The Column, No. 143:
Yes, There is a Second Amendment
“The Founders wanted to be sure they preserved the right to keep and bear arms as they established their new sovereign government. Americans asserted a natural right to defend themselves and their property against all threats, including tyranny of any kind, foreign or domestic.” See https://billofrightsinstitute.org/ .
History shows that despite the natural right of self-defense, slaves, women, free blacks, and Roman Catholics often could not own arms. States still denied free blacks the right to own and use guns after the American Revolution, fearing they might become violent towards white landowners. The tyranny the colonies feared was from a Federal Government that had a standing army that could crush an individual colony. Of course, we do indeed have a large standing army, and crushing individual states is exactly what was accomplished during the long and bloody American Civil War.
From November 15 until December 21, 1864, Union General William T. Sherman led some 60,000 soldiers on a 285-mile march from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia. The purpose of Sherman’s March to the Sea was to frighten Georgia’s civilian population into abandoning the Confederate cause. Sherman’s soldiers stole food and livestock and burned the houses and barns of people who tried to fight back. The Yankees were “not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people,” Sherman explained; as a result, they needed to “make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.” This was a complete realization of the brutal tyranny some of the Founders feared, and it came from exactly where they feared it would as well: a powerful standing Federal Army.
“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.” The Second Amendment, like all of the Bill of Rights, was intended to limit the power of the Federal Government. According to the Confederacy, it didn't work. Nevertheless, the clear text does not read “the right of the militia to keep and bear arms,” nor “the right of the Federal Government to keep and bear arms,” but the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Well regulated is simply well prepared, something that the Confederacy was not.
There is nothing new about the natural right of Americans to defend their lives and property. Burglaries and robberies are not a recent invention. In Pennsylvania, the "An Act to Increase the Punishments of Horse Stealing" law was passed in 1780 and repealed in 1860, which stated people guilty of such a crime should be Branded. The law ran as follows; "the first offense [the convicted] shall stand in the pillory for one hour, and shall be publicly whipped on his, her or their [bare] backs with thirty-nine lashes, well laid on, and at the same time shall have his, her or their ears cut off and nailed to the pillory, and for the second offense shall be whipped and pilloried in like manner and be branded on the forehead in a plain and visible manner with the letters H. T.”
Since 1860, apparently 39 lashes and cutting off your ears for the first offense of stealing a horse is no longer in fashion, but it would make horse thieves easy to spot. Referring to the 1879 Penal Code of Texas, “If any person shall steal any horse, ass or mule, he shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary not less than five nor more than fifteen years.” The thinking theif often preferred stealing cattle, risking only 2-5 years. In any case, Texas apparently lets you keep your ears.
If natural rights, rights that flow from our humanity, were not obvious enough, twelve years ago today (June 28,2010) the Supreme Court made clear that gun ownership was an individual right. "Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
We should all be thankful not only the Second Amendment exists, but that women, minorities, and Roman Catholics are no longer excluded from the fundamental right to own and use firearms for traditionally lawful purposes.
From 597 U. S. ____ (2022)
“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 780 (plurality opinion). We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
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