootings in public areas throughout the country, and with a large portion of the electorate feeling that their President is hostile to the private ownership of guns, the two century old Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is still one of the most discussed issues of the day. The Second Amendment reads as follows:
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 is very simple language for some, but it seems to be very complicated language for others. We will get to the controversy involving the full meaning of the Second Amendment in a few moments, but, for now, the purposes of the Amendment upon which there is general agreement are:
2. Self defense from assailants, robbers, etc.
3. Assistance with law enforcement in certain situations.
4. Organizing militias to assist in defending the country against foreign invaders from the outside and unlawful armed insurrections from within.
Many citizens in this country passionately argue for a point #5 – the right to bear arms for the defense of individual citizens against the actions of their own government. This is where the main controversy about the the full meaning of the Second Amendment arises. Is the right to bear arms truly an “inalienable right”, independent of the existence of government and not to be suppressed by government? Is point #5 implied in the Second Amendment? Or is point #5 an erroneous philosophy, paranoid at best, treasonous at worst? Isn’t armed resistance to the government the very definition of “insurrection” and “treason”? Or is a suppressive government no longer the definition of a “free state”? To answer these questions, we will need to explore the historical background behind the creation of the Second Amendment in the United States.
The United States Constitution is one of the most outstanding documents ever created, but it was not created in a vacuum. Ironically, the Constitution was influenced by the laws of the very country that we gained independence from. The right to bear arms had long been an established tenant of English law, but it needed to be further clarified and strengthened in the 1680s, due to the actions and attitudes of the English crown towards certain private citizens. In those days, the Catholic James II sought to disarm certain Protestant citizens and also tried to go around the mainly Protestant Parliament, asserting his “divine right of kings”. In other words, the ruler of England sought to disarm his opponents within his own country, in order to better prepare his supporters for a potential civil war. Fortunately, James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, giving rise to a more peaceful time in England and also the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which stated, in part:
Whereas the late King James the Second by the Assistance of diverse evill Councellors Judges and Ministers imployed by him did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion and the Lawes and Liberties of this Kingdome (list of grievances including) … by causing severall good Subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when Papists were both Armed and Imployed contrary to Law, (Recital regarding the change of monarch) … thereupon the said Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Commons pursuant to their respective Letters and Elections being now assembled in a full and free Representative of this Nation takeing into their most serious Consideration the best meanes for attaining the Ends aforesaid Doe in the first place (as their Auncestors in like Case have usually done) for the Vindicating and Asserting their ancient Rights and Liberties, Declare (list of rights including) … That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.
Flash forward to the 1760s and 1770s, where England depended on its armed colonists an ocean away to assist in law enforcement in the American colonies, and to defend against Indian raids along the western frontier. As every student of history knows, these same colonial militias later became embroiled in the quest for independence in the northern colonies and were thereby seen as a threat by the mother country. The battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts at the opening of the Revolutionary War involved British soldiers trying to seize stored guns and ammunition from the colonists, in an effort to suppress the rising tide of rebellion. Once again, a government was trying to suppress liberty by first trying to confiscate firearms. But wait, you say, wasn’t the British government only trying to prevent insurrection within its own territory? Why, yes it was. It doesn’t seem to sink in with most Americans that the independence that we celebrate in this country was first based on……….treason towards England. But, you say, look at all of the wonderful things that came out our “insurrection”. Surely, it was justified. Alas, one man’s insurrection is another man’s fight for freedom. But, at the end of the day, a new free state emerged from this insurrection, all thanks to firearms.
At the beginning of our Revolution from mother England, we produced the Declaration of Independence, which spoke of “inalienable” rights, rights that were “God-given” and could not be taken away by other men or even government. At the end of our successful Revolution, we produced the United States Constitution, which incorporated many of our “inalienable” rights into the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Both of these documents were made “real” by one thing – guns. After all, England wasn’t just going to give us the land, just because we declared ourselves independent. Through armed warfare, we gave teeth to our Declaration. After the War, the framers of the Constitution were not naive enough to think that the newly-formed U.S government could not become just as tyrannical as the former British government, so they made double sure of it by amending the document with the clearly stated Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is not a celebration of government; it is more anti-government than pro-government. It is an outline of the rights granted to individual American citizens in spite of the existence of government, not rights granted to American citizens by the government. This is a very important point in our understanding of the proper role of government in our lives, and it is also part of the foundation of the Second Amendment.
Does the Second Amendment suggest armed resistance to a government which seeks, on a large scale, to eliminate or infringe the inalienable rights of citizens, as established by the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution? Absolutely, it does! I acknowledge that it is ironic that the documents that set up the United States Government also provide safeguards for defending against that very government, but that is part of the remarkableness of those documents. Just because a free state was created in this country does not mean a free state will always exist. Many Americans today are too steeped in government to grasp this concept. As stated before, these Americans would feel that this concept is paranoid at best, treasonous at worst. Benjamin Franklin, however, understood well the concept of free citizens independent of government when, at the completion of the United States Constitution, he was asked what had been created. “A republic……if you can keep it!” he replied. Keep it from what? Itself, and a slow creep towards tyranny. Thomas Jefferson also understood this concept, in his famous “Tree of Liberty” letter in 1787:
“…..The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure….”
Here is Thomas Jefferson, a founding Father, advocating rebellion against the government now and then, preserving liberty by “warning” the rulers from time to time. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” How is all of this accomplished? Gunfire. This is a radical concept to Americans soaked in the culture of the current Obama administration. They say that what happened in Stalin’s Russia and Nazi Germany could never happen in the United States of America. And yet, freedom in this country has been reduced to the point where citizens are oppressed even more than they were in 1776. We have come full circle, from an English king to a growing American tyranny. And now, the very instruments that have brought about and maintained our freedom through the years – guns, are threatened in 2013. Only time will tell how far this will go. But to assume that this will not go to the very extreme and one day justify armed rebellion is not only naive, it is deadly. Just as the incredulous citizens lined up by the firing squads in Russia and Germany.
As goes the Second Amendment, so goes the rest of our freedoms in this country.